New web series 'The Brief' laughs at agency life

Toronto agency Elemental produces comedy series to show off content, storytelling talents

It started as a joke. New employees have to eat an entire one-and-a-half-pound can of ravioli. It was agency tradition, Matt Sadowski was told on one of his first days as a creative intern at Toronto agency Elemental. The joke turned into a dare.  And to the surprise of his co-workers, Sadowski took it.

Sadowski’s unusual on-the-job experiences — including a series of mishaps that left him pants-less at the office, more than once — provided the inspiration for many of the comedic moments driving "The Brief," a four-part web series launched this week that parodies agency life at Elemental.

Created as a promotional vehicle to showcase the agency’s creative capabilities, the series, the agency hopes, will serve as proof positive of the power of content marketing. It is a "method of showing our clients how storytelling and content marketing can effectively be used as a channel strategy, by hiring ourselves," said Dustin Brown, co-creator of the series, and co-founder of the 18-person shop that includes Dyson and Scotiabank on its client roster. "Telling is one thing, showing is another."  

The series follows the story of a creative intern as he contends with a partner that doesn’t get him, an eccentric creative director, and the pressures of trying to crack his first creative brief. The story, though exaggerated through comedy, doesn’t stray too far from Sadowski’s own early life at Elemental. Like the main character, Sadowski, who was an independent filmmaker and had never worked at an agency before, had to prove himself as an intern before he was hired full time a year and a half ago. Tasked with creating an innovative marketing campaign for the agency, Sadowski, now copywriter and head of content at the agency, pitched the web series.

The ad business is well-trodden subject matter for all kinds of entertainment, from TV and films to books, but Sadowski said he hopes "The Pitch" offers a different perspective. "There has been a lot of content about advertising that maybe handles it in a more mature way, like the Holy Grail, ‘Mad Men.’ It makes advertising really dangerous and sexy and dark and twisted," said Sadowski. "Sometimes advertising can be really silly. And we felt that there had been no other show about advertising, made by people who work in advertising, that is also set at their agency. We felt that was more of a fresh take."

The agency is promoting the series with PR, social media and YouTube pre-roll.  "The hope is that we get to do more of these and that brands become part of the show itself, whether through product placement or as a presenting sponsor," Sadowski added. "We’ve already written Season Two."

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