Sobeys creative account moves to BBDO

The Sobeys advertising account has a new creative home after its previous agency, Gravity, exited the ad game and handed the account off to BBDO.

As of Oct. 1, 10 former Gravity employees who’d been working on Sobeys joined BBDO to continue working on the business. The Christmas campaign that just launched for Sobeys (below) boasts the unusual claim of having been started at one agency and finished by another.

The shift came after Gravity CEO Leigh Himel decided she wanted her agency to get out of advertising totally, instead focusing on strategy and insights. Gravity continues to work on Sobeys in that capacity. The agency also resigned a handful of other advertising accounts.

From a recent high of about 25 staff, with another 10 or so regular freelancers, Gravity is now a core strategy team of five, said Himel. Another 10 staff were given enough notice to find other work before Gravity completed all of its ad work. “We did not lay off one person,” she said.

“For me personally it was time for a change,” said Himel of the company’s transition. The foundation of Gravity was always strategy, culture and insights, she said. “We have always been about digital transformation and customer experience, and the further we got into advertising, the further away we got from the stuff that differentiated us as an organization.”

The move to BBDO has roots in Himel’s long history with BBDO CEO Dom Caruso, when the pair worked together at MacLaren McCann in the late 90s and early 2000s. Himel also says she admires the creative work coming out of the shop, led by Denise Rossetto and Todd Mackie.

“I really love their creative team,” she said. “I think Denise and Todd are brilliant creative leaders.”

The switch started with a casual conversation between Caruso and Himel, and the two quickly realized the move would make sense for both organizations. Next, of course, they took the idea to Sobeys. “As they heard the idea, they thought it could be really great,” said Caruso. “They liked the continuity with the same people they love [on the business] and the added horsepower of BBDO.

“I think we weren’t the only option that was explored, but we were the ones that were by far the best fit.”

So much so, in fact, that soon after confirming the move—which includes work on the Sobeys, Safeway and Thrifty brands—Sobeys awarded BBDO new work for its Olympic sponsorship.

The new Christmas campaign meanwhile was launched this week. It continues the “Canada’s family grocery store” positioning launched in the summer.

The campaign is anchored by a TV spot (there’s a :60 and a :30) about a little girl who wants to make a snowman but can’t because of the weather. Her big brother comes up with a solution, with help from Sobeys.

The ad also features Canadian singer Serena Ryder (who covered Fleetwood Mac for the summer advertising) singing her song “Calling to Say,” but with lyrics rewritten to match the story in the ad.

Aside from Gravity and BBDO handling creative, xmc is overseeing experiential, UM has media, while North Strategic works on social alongside Sobeys’ internal brand and creative teams.

David Brown