UMC Enters Ad Agency Market With Shed Creative

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has used Metric to increase their metrics.

  Aeroplan has provided exclusive intimate access for their membership with Bon Jovi and during the Toronto International Film Festival, and Mongrel Media staged some invite-only parties with Dear Rouge and other acts.

  Aside from the fact that the majority of acts were associated with a single label, the other common denominator is that the events and campaigns were all orchestrated by Shed Creative Agency, a three-year-old ad agency that officially partnered with Universal Music Canada earlier this year.

  Founded in 2014 by former music industry executive Dave Harris, Shed Creative was formed and built to connect consumer brands with strategic, unique live experiences and media and content solutions that would include exclusive access to music stars and provide clients with specialized music-driven campaigns. Music industry expertise, advice and insight are prime assets offered by the agency, as demonstrated in the recent OLG "Dare to Dream" campaign held in August and September to increase Lotto Max's appeal to millennials.

   "OLG came to us - they wanted to connect with millennials," explained Harris, who also serves as Shed Creative's managing director. "They didn't feel like they were connecting with them the right way, so they wanted to find their passion points, and music was one of them.

   "We came up with an experiential way to connect within the context of what they call 'Dare to Dream,' with the notion that millennials are more interested in experiences than actual money. So we came up with a connection of bringing fans closer to the artists with an experience - a big band in a small room - and we filmed it."

   Twenty grand prize winners of the campaign, which launched August 15 and lasted through September 9, received tickets to an exclusive September 23rd Metric show at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall and met the band (a $400 value), while 430 runners-up received a pair of tickets. And thanks to a proprietary technology called WeShot, contest winners were able to receive a multi-POV social video that enabled audience members to star in their own private, custom-made video.

    "The OLG loved that idea," says Harris, a former Arts & Crafts vice-president and former Sony Music Canada director. "It gave them that touchpoint but also allowed to give fans that experience but allowed fans to be part of it."

    The estimated $500K media campaign reached its target goal of yielding 50M media impressions for the OLG and Harris says more OLG-sponsored events aimed at millennials are planned for 2017, as well as other OLG products that skew different demographics.

    While campaigns of this nature are undoubtedly big news, of larger significance is the majority investment that Universal Music Canada injected into Shed Creative in January 2016, leading to a 4,000-sq.ft. office located at the highly visible corner of Toronto's Spadina and Adelaide.

     Since physical sales of music have taken a notable tumble over the past decade, it's no secret that established record labels have had to become much more entrepreneurial to compensate for their diminishing income, entering previously untouched areas such as merchandising and technology in order to generate new revenue streams.

     Universal's entry last January into the advertising world through Shed Creative means the company is serious in obtaining a piece of the Canadian advertising revenue pie, which was valued by Statscan in 2012 as a $7.1B industry.

     But Shed Creative encompasses much more than an ad agency: it's also a digital hub for creators.

     "The original insight into Shed was born out of seeing so many creators in music doing amazing things but very few active media platforms to help them connect with fans from a digital media perspective," notes Harris, who, through this arrangement, re-connects with his former Arts & Crafts boss, Universal Music Canada president and CEO Jeffrey Remedios.

     "I wanted to help solve this problem for creators."

     Harris also has his eye set on a lucrative piece of the digital advertising pie.

     "Brand marketers are transitioning marketing spends to digital at an exponential rate - $4.2B in Canada in 2015 alone - and so I truly believe that there is an opportunity for an agency that can bring authentic content/platforms to marketers in a sophisticated way," he explains.

     To meet those mandates, Shed Creative is building a premium digital media network and creating integrated content programs within that network. In 2015, the agency struck deals with music portals Fader and Pitchfork to represent their brands in Canada (Fader's editorial offices are actually located at Shed Creative HQ, while the Pitchfork deal is more connected with the platform's sales department) and secured an agreement with Toyota Canada to sponsor the 10-episode CBC scripted web series The Plateaus.

     Over the next few months, Harris says Shed will be announcing two new platforms that will be part of the network, including a new Canadian music media brand.

     “We are just at the beginning of building this premium network with some of the most iconic brands in music and we’re excited to bring these to local creators and brands and produce some amazing partnerships,” he says.

     Also on tap are several film and television properties being developed and produced by Shed Creative, including a Tragically Hip documentary partnered with Banger Films, Bell Media and Elevation Pictures that will premiere in the fall of 2017, plus a Shawn Mendes documentary directed by Director X that will be released this spring. A wide range of yet-to-be-announced documentary, scripted and non-scripted music based film and television projects will be released over the next 18 months.

     Harris says getting into the "visual asset game" makes sense for Universal.

     "It can reinvigorate legacy artists where record sales may not necessarily be as strong as they once were, but visual assets have a different monetization, which creates more consumption on our streaming platforms," he explains. "There's an ancillary echo around them."

     Having the entire Universal Music roster at Shed's disposal doesn't hurt.

     “The deal with Universal has given Shed unparalleled access to global talent, as well as a suite of sophisticated consumer and data tools that Universal has developed globally, offering us the ability to supply nuanced music consumer insights to our clients,” says Harris.

     Aside from OLG, Air Canada, Aeroplan and Mongrel Media, those clients include Samsung, Molson and Toronto Tourism, with undoubtedly more to be announced.

     Shed Creative is also behind Together For The Holidays, a live, sold-out, Massey Hall concert booked for December 19, hosted by Jann Arden and featuring Sarah McLachlan, Johnny Reid, Holly Cole and Jordan Smith. This partnership in conjunction with Rogers Media's CHFI is the first annual event presented on behalf of the media giant that will ultimately be built into a 360-degree property incorporating radio and television content.

     “Dave’s vision for Shed is exciting and perfectly suited for the changes and opportunities in the marketplace, and aligns well with where Universal is going globally,” explains UMC's president and CEO, Jeffrey Remedios. “We are moving from a music company to becoming a music focused media company and we’re becoming very active not just in the brand business, but across film and television, as well as building live platforms for artists to connect with fans. Shed gives us the resources and expertise to go full force into these areas of business without disrupting our core businesses.”

     Staffed by eight employees, including longtime Universal Music Canada employees Janis Nixon and Vered Koren (both group account directors), Shed Creative's downtown offices are being deployed for a third purpose: Universal Music Canada's PR and publicity activity.

     "Artists and managers can use the premises for event space press interviews and work stations," says Harris.

     But as much as Universal Music Canada serves as a majority owner, Harris, who was part of the team behind the concept for Field Trip, the annual Arts & Crafts Productions celebratory music festival first established in 2013 and held annually at Fort York in Toronto, says his agency is not beholden to using Universal-centric artists.

     "To make it a real business, you have to open up the opportunity funnel and play to the ecosystem as a whole," he explains. "We are a market-first agency, so we do what's best for the client and what's best for the creators. We always are representing Universal's artists in that way, but we can work with anyone. We're looking to build platforms where artists can connect with fans, where advertisers can play a role as part of that."

     And even music doesn't necessarily need to fit into the mix.

     "We just finished RFPs for (automobile manufacturer) Volvo and (jeweler) Swarovski that had more to do with lifestyle," says Harris.

     Overall, Harris is looking to continuously expand the Shed Creative vision.

     "The topline goal is to establish the agency as a true creative agency," says Harris. "And you only do that through your work. We want to grow our partners in the live space, grow our media and content partnerships, build meaningful content and give artists a platform that is real, authentic and can deliver value - not just to the consumer, but to our artists, our sponsors and our brand partners."


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