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Big Orange Slide

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

This way up

October 5, 2012 by Bob Goulart

Illustration by Hiten Patel

The orange slide in Grip’s atrium has been an agency icon since its installation. Despite some dubious stories in past years, it still stands as a symbol of the agency’s “effortless flow of ideas” from one group to another, while inspiring a “spirit of play” throughout. That was the concept (as described in architectural magazines throughout the country). While it did bring a smile to the faces of unsuspecting visitors, I must admit I never liked it. In fact, I hated it.

There, I said it. Sorry.

Its presence always haunted me as a symbol of frivolity that I feel this business has struggled to shake for decades. I was personally more concerned about the raised eyebrows it inspired than the smiles. It was particularly unsettling when potential new clients were touring the office with me. I could never explain it, without sounding a little foolish. Our monument to “the effortless flow of ideas” only flowed one way.

Two years ago, I found a new meaning in that slide, and I have my son Luca and his best friend Pender (David Crichton’s son) to thank for that. The two were waiting for us to finish up our day, passing the time running up the stairs and sliding down the slide. Pure, frivolous fun. (I know, what’s not to like about that?)

In the course of their play something interesting happened. It was the same thing that happens during every recess in every schoolyard across the country. They decided to take it up a notch. They needed to climb the slide.

Photography by Bob Goulart

Climbing the orange slide is an incredibly difficult and exhausting endeavour, especially for a couple of five-year olds. The very prospect of it doesn’t even seem fun: it’s too steep, too long and too slippery. And yet, they found profound joy in the struggle to help each other up. To this day, they remain relentless in their attempts.

The challenge, despite the work, is just too irresistible.

Their furious attempts to conquer the orange beast have culminated in a new personal narrative for the slide: climbing it stands as a symbol of Grip’s relentless pursuit of success.

Like Luca and Pender, we’re a stubborn, motivated and ambitious bunch that takes pleasure in beating the odds and overcoming adversity. And like Luca and Pender, we prefer to do it together (it should come as no surprise that fifteen Grip employees participated in Tough Mudder this year).

To me, moments that typify this determination are Grip’s most memorable ones: winning and launching brand work for Frito Lay in an environment filled with more entitled network agencies. Being the long shot on a pitch against North American agencies who were arguably better equipped to target women — and then winning that pitch, only to take that work global. Becoming Honda’s AOR one small, successful project at a time. Building our digital capability from a team of one to a seamless agency-wide group that thinks in every channel on every account, everyday.

Our tenth anniversary is an incredible achievement when you consider all of the early “industry experts” who, like playground parents yelling at their kids to stop climbing the slide, insisted in the press that we would fail. Success may elude us once in a while, but we continue to thrive on the challenge.

The difficult journey up is always a more satisfying and enduring experience than the easy ride down.

Happy Anniversary Grip. Happy climbing.

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