Glebe digital creative firm has wind in its sails

By S. L. Beattie

Photo: BV02

Photo: BV02

When OC Transpo riders check their smartphones to see exactly what time the number 7 will arrive at Bank and Fifth Avenue, they may not realize that the people who made this possible are sitting just a few steps away. BV02 is a cutting-edge digital creative agency that makes its home in the Glebe.

What is digital creative? It is not just about designing websites, explains account lead Derek Smith. The focus at BV02 is on coming up with a multifaceted digital presence for its clients – a complete strategy for web-presence, digital marketing and mobile solutions. Analytics play a key part in developing and evaluating the strategy: figuring out who the audience is and how to engage them. Nowadays, all types of institutions, from businesses and governments, to museums and cultural institutions, must enhance their presence in the digital world as well as the real world. BV02’s work is not just to make sure their clients are there for someone who is looking for specific information on the Internet, but to help that information “get up and walk around,” says Smith. Their work for OC Transpo is a case in point.

CEO Andrew Milne is the company’s founder. A successful career in digital marketing took him from Ottawa to Toronto, where he worked on large national and international accounts. But Milne had a different vision, one that focused exclusively on digital strategy. After moving back to Ottawa, Milne founded the company in 2002, initially working from downtown Ottawa before settling in the Glebe in 2010.

Photo: BV02

Photo: BV02

The company has a core clientele in the city, working with clients such as local museums, galleries, the City of Ottawa and Carleton University. It has also developed a strong national and international reputation. For example, it has worked on projects such as an app to help Aboriginal children in Saskatchewan, establishing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ digital presence, as well as projects for the Hutchins Centre at Harvard University and the Pulitzer organization. In September, they added an international award from the Academy of Interactive and Video Arts to their cache of W3 awards. For this award, both small firms and the huge international agencies compete on even ground. BV02 walked away with six awards, including gold in the user experience category for its work for the Ottawa Public Library.

“Ottawa is a great city to work from,” says Smith. The very nature of their business means that a lot of communication happens online and by telephone, but “I travel a lot,” says Milne, “and Ottawa is an international city that’s a perfect hub for doing business abroad.” Milne also made a deliberate decision to bring the company to the Glebe. The young, dynamic team at BV02, now 30-strong, is a creative group engaged with their community. Being in the Glebe means Milne gets home in time to have dinner with his kids. But it also means that the company barbecue is in a neighbourhood park, and that the team is constantly engaging with the artists, designers and other creative types who make this downtown neighbourhood their home and playground. “The Glebe is going to be one of the new centrepieces for this new generation of businesses, especially with Lansdowne’s recent expansion,” says Milne. “Many of our staff are local and choose to bike, bus or walk to our offices. It’s a real lifestyle choice.”

BV02 is part of a rebirth in the tech sector in this city, a community that Milne is eager to nurture. They host weekly informal drinks gatherings for colleagues working in the sector, and will eagerly share expertise and resources, including the device lab, Milne’s pet project. In fact, the company hosts Canada’s only “open device lab,” a space with just about every digital gadget you could imagine, from the latest iPhone, half a dozen models of Blackberry, a host of android smartphones, tablets and different computers. Before a site goes live, the team can therefore test it out on many different devices to make sure the user experience with it will be smooth. And they’ll open the lab for others to use as well, whether they are BV02 clients or not. It’s a way of giving back, and of engaging with the community in a meaningful way.

That open door, to colleagues, to the community, and to the exchange of ideas and creativity that comes from a location like the Glebe is all in keeping with Milne’s philosophy. So too is the story behind the tech-sounding name. The BV in BV02 stands for “boom vang,” which, as sailors know, is the device that adjusts the tension between the mast of a sailboat and the boom, the horizontal piece at the base of the main sail. In Milne’s vision, the mast is like big business: “It is affected by the direction of the sails, the wind and the boat, but it stays the course … the boom is the audience, it moves to outside forces and influence, it changes and moves, constantly in motion.” The boom vang “is the communicator between the mast and the boom. We help adjust how they work together.” A boom vang must be set at the right tension to keep the boat on course, but it isn’t fixed, instead it adjusts as necessary to adapt to changes in the wind and other forces, just as keeping on top of the digital world requires constant adjustment and adaptation. From their dock on Bank Street, Milne and his team at BV02 are aiming to chart a course for the future of digital.

S. L. Beattie is a Glebe resident who enjoys learning about new businesses and flexing her “writing muscle” for the Glebe Report.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.