In the ad and marketing agency world, talent generally congregates in a few global centres. New York and London top the list. Chicago’s up there, too.
Vancouver – not so much.
And yet, my business partners and I are committed to a business model that relies on attracting a very specific sort of A-level marketing talent to Vancouver. Not the easiest path, I’ll admit. But we’re determined.
How are we able to draw such talent here? By offering a good story – something marketers love more than most. And the view outside our window has a compelling one to tell: About a young city nestled in an ancient landscape. A place where timeless nature merges with rapid change. A frontier. A place where cultures collide, sparks fly and new things emerge.
Four of our past five hires were imports. Two are veterans of the London agency world. One came to us from Barcelona via Rio and Buenos Aires. One is American.
In the past month, we’ve received applications from folks in Australia and New Zealand. And more Londoners than I can count. Brexit blues, perhaps? I’m not complaining, and neither are our clients.
One of my partners – Peter Petralia – is also from the United States. He joined us 18 months ago after more than a decade in New York running high-profile accounts for high-profile agencies. What drew him here? Besides the fact he liked us and found our unique business model intriguing, he was looking for a change. A slower, less intense pace. A healthier lifestyle. Natural beauty. Room to think, breathe and just … be.
Sure, the notorious Vancouver real estate market gave him pause. But coming from New York, it was less of a shock than it might have been otherwise. On balance, it felt like a good move and we’re very glad he made it. So glad that we’ve recently taken steps to make ourselves more attractive to potential hires from around the world.
This past July, we moved into a new office. It’s situated on the 17th floor of a late-1960s tower in Coal Harbour, a waterfront neighbourhood in Vancouver’s downtown core. The space was gutted and reimagined. It features wood-panelled walls, bright colours, hydraulic standing desks, a fully stocked bar and a mid-century modern Danish teak sectional that could have been picked out by the Mad Men props department.
The real star of the show, though, is the panoramic view of Vancouver’s iconic harbourfront, Stanley Park and the mountains of the North Shore. It’s postcard-perfect. The absolute essence of this city’s appeal. And that was our intention.
Our commitment to Canada in general and Vancouver in particular has been with us since the very beginning. My co-founders and I had the kind of global experience that would naturally lead us to look for work in the major ad-agency centres of the world. But we wanted to be here.
There was a problem, though. The jobs we wanted didn’t seem to exist here. Instead of leaving, we started a company and created those jobs for ourselves. We put conventional wisdom aside and chose a different path.
That was nearly five years ago. And since then, the essence of this place has come to define us. And I think our clients appreciate it. More than half are based in the United States. Most are going through difficult changes and facing intense pressure. Channelling the landscape outside our window, we’re able to help them look at these challenges from a distance and find a path forward in a world distracted by the past.
We’ve placed our bet on the power of that landscape. Our success depends on its ability to inspire our clients and attract talented people from all over the world.
Looking out my window now, I can’t say I’m too worried. Even through the winter rain, I can see the horizon clearly.