Very Polite Agency, the name of a new creative venture based in Vancouver, is a bit of a misnomer.
The four partners in the group aren’t ill-mannered, but they’re not soft-spoken or politically correct. They pursue creative endeavors with gusto and prefer raw footage over cleanly edited film.
J.J. Wilson, cofounder of Kit and Ace, started Very Polite with Dylan Rekert, a filmmaker and art director; Alan Chan, former photo studio manager at Aritzia, and Andrea Mestrovic, former vice president of marketing at Mark Anthony Group.
The common thread in the partners’ backgrounds is an association with Kit and Ace. Rekert’s work for the brand won him numerous Applied Arts awards, Mestrovic headed global public relations for the activewear label and Chan’s photography was featured in brand campaigns.
Kit and Ace in April became a victim of the punishing retail environment. The Canadian retailer closed all 32 U.S. stores to concentrate on its nine Canadian units and its e-commerce site.
Discussions about launching a creative agency began about six months ago. Wilson, who is on Kit and Ace’s board, but hasn’t been involved in the operations or management of the company since Oct 2016, will always have some association with the company, since Kit and Ace is a Wilson family brand. Shannon Wilson, the brand’s cofounder, is married to J.J.’s father, Chip, who is the founder of Lululemon.
Wilson said he was ready for other experiences. Very Polite Agency works to bring brands into the epicenter of crowd culture dialogue with the goal of making them culturally relevant and therefore, future-proof.
“Branded content and sponsorships used to work, but once audiences could opt out of ads, it became harder for brands to buy recognition,” said Mestrovic, who cites social media 2.0’s cultural innovation, which today can reach mainstream mass market audiences.
Rekert believes raw and real content is what commands consumer attention.
“A few years ago, big ad campaigns had high production values,” Rekert said. “With social media 2.0, both the theme and production values have changed. Consumers want real, raw footage. It’s what works best.
“Canada is very conservative, it’s very polite,” he said. “The type of content we’d like to produce will not necessarily be here. We’re reaching out and talking to global brands. The West Coast of Canada is becoming interesting to large brands.”
“We’re most excited about going outside of retail,” said Wilson, whose background includes stints at Lululemon, Holt Renfrew and Wings + Horns. “Our current recent experience doesn’t necessarily define us.”
Very Polite’s client roster includes Purple Denim, which is sold at Barneys New York, Fred Segal Tokyo and Harvey Nichols; Mr. Gray, socks; La Maison Valmont, luxury skin care; Nancy Lord, ready-to-wear, and Spence Diamonds.
“Kit and Ace is rethinking a lot of its strategy,” Wilson said. “The focus is on building stores in Canada and supporting global e-commerce. For Kit and Ace, we were inspired at the shop level to the way we used p.r. We tried to find cultural relevance for each market we touched.”
Very Polite plans to stay fairly small. “The partners would love to be involved in every account,” Wilson said. “We’re hoping we can touch technology, hospitality and tourism.”