Pat Andrews – Associate Partner, Creative – recently had the pleasure of talking to Canada’s foremost and self proclaimed music geek: Alan Cross. Topics discussed? The Ongoing History of New Music, chick-lit, Can-Con, Reach for the Top and Disco Duck. Enjoy!
Last month, GRIP was honoured to host Terry O’Reilly at our first #GripLabLive. Watch as Creative Partner David Chiavegato interviews the award-winning copywriter, best selling author and host of CBC Radio’s The Age of Persuasion.
I remember explaining my job to an acquaintance a few years back. I had given, what I thought, was a fairly detailed description of my job as an advertising creative. It was met by a somewhat blank expression followed by a sudden look of comprehension. “Oh, you make jingles!” they exclaimed excitedly. I gave up. “Yes. I make jingles!” I replied, less enthusiastically. What I could not do at that time was suggest my acquaintance read a fascinating primer on the somewhat crazy world of advertising called The Age Of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O’Reilly.
Like Terry’s CBC radio show of the same name, the book presumes an in-depth knowledge of marketing and advertising. Those of us in the industry appreciate the fresh perspective on the topics covered, which helped to contextually place ‘new’ trends such as branded content (which actually began over 90 years ago with the birth of agency-created soap operas.) Even the more mundane topics are refreshed with Terry’s wit, quirky factoids and personal anecdotes (like the time Bob Newhart punched him in the face – okay, I may have exaggerated that encounter a bit).
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Terry at the very beginning of my career, and can promise the voice you hear in the media is pure Terry – funny, engaging and always entertaining.
Grip Limited is fortunate enough to be hosting a visit by Terry at the agency on August 1st. Stay tuned to the Big Orange Slide for updates – who knows, he may even have a few words to say about ‘making jingles.’
This year, I had the opportunity to attend the 60th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I had heard a number of interesting stories about the festival, but never experienced the event myself. I heard about late nights at the Gutter Bar, countless meals at the beach and even one particularly notorious story regarding a seasoned creative showering (inappropriate) praise upon an aspiring Young Lion. Beyond these stories, I wasn’t sure what to expect — I needed to participate and find out for myself.
Our first, and most necessary task was to ensure that a healthy supply of Stella Artois and bourbon was stocked at the condo. Next, we were to obtain our delegate passes and formally plan our agenda. In retrospect, maybe this should have happened in reverse order.
Over the course of the week, Cannes exploded with 10,000 creative minds from all over the world. Most events occurred at the Palais des Festivals, a stadium-sized space with dozens of viewing rooms, auditoriums and annexes. From here, we were able to take in the likes of George Lois, Lee Clow, Conan O’Brien and Vivienne Westwood, to name a few. It was an excellent combination of laughs and inspiration.
Outside the Palais, a number of agencies and technology companies conducted workshops and seminars. If you were looking to learn something new, something innovative, something different, the possibilities were endless. If you were looking to put back a few pints, the possibilities were even endless-er. At night, Cannes turned into the ultimate celebration of creativity; “creativity” of course being the French word for a drunken orgy of agency-financed spring breakery. Wisely, the city employed an army of street sweepers that made their way down La Croisette every morning to clean up the previous night’s debauchery. Those are the guys that deserve an award for how they are able to rejuvenate the city after it looked as though it had been through a riot.
Then finally, the raison d’être (that’s French, in case you didn’t know) for my trip to Cannes: the final night. The Movie Out Here had been shortlisted in Branded Content and Entertainment.
We won two Gold Lions in Best Integrated Content as well as Best Fictional Program Series or Film Where a Client has Successfully Created a Drama, Comedy or Miniseries Around a Product or Brand, and one Silver Cyber Lion for Website and Microsite in the Food and Drink Category.
Taking the stage with Randy Stein, a founding partner at Grip, who was with this project from its inception over 20 months ago, was by far the best part of the entire experience. Accepting an award at Cannes, let alone gold, is a goal every advertising professional should aspire towards. It was an absolute privilege to have worked with such a remarkable team — the blood, sweat and tears were well worth it. I’d like to extend a genuine thank-you to our amazing client and everyone who touched this project. Because of all of you, Cannes is an experience I’ll never forget.
