UpHouse, RRC Polytech alumni receive international recognition

By: Timor Syrota

Since its inception in 2017, one of UpHouse’s core missions is to find a way to amplify underrepresented communities — and an Anthem Award nomination echoed their effort.

The Anthem Awards is the Webby Awards’ (an awards organization honouring “excellence on the Internet”) newest initiative to recognize and celebrate organizations and brands that create long-lasting impact.

UpHouse, a Winnipeg-based marketing agency founded by RRC Polytech alumnus Kiirsten May and Co-owner Alex Varricchio, is on the same ballot as major companies like Netflix, the NFL, and The New York Times. 

They were nominated for their “Sharing Hope in Self-Isolation” campaign for the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba (CPMB) in the Human & Civil Rights — Special Projects category. They also got a nod for their “Sex Ed for Everyone” campaign for Sexuality Education Resource Center (SERC), in the Health — Non-Profit Campaign category.

“It feels really good to be able to produce something that can compete out of Winnipeg,” said Varricchio. “It’s just nice to have helped these organizations get more attention and beyond that, these campaigns have been really effective for them.”

Brenlee Coates (she/her, left) looks over an upcoming UpHouse project with Alex Varricchio (he/him, right)./TIMOR SYROTA

Varricchio said the nomination reinforces that good storytelling and solid creative allow for companies to level the playing field. For CPMB, UpHouse helped bring awareness of people with disabilities that have known community isolation before the pandemic. Their work with SERC demonstrated the importance of sex education by asking strangers questions about sex and seeing how they responded.

“You can have a very big budget, or be brave,” said creative & marketing director and Creative Communications alumnus, Brenlee Coates. “They were willing to go there with us, and I think it made it very impactful and matched some of the tones of some of these wider and large campaigns.”

It’s the authentic relationship and trust UpHouse has with their clients that made it possible to take an idea and, in a week’s time, make it into a reality, according to Coates.

“People can’t really argue with lived experiences, right? So, it really helps us to tell those advocacy messages from that lens and we just help them make it louder.”

As a growing agency with a mission to make marketing better in every aspect, Coates is excited there is a stage that only celebrates purpose and mission-driven work.

“Shining a spotlight on that and realizing that’s really important and impactful, especially in our industry will hopefully create more space for that.”

As the UpHouse team awaits results on Feb. 15, Varricchio said, “It’s sort of reignited a bit of fire, for me, and others in the organization as well.”