Tale of two agencies: Soshal splits efforts between marketing, technical sides

Dave Hale
Dave Hale, CEO of Craft&Crew and partner of Soshal Group Inc. Photo by Dwayne Brown

Ottawa digital agency Soshal is splitting up its operations between its marketing and technical sides, an effort the CEO says is meant to present a clearer picture of what the companies actually do.

Soshal announced last week it is spinning off its digital and product-focused business into a new company dubbed Craft&Crew. The agency’s marketing efforts will continue under the Soshal banner. Both companies will remain united under a parent organization, Soshal Group Inc.

Dave Hale, who will remain in a leadership role as CEO of Craft&Crew and a board member of the parent company, says the split might seem like a two-pronged approach, but it’s actually meant to focus the firm’s increasingly divergent business lines.

While Soshal built up a roster of well-known clients including SurveyMonkey, Colliers International and TD Canada Trust by offering both advertising and digital design work, Hale says the company was starting to miss opportunities as the lack of a united front was beginning to confuse prospective customers. Companies looking to Soshal for ad work would see the company as a product-focused agency, while potential clients on the tech side often saw it solely as a marketing firm.

This revelation, when it came to him, hit Hale like a ton of bricks.

“As a marketing person, I'm like, yeah, this is ridiculous. We have two messages, two defined personas, two defined target audiences,” he tells OBJ.

The original plan to be a “one-stop shop” for both company’s marketing and product departments wasn’t bearing fruit either. More often than not, these teams were working with separate partners on their own projects and weren’t in need of one robust solution to take care of these disparate demands.

Hale says that while some massive companies are able to make such a strategy work, the 20-person team at Soshal was too small to win with a comprehensive approach.

Internally, Soshal’s product and marketing divisions weren’t really working on the same page either. Team members had little overlap between the two sides of the business, and the longer-term sales and project cycles on the technical side didn’t align with the short-term efforts coming out of the marketing side, leading to confusion in the company’s billing system.

With the new division in place, Hale believes both firms can execute to their “full potential.” He and partners Chad MacDonald and Phil Sonea will soon install a new CEO to lead efforts on the Soshal side. Sonea will run Soshal Group’s venture arm, while MacDonald will join Hale as president and chief creative officer at Craft&Crew.

From the archives