Except for all the parts of Cannes I don’t remember.
I mailed Holiday cards 5 years in a row, and then last year I decided not to. This year, it’s not happening again.
I know Holiday Carole and the wonders of Google Street View integration are going to wow my parents like they wowed many others to date. I can already picture us all sitting around my parent’s living room, with the laptop plugged into the TV playing load and clear. If there was a kid watching maybe they’d even get confused and run to the door to look outside for Carole and her friends!
It makes me sort of sad that I have neglected to send holiday cards two seasons in a row, yet part of me likes the idea of saving paper, money and time. When technology makes it so easy to send nicely crafted and designed greetings at anytime of the year, it’s no wonder receiving cards in the mail feels a bit like a thing of the past.
Whether you send and receive physical or digital cards, send a quick text, talk on the phone, or have the pleasure of sharing a warm embrace this season, the important thing is to count your blessings and share your good tidings. At Grip we do a nice thing called “Secret Santa Shuffle: Give, Receive and Give Again” where we pick the name of a colleague, buy a gift for their 10 year old self and then donate all the toys to a local charity.
There are so many ways to spread cheer throughout the Holiday season. Donate blood, give someone a friendly smile and spend time with people you love. Seasons Greetings :D
Editors’ note: The Stella Artois Holiday Carole app was developed by Mother. Social media amplification is being handled by Grip. Check it out.
By the time this article surfaces, I will be well on my way to Antarctica with my friend and colleague Joanna McFarlane. There are a number of things that excite me about this trip (don’t let me get started on the penguins or we’ll be here for hours) but one in particular stands out: the idea of being off the grid for two full weeks. I’m not talking about the kind of off the grid where your out of office notification is on, but you’re still secretly checking emails and watching to make sure everything is OK. I’m talking about no Wi-Fi, no cell service, no social media. Full stop.
Of course, you’re already thinking, “If she takes a picture in Antarctica without posting it on Instagram, does it really exist?”
We are plugged in as an industry, a community, a country and a continent. We are, dare I say it, addicted to social media. The photos and thoughts we publish are rated, reviewed and ranked based on how many Likes they receive, how many Shares they earn, and how many Comments are made. In advertising, we monitor these metrics for our clients’ social footprint on a daily basis and from these insights we challenge our Social Content Strategists to push harder to develop engaging, shareable and ultimately ‘viral’ content.
Perhaps because of this keen attention to our clients’ engagement rates, an element of this constant monitoring trickles into our own personal social network. How many Likes did my new photo get? How come no one commented on that hysterical joke I just posted? Why isn’t this video of my friend’s cat wearing a penguin costume getting more shares?
Taking time to disengage and refocus can prompt a fresh surge of energy, creativity, and excitement in our work. I don’t think that we have to travel to the ends of the earth to do it, but it can certainly help. For two full weeks we will be completely disconnected. We will be taking in our surroundings instead of just focusing on capturing them (not to mention wondering which filter would make that cellphone picture look better). It will be liberating to spend time on checking out for once, not ‘checking in’.
When we do come back to the connected world I’m sure we will both cave in and post a few #lategrams. And shortly after, Joanna, being the Analytics wizard that she is, will inevitably dig into the numbers behind how successful the trip was deemed based on how many Likes, Comments, and Shares our photos receive. My prediction? We’re bound to get a few extra thumbs up from our social networks than the average photo, but high or low engagement rates aside, taking the time to log out now and then (voluntarily or involuntarily) may be the secret key to keeping your own content fresh.
Team Gripstachios came out in full force for our 4th year participating in Movember. The team, consisting of 21 Mos and a few MoSisters, raised $3,553 for the cause, and generated some great awareness. Stand-out team member Eric Viera even had a fan create a Facebook page for his epic lip brow. As always, GRIP is a proud supporter of great initiatives like Movember and we’re very excited for next year.
Art Director Emma Wathan tracked the progress of the team each week and created the above .gif of epic “mo”portions.
