Ottawa agency Soshal has spun off a digital speciality agency called Craft&Crew.
The new agency and its roughly 20 staff will focus entirely on digital product and service design, while the now much smaller Soshal will focus primarily on media buying, said CEO David Hale (above).
Craft&Crew will offer consumer and market research, user persona development and journey mapping, product and service strategy, brand development, and digital product design. Chad MacDonald is president and chief creative officer at Craft&Crew. The two will continue to oversee Soshal, although they are in the process of hiring a new “very senior leader” on the Soshal side, said Hale.
The change was driven by a desire to go to market with a pure-play digital design agency while still offering the traditional digital advertising and media services Soshal specializes in.
The new agency brand essentially formalizes an organic shift within Soshal, added Hale. “We’ve been referring to be digital experience design team within Soshal as the Craft team, for a very long time,” he said.
The goal is to become a strong digital products and services agency by being more narrowly focused in those areas, he said. “I think that when you’re the size that we are, being the everything store is not a good strategy.”
While some might regard Ottawa as a secondary market, there are no plans—and no need—to open an office away from the nation’s capital, said Hale. “We have some friends down the street called Shopify that did a good job of showing that the city of Ottawa is maybe not the city everyone thinks it is,” he said.
Just one of C&C’s major clients, Realtor.ca, is based in Ottawa, with other clients—including Colliers International, Rakuten Kobo, SurveyMonkey, and TD Canada Trust—located in California and Western Canada. “Nobody seems to care where you are based,” said Hale.
In fact, Hale feels they have a competitive advantage by being able to attract the top talent in the region. Though to do so they’ve made a concerted effort to be a top employer.
To that end, they hired a consultant last year to review their pay and total compensation practices and compare them across the province. “We got the full report across all of our roles here, and it resulted in adjustments that added something like 10% to our operating costs,” he said.
They’re also mindful of workload and time at the office. The average employee at Soshal worked 38 hours a week in 2019, said Hale. That while the agency is profitable, with sales up 50% year over year.
“So this idea that the only way you can win business and be profitable is that people are working until 9 p.m.—just not true,” he said.