Sometimes in life, you find yourself staring into the void, looking for answers to tough questions, like how to get your ad in front of a mass audience.
For the guys behind Portray Advertising, the answer was staring right back at them.
Co-founders Kyle Boult and Greg Lipschitz formed the food tray advertising company and launched the pilot run during the 2013 holiday season. The inspiration for the idea actually came from a brain storming session that Kyle had at a mall while working for American Express in Toronto.
“My boss and I were at lunch, bashing our heads on what to use as a creative campaign and thinking of ways to get in front of mass audiences and it hit me,” said Kyle. “I was literally staring at it while we were having this conversation. I pitched the idea to Greg and here we are.”
If at first you don’t succeed…tray, tray again
Before they were able to do their initial launch at St. Vital Centre, there was a lot of pounding the pavement and cold calling to line up advertisers.
“We set up meetings with 170 retail stores,” said Greg. “We explained the program and the benefits to their store, and if they weren’t the decision maker they passed it along to their district manager or their marketing department.”
The initial campaigns for ads were very successful, and featured large brands such as Scotiabank and Rogers. However, the first batch of trays wasn’t up to standard.
“Initially the trays were a little bit too heavy, and we couldn’t change the ads quick enough,” said Greg. “So that’s what led Kyle and I to work in the food court for three months, scrubbing trays, washing dishes. You name it we did it.”
Kyle and Greg made the changes to the trays in time for the 2014 season, and continued to maintain their relationship with mall staff at St. Vital Centre.
The hard work and long hours did not go unnoticed, as St. Vital Centre management brought their efforts to the attention of 20 VIC Management Inc., the company that manages St. Vital Centre.
“They’ve become a champion of the program,” said Kyle. “They worked with us to bring the program to their superiors, so they’ve been advocates for us, and we’ve been able to work with them and their superiors to roll this out nationally. 20 VIC owns a portfolio of 18 malls, so we’re rolling out with all of their mall locations in November.”
Sticking to their roots
Kyle and Greg have been working together since they met at St. Paul’s High School, and upon graduation they both attended the Richard Ivey Schools of Business at the University of Western Ontario. After graduation, Kyle started work at American Express in Toronto while Greg worked with Richardson Capital back home in Winnipeg. When the two decided to go into business, the logical choice was to make the effort together and to set up shop in Winnipeg.
“Greg and I were both looking to make the plunge at the same time,” said Kyle. “We compliment each other extremely well from a skill set. I come from a sales and marketing background, whereas Greg is more operations and finance.”
“We’re very appreciative of our network here,” said Greg. “That’s why we launched in Winnipeg, because this is where our network is and it’s allowed us to use all of our resources.”
Apart from business and entrepreneurship, Kyle and Greg also share an interest in philanthropy, starting with volunteering while at St. Paul’s. They have contributed to various efforts, and have found one that ties in nicely with Portray Advertising.
“We partnered with Breakfast Clubs of Canada, which was an awesome fit with the platform, plus Greg and I wanted to be able to give every kid the sort of opportunity to educate themselves and learn,” said Kyle. “You never know who that future Wayne Gretzky or who the next Einstein is going to be.”
With the national campaign set to roll out in November, Kyle and Greg hope to one day expand to venues other than malls, such as amusement parks, cruise ships and universities. They also aspire to move into international markets.
The work remains difficult, but being friends for so long helps make the difficult times much more bearable.
“It never stops, but I guess the most rewarding part is I’m doing it with my best friend,” said Greg. “It doesn’t end, it’s a constant journey. So I think the fact that we can do it together and have so much fun with it, to me at least, is the most rewarding.”