Reflecting upon the ten years at Grip, there are many noteworthy moments and experiences that I could mention. But there was a time during our first few months that struck me as being the perfect example of the ridiculously unglamorous part of starting an agency; in some ways, a harbinger of our fledgling agency culture.
Opening our doors in January 2002, we worked in an old brick and beam office that was the former location of Dave Crichton’s former agency. The walls were quite porous (you could literally see the daylight through the mortar) and the winter wind would often be felt in the office. This probably wouldn’t have been much of a problem if the building was properly heated. Or even heated, for that matter.
So, we purchased space heaters for our offices. Lots of them. With multiple space heaters running, the office’s electrical breaker would continuously overload and trip. After multiple resets we worked out some sort of running order where we would each take a turn flipping the breaker. Everyone, regardless of title or position, took turns flipping the breaker. At the time I wondered whether there were other people across the city in various professions with a similar problem (“I’m sorry, but the neurosurgeon who is operating on your husband had to leave to flip the hospital’s breaker.”) Everyone was on breaker duty, because there was no established hierarchy. With only twelve of us, we literally didn’t have enough people to create one, even if we wanted to.
Perhaps I look back on this somewhat minor annoyance as one of the first instances when we all hunkered down and did what was necessary to keep things moving forward. There were larger problems, like staffing enormous pieces of business with bare-bones infrastructure. Or the constant barrage of so-called industry experts who saw our model as being unworkable, and would gleefully announce our imminent demise. Or any number of other setbacks that followed alongside our victories and growth.
I can’t help but think that it was the hard times and the setbacks, big and small, that shaped the culture of the agency. It’s great to grow, expand and win. But it’s the downturns, account losses, bad press, senior defection and the occasional unforeseen disaster that really test the resilience and character of the people you’re working with. Throughout the years, the people who work (and have worked) at Grip have managed to pull through each setback perhaps a bit stronger and a bit wiser; with a greater sense that these challenges are part of the natural life cycle of any size of independent agency. Our resilience has been strengthened by a cultural willingness to tackle whatever problem is being encountered because that’s just the way it’s always been done here.
I’m sure we’ll be celebrating our success in the coming months along with appreciating all the great people and great clients that we have had the privilege of working with. But maybe it’s also healthy and humbling to reflect upon the challenges. Because in the end, how they were faced speaks to the character of all the great people with whom I have had the privilege of working with since Grip first opened its doors, ten years ago.
I had a sum total of four jobs in my advertising career leading up to my joining Grip in 2004.Three years apiece, at big and small shops, with the exception of a single year at fellow independent, Bensimon Byrne (sorry about that, Jack).
I learned an awful lot getting here, but it’s the lessons learned at Grip that truly matured me as an Advertising Professional – a Mad Man if you prefer romantic fiction. Here is what I now know:
1) Bring YOU Into The Business
Our story, Grip’s story, really is an extension of us. We all love the ad business most of the time, hate it some of the time, and struggle daily to keep that balance healthy and productive. For me, that has meant learning to use my innate cynicism for good; it has meant frank discussions, an embarrassing amount of yelling (and the odd seething glare) to keep our briefs, our creative product and ultimately our clients’ brands honest. But on whole, I believe I’ve gotten better at channeling this, precisely because we’ve created an environment at Grip in which I was free to do so.
2) Trust Your Instincts
Ten years in, we have pitched a fair bit of business. Every decision we have made to throw our hat in the ring has not been an equal one, however. Sure, we have our “are we a good fit” checklist thingy, like every agency, I’m sure. But if I’m honest, financial pressure, competitive spirit, blind momentum and even ego (bolstered and wounded) have all, at one time or another, landed us in rooms we had no business, or even heart, being in. The decision to pursue a pitch is simpler (or I imagine it to be so) when you answer to New York or London. But we enjoy the luxury of being able to say no. Had we always trusted our gut and stayed true to our ethos, I’m guessing we’d have declined half of the invites. Perhaps, as a result we’d have doubled our efforts on those our gut told us we were the right fit for.
3) Love it or Leave it
You’ve heard this before, but the fact is, whatever business you take on won’t be successful unless you are invested in the outcome. We play to our strengths and divvy up the work, and new business, accordingly across the breadth and diversity of our collective. It’s better and more fun in the long run.
