Gold — BBDO

Walk into the lobby on the 28th floor of 2 Bloor St. West in Toronto – one of several floors the agency occupies in the skyscraper – and white gleaming walls and wide open spaces meet you. On the elevator doors, you’ll see “client passion,” “accountability” and “enthusiasm” stenciled over bright graphics. Meanwhile, a staircase befitting a décor magazine winds its way up to the second floor, showcasing, in red letters popping against the white backdrop, the company’s mantra, “The Work, the Work, the Work.”

Welcome to the world of BBDO.

Though the agency has been in the AOY running frequently since its inception over 20 years ago, accumulating many Silver and Bronze awards, this is the first time it’s taken Gold. The global agency goes back to the late 1800s in the U.S., and the Toronto office came from a merger between two creative agencies, Baker Lovick and McKim. Today BBDO honours its creative roots by committing itself to the idea of the work – the creative idea – and focusing on innovation, adaptability and process.

“It’s always been a brand that’s relevant in the world,” says Peter Ignazi, SVP and ECD, BBDO Toronto. “If you look at Mad Men they’re always referencing BBDO…our ideas stand out.”

The idea of the work isn’t just scrawled on the wall and forgotten. Innovation is rewarded and encouraged across the organization. “It’s not just talk,” Ignazi says of the company’s mantra. “It’s a cultural imperative.”

How many traditional agencies reward their account people for being involved in the creative process? About nine months ago, BBDO created its “You Rock Account Person Award,” given out quarterly to the account person who has done the most to further a great creative idea.

“Everyone has to feel invested in the work,” says Carlos Moreno, SVP and ECD.

Changing with the times is arguably a tougher feat for a global shop with such heritage brand roots, yet BBDO has evolved as the definition of a full-service agency has shifted, Ignazi says.

“We were a great radio and newspaper agency back in the day,” he says. “And we have to be a great through-the-line agency in the current media environment.”

Hiring creatives with digital expertise is one way it’s addressed the changing media world. Though digital savvy is important for the firm, it’s the approach that supersedes all.

As North American president and CEO Gerry Frascione explains, the fact that campaigns have more moving parts these days has led BBDO to evolve its creative development process.

Putting the right content in front of the right eyeballs is borne out of a step-by-step process. Once they understand the business challenge and define the brand’s purpose, they use a proprietary planning tool called InciteWork, which Frascione led the development of and has now been adopted by the global network.

The tool maps out the path-to-purchase for a particular product or service, identifies moments when consumers engage with that product and isolates the most effective channels in reaching consumers. That generates the brief, and then creative content development begins.

“It’s a great planning tool,” Frascione says. “The deliverables coming out of InciteWork is making sure we have a brief for the ecosystem we’re trying to populate.”

“It’s about managing an eco-system,” says Frascione, neatly summing up the scope of the creative challenge agencies currently face. And, in this case, master.

The Facts

The Facts

Offices: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary

Staff: 310

New hires: Kevin Pfuhl, SVP, managing director; Lezlie Grossman, SVP, managing director; Nancy Crimi, VP, associate CD; Deborah Prenger, VP, ACD; Steve Walls, planning director, Blackberry North America; Jason Perdue, copywriter; Jeff Cheung, art director; Jon Murray, copywriter; Patrick Shing, art director; Neal Khosla, copywriter; Marla Goodman, creative traffic manager

New business: Ministry of Health; Mike Holmes (Holmes On Homes); United Way; Heineken; Miller Chill; Mars (Dove, Twix, Pedigree, Whiