National Arts Centre taps Banfield, Ethnicity Matters for AOR assignment

Ottawa agency Banfield and Toronto-based multicultural agency Ethnicity Matters have jointly won the agency of record assignment for the National Arts Centre, beating out more than 20 other submissions in a mandatory review.

The agencies will be responsible for creative and media around the NAC’s new three-year strategic plan, The Next Act, which is underpinned by five key values: inclusion, creativity, generosity, sustainability, and engagement. “We imagine a vibrant, renewed performing arts ecosystem that includes a wider spectrum of stories, cultures and artists. Voices and perspectives that have previously been excluded,” said the NAC in its overview of the new plan.

Kondwani Mwase, executive director of audience engagement with the NAC, said The Next Act reflects a commitment to better represent Canada, not only in terms of performances, but also in attracting audiences from what the NAC said have been “historically excluded” communities.

“It was more of an explicit intention to say we want to have our audience be reflective of the rich, complex and beautiful mosaic that is the Canadian landscape,” said Mwase. “We want to make sure we are creating an environment where Canadians of all backgrounds—LGBTQ+, the Black community, the Asian community, south Asian community and the Indigenous community—can feel like this is their national arts centre.”

Banfield has worked with the NAC for more than a decade, even producing work after the organization selected Orkestra and Ressac as its agency partners in a mandatory review in 2017. “When they came back to us, they had obviously evolved,” said Mwase. “They had worked on important campaigns, expanded their skillset and processes, and it just felt like they were different. They showed us a surgical, methodical and thoughtful approach to building campaigns that were complex yet straightforward.”

Ethnicity Matters, meanwhile, offers crucial expertise and acumen in reaching the country’s ethnic communities, said Mwase. “It’s heavily diverse in its makeup, which translates to [being] diverse in its way of thinking and approaching things,” he said.

There is no major rebrand planned for the NAC as a result of the new strategic direction, said Mwase, although it is committed to what he called, “small, substantive and surgical” steps to evolve its positioning. “It’s isn’t a pivot or a change, but it’s part of us continuing to grow as an organization and fulfill a mandate to serve all Canadians.”

Chris Powell