4) Culture is your Biggest Expense
Getting this right is hard. It’s a moving target. But a healthy agency culture is quite possibly the last real advantage an agency can have over its competitors. No one is hiring dumb people. No one is refusing to adopt the great equalizer that is Analytics. But happy people? People who chat, and share knowledge and help each other over a wall when necessary? Not everyone is making that choice a priority. And the beauty is, it is a choice.
5) Lose the Company Line
We’ve all had tight-lipped bosses. Don’t be one. I’ve found that the more we open up to our staff (and our clients), the more likely they are to go above and beyond for us. They embrace the spirit of transparency we’ve tried to foster. And more importantly, those who’ve been here a while are brave enough to call us out when we fail to maintain that transparency.
6) Failing is Fine
You’ve heard this before. Mistakes are one of the best forms of education out there. Don’t beat yourself up when they occur. We’ve hired the wrong people, leased the wrong space, presented the wrong idea, but I cannot imagine where we’d be if we had not committed these errors, and learned from them.
7) You Can’t Please Everyone
Regardless of what you do, how good your creative product is or how attentive your account service is, sometimes the result is still a disgruntled customer. Don’t waste time worrying about this. You cannot get along with every dog in the park.
8) Proofread Everything*
9) Hard Decisions Need To Be Made Quickly
We’ve all had to fire someone, or drop a once-loved supplier who is no longer delivering. Letting this kind of decision fester too long does nothing to solve the problem. Get on with the tough stuff.
10) There Are No Rules
Ten years later, we still have no business plan (that I’m aware of). We get up everyday, we work hard, we have fun, and we try to get out ahead of our clients’ challenges. Sometimes, we argue a little, too. Sometimes, we even sharpen up the daggers the agency dynamic is famous for and get in our own way as a result. But that’s part of the gig. We all need to get our Pete Campbell on every now and then.
*#8 erroneously missing from the original post and added on Oct. 1, 2012. Oops.
ed. note: Look up. Waay up. You see that devastatingly hip new logo sitting snugly in our masthead? Well, that’s just one of several exciting agenda items that abound as Grip kicks off its 10th anniversary celebrations. In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting musings from our partners on some of their most memorable moments, or what they’ve learned along the way. We’ll begin with a post from Grip’s president, Harvey Carroll.
I have had the good fortune of being involved with Grip since its inception ten years ago. For the first six years I was a client and for the past four years, I have been a partner at Grip.
When asked about my most memorable moments, I considered some of our big wins in the past four years. There were clients we won through pitches (YUM!, CGA, Johnson & Johnson and Expedia), and clients we won without pitches (Dare, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and Stella Artois global digital). Naturally, other great moments occurred while working alongside our clients to achieve some truly outstanding results.
But as great as these wins are, they aren’t what truly makes me most proud of Grip. It is the things that happen day to day that are the most memorable to me.
Grip has a culture I count myself fortunate to be part of. There is a mindset that I have not seen previously in my career – at least not to the same extent. It’s hard to articulate, but seems to nest between people wanting to do what is best for their clients, each other and ultimately for the company. They don’t do it because it is expected or required. People here will go out of their way to help others succeed in a way I have never witnessed before.
Here, you routinely see people step up to a project outside their scope. You see others similarly motivated to help out. And I’m not even talking social or party planning stuff alone; in one case, a whole group jumped on the chance to develop an entire education and mentorship program. There’s a desire to grow, or to help support growth. People often evolve their current role into something else they feel passion for. Receptionists have become account people and producers. Our photo retoucher became an in-house photographer. An IT guy became an editor.
There are instances where people have taken on entirely new service offerings: developing in-house e-mail deployment, 3D modeling and rendering and community management and engagement groups. These endeavors were each nurtured by other Grippers, excited to grow an opportunity even though it wasn’t “their job.”
When I think what is most memorable to me in the past four years, it really is how entrepreneurial and benevolent behaviour can lead to incredible outcomes. It’s a testament to what is possible when unique culture meets unbelievable talents. I am so proud to be a part of this company and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in the next ten years.