Two of Grip Ltd.’s long-time senior creative partners, Bob Goulart and Dave Hamilton, are leaving the agency for a reunion of sorts.
The pair are joining Mike Robitaille’s small Toronto shop The Unitas Reputation Agency early next month as creative directors and partners. Robitaille was one of the key founding partners of Grip and the three worked together between 2004 and 2007, at which point Robitaille left to launch Unitas.
Goulart and Hamilton have been partners for 18 years, the last 12 at Grip, building a reputation as two of the industry’s leading creatives through work for clients like KFC Canada, Acura, Bell, Stella Artois, RBC, Frito-Lay, KPMG, and the Sunnybrook Foundation.
Their decision to leave was announced to staff and clients earlier this week. “It was a sad thing for me,” said Goulart. “It was tough, at first, to be excited about this new venture knowing I had to walk away from Grip after 12 years.”
Grip was just bought by Dentsu Aegis earlier this year but Goulart said the acquisition had nothing do with their decision to exit now. “We’re leaving Grip because of the opportunity to build something new with Mike,” he said. “While we certainly helped Grip grow over our 12 years we weren’t founders in the company. It was time to build something of our own.”
Robitaille opened Unitas in 2007. At one point in 2012 the agency claimed both Sears Canada and short-lived wireless brand Public Mobile as clients. But by late 2013, Public Mobile had been acquired by Telus and Sears had moved its account to Bimm. Since then the agency seemed to go quiet but that was more about the nature of the work it was doing for a small roster of clients, said Goulart. “I think it was quiet creatively… a lot of the work Mike does goes unseen.”
With Unitas, Robitaille has taken a more holistic approach to building his clients’ brands, an approach that stretches across all divisions and not just marketing, said Goulart. That could mean creative work but it could also mean writing a speech for a CEO.
The brands that people truly love have a culture that permeates the entire organization—from advertising to packaging to how employees are treated and how those employees treat their customers, said Goulart.
“A lot of the time we don’t focus on that stuff beyond the ads that we make for a brand. And what Unitas has always believed in is building a reputation beyond the ads.”
That said, Goulart and Hamilton are joining to increase the creative offering for Unitas clients. “With Dave and I joining we’re going to move Unitas from competing in the shadows to a more visible player,” he said.
Their arrival will signal a rethinking of the Unitas brand that could even include a new agency name, but the fundamental core values upon which Robitaille has built the agency will not change, he said.
“Dave and I believe in it and we believe in Mike,” he said. “We are going to relaunch the company but the strategic core absolutely isn’t going to change.”