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Big Orange Slide

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Freezing the Information Flow

December 4, 2012 by Justine Leetham

Illustration by Andy Slater

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.

Editors’ note: for more on the subject of Grip’s experiences having to disconnect, read these past articles!
The Internet Can Wait
Consumer Unplugged

Team Gripstachios raises over $3500 for Movember!

December 3, 2012 by Big Orange Slide

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.

On resilience

October 2, 2012 by David Chiavegato

Illustration by Hiten Patel

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.

Ten lessons from ten years in business

September 28, 2012 by Dave Hamilton

Illustration by Colin Craig

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.

Reflections on culture

September 27, 2012 by Harvey Carroll

Illustration by Hiten Patel

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.

The do’s and don’ts of getting your own office

September 25, 2012 by Dave Hamilton


I arrived on a Monday, fresh out of school, at a respected mid-town agency for a 3-month internship tied to my schooling at Humber College. I was welcomed, and immediately led to a vacant office  – a window office no less – where I was to reside for the duration. I was also told to sit tight and the Account lead on TSN would be along shortly, to brief me on my first project.

A handsome young man, not much older than myself soon arrived, introduced himself and sat down. He was equal parts Don Draper and Patrick Bateman. He was friendly enough, but there was little eye contact during the briefing. Instead, the young executive’s eyes darted around my office taking in the space. He returned later that afternoon, under the pretense of dropping off some additional background. Again there was little eye contact, but continued scrutiny to the office and it’s furnishings; he even remarked on the rareness of both morning and afternoon sun, afforded by the high windows. Shortly after five, I was returning from the snack room with a Wunderbar and found this same executive in my office with a measuring tape. He’d thought I’d gone home; he excused his intrusion and then disappeared up the hall.

Tuesday morning I arrived and was immediately intercepted by the office manager. She informed me there’d been a slight change of plans and steered me to my new office: a former darkroom turned office furniture graveyard. It was under the stairs, and I was to rot there for 3 months minus a day. When I wandered over to see what had become of my former, sun-drenched digs I saw the TSN Account Exec, polishing the nameplate he was about to set down on his new desk. “John Miller,” the nameplate read. The same John Miller who is now Director of Client Services here at Grip. The same John Miller who has a window office, all to himself up on the sixth floor. Overlooking a park. John Miller who, as I write this, is being intercepted by our office manager and led to a room we used to call Bike Storage.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some measuring to do.

3 Grippers offer advice for those entering the entry level

Looking back on the last four months, we can say it’s been an important right of passage; humble beginnings in a not-so-humble industry. Along with the trials and tribulations of a first internship comes a realization that you’ve learned far more than you thought you would. In a relatively short window of time, you dip your toe into the industry, become familiar with office culture, and begin to see yourself as a functioning member of a little something called the economy. It’s can be a tough experience to navigate – but the lessons are enduring.

We asked other seasoned Grippers if they felt the same way, and what they took away as lessons.

Illustration by Julia Morra

Illustration by Julia Morra

Illustration by Julia Morra

Jobs, Bernbach and McLuhan walk into a cafe…

August 30, 2012 by Leilah Ambrose

Illustration by Brian Ross

Looking for a hyper-intellectual hypothetical conversation to roundhouse kick your day into gear? Of course you are!

This Fast Company article puts ad legend Bill Bernbach, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and cultural philosopher Marshall McLuhan into a room together. To, y’know, kvetch.

At one point, Bernbach remarks that: “Advertising above all speaks to the unchanging core of what makes us human, and the work I see these days seems to assume that everyone has changed. It seems more desperately cool than insightfully accurate in the way it identifies the consumer.”

Do you agree?

Read the whole thing at Fast Co.Create.

When looking at a Creative Director, is the ability to mentor as important as the ability to produce?

August 29, 2012 by Big Orange Slide


I’ll have a chicken sandwich and a side of dogma

August 28, 2012 by Randy Stein

Illustration by Julia Morra

A few weeks ago, the CEO of fast-food chain “Chick-fil-A” came out in an interview and stated his position on “traditional” marriage – essentially stating his disapproval of same-sex marriage. Needless to say, this ignited a firestorm of controversy resulting in both sides of the “same-sex marriage” debate vocally taking sides. Those in favour of same-sex marriage were quick to call for boycotts of the fast-food chain. Those in agreement with the CEO’s position were quick to mobilize as well – calling for people to come out and support the chain – whether they’re usual customers or not. My guess would be, sadly, that business is probably up for Chick-fil–A although I have no idea if that’s the case or not.

Now, yes, the United States is increasingly a country of extreme viewpoints, but is the politicization of brands an inevitable outcome? How much longer before The CEO of McDonald’s is questioned about his stance on Abortion? And how long before someone asks the CEO of the GAP about their views on Natural Selection? Will consumers soon be requesting the political views of a company’s  leader before they make their purchase decisions? How long before changerooms ring with the refrain “these pants look great on me but I’ll pass because their CEO is a Republican.”

All this to say, is this really necessary? On one hand, it’d be nice to sit down to a meal without having to Google the social and political leanings of the Board of Directors before I order. On the other hand, I don’t really want to put money into the pocket of someone whose views I find repugnant.

It’s a complex question with no simple answers. Personally, I suspect that ignorance is bliss when it comes to the politicization of brands. And as for Chick-fil-A, well, I’m a KFC guy anyway.