Why Toronto agency Co-Op rebranded as Labour

The Toronto agency formerly known as Co-Op has completed a remodelling of sorts, emerging with a new name, Labour, and a new model.

The new name (styled as LABOUR) reflects a shift in focus for the agency, from a model that relied heavily on freelance contributors, to one where they have people working full-time, collaborating and focused entirely on the work (aka, Labour).

It’s also a comment on a marketing trend to look for tools and software to solve business challenges, said president James Loftus (second from left in top photo. “[It’s] what I like to call the tool-ification of creativity.”

Labour is about craft, quality storytelling and care to create really effective work, he said. It’s the opposite of technology based shortcuts.

“Obviously there’s a place for certain tools in our business, but we really wanted any client who works with us to know that this really is a people first business,” said Loftus. “It’s something we’re passionate about, and creating great work takes work.”

Since launching in 2012, Co-Op had been a small partner-led firm focused mostly on PR solutions with freelancers called in to execute creative ideas. But late last year, it hired Pete Ross (third from left in top photo) as a full-time creative director to make creative a core part of its in-house team. Ross was most recently a creative director at Grey.

Other changes include Loftus moving from VP of communications to president, while Peter Brough (far left) remains managing director. The agency also has a new office in Toronto, and hired Mara Vezeau (far right, see a full list of the names below) as a Montreal-based business lead to work with more Quebec-based marketers.

In the last year, the agency won 10 awards for long-standing AOR clients AutoTrader.ca and WeRPN (Registered Practical Nurses Association); was named IABC’s 2021 Small Agency of the Year (as CO-OP) and added a number of new clients including LesPAC, Spray-Net, Photomath, Sushi Taxi, Boustan, Luxcey, River Road Brewing, and BATL.

Adding Ross as creative director and partner adds a new full-time creative offering to the planning and PR services where the agency was already quite strong, said Loftus. “Those three pillars are what we’re really focused on,” he said.

“What was working for clients was a unified combination of planning, creative and PR, he said, adding that the agency will remain heavily focused on PR. “We’re not limited by a channel…but traditionally speaking in advertising, PR was kind of always last at the table. Things have been changing for sure in that regard, but we really do take a PR-first approach to the creative planning.”

Labour now has nine full-time staff, but hopes to increase that number as new business grows, although it won’t completely forego its freelance ties. “We’re going to still tap into [freelancers] for projects, because it’s such a talented pool out there,” said Loftus.

Top photo, left to right: Peter Brough, James Loftus, Pete Ross, Hannah Choat, Carla Silvestrone, Jessica Huynh, Sergio Delos Santos, Amanda Occhicone and Mara Vezeau.

David Brown