Halifax-based WeUsThem started as a small consulting house in 2011 before evolving into a full-service ad agency two years later. Today, it takes on clients in all industries from all over the world. Its work is as varied as its customer list (which includes Telus, Pepsi Group and the Canadian Space Agency), but it has gained special attention for its cause-based campaigns.
In the persuasion business, this kind of work isn’t always seen as a big moneymaker. But CEO and co-founder Ashwin Kutty says choosing projects that “feed both our soul and our pocket” is a focal point for the company.
Kutty and co-founder and chief creative officer Faten Alshazly have always wanted to make a difference. In addition to a shared passion for marketing, they both come from backgrounds where they saw firsthand the needs of underserved communities. And so, as they built up their business by creating high-impact campaigns for organizations, they started to consider how they could apply their style to cause-based work too.
“If you take creative expertise and use it to create an impact and a return on investment, that’s the ultimate success”
WeUsThem campaigns tend to employ bold aesthetics—the kind of look that is hard to ignore. If visual communication is important to engage with an audience in for-profit circumstances, it is even more essential in cause-based work, says Kutty: “Just because it happens to be a cause-based initiative or public-sector initiative does not mean it’s any less important to be creative or innovative.”
To that end, you won’t find many earth-tone brochures or gentle, soft-focus images in the WeUsThem portfolio. As Kutty explains, “It’s very much about being in your face and talking about things that are relevant and reflective of the problems in our society.”
This approach has led to memorable campaigns for both large brands and such organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters, as well as to the development of imTeen, an award-winning mental-health app designed for teenagers. WeUsThem has now influenced customers of all types in more than 142 countries around the world—something Alshazly says makes for a very rewarding business. “If you take creative expertise and use it to create an impact and a return on investment,” she reasons, “that’s the ultimate success.”