On the hunt for new talent, Zulu Alpha Kilo opens Vancouver office

While Zulu Alpha Kilo’s senior leaders have been open about possible plans to expand into the U.S., they have chosen Vancouver for the location of their first office outside ofToronto.

Founder and chief creative officer Zak Mroueh said the agency has been discussing other markets, but noted that the nearly 14-year-old shop has picked up “a whole bunch of business” in Western Canada over the last 18 months. “It just felt like the perfect time,” he said. “I’ve been following the Vancouver market for the last 25 years, and there’s some great senior talent out there, so we’re super-excited about it.”

Zulu Alpha Kilo has been working with the Western Subaru Dealer Association for the past three years, and recently picked up the a2 Milk account and Calgary-based energy company ENMAX. “We started talking about Vancouver, and all of a sudden we started getting emails about opportunities in that area,” said Sutton on Tuesday. “The universe was kind of conspiring with us on some of the things we were already talking about.”

In what could be a significant clue as to why it selected Vancouver, the agency said it has also picked up the assignment for an undisclosed “travel and transportation service.” (Agency sources in Vancouver said they were unaware of any Zulu Alpha Kilo wins in that sector in the market.)

Zulu Alpha Kilo is currently operating out of a temporary Vancouver location, with a permanent space expected to be announced in about six weeks. Mroueh said there’s currently enough revenue to support a headcount of between eight and 10 people, but said the western expansion is driven less by growing the agency’s bottom line, and more by adding to its talent pool.

“There’s some amazing talent there, and a lot of the people we’ve been talking to are super-excited about another option in the market,” he said.

But with remote work becoming such an entrenched part of life because of the pandemic, some of Zulu Alpha Kilo’s transplanted employees have chosen to work closer to home. Head of digital Sean Bell, for example, has been working from Victoria, and other employees have gone back to family in places including the Maritimes, Montreal, etc. “A lot of people have been putting heir hand up and saying ‘I’d love to move back,'” said Mroueh.

With WFH so entrenched, why the need for a bricks-and-mortar office at all? “It’s important to be part of the community,” Mroueh said. “We don’t want to go in half-assed. We want to be part of the creative community there. It’s not that we need a [physical] office right this second, but we do want to have a place where people can work. We don’t want it to be just a facade.”

Attracting more senior talent will the be the focus right out of the gate, he said. “If I could go back to my younger self, even if it would have meant losing money, I would have hired the best talent I could find,” he said. “What we’ve learned over the years is that when you hire the best people, great things happen. When you hire average talent, or go with the cheaper person because they’re less expensive and maybe not as good, it doesn’t pay off.”

Mroueh, though, said he wouldn’t say how the agency’s Vancouver office might ultimately grow. “It’s really hard to put a number on it,” he said. “We don’t sit around saying ‘Let’s be 12 or 20 people by the end of the year.’ We want to do great things in the Vancouver market, and think that will attract clients.”

Chris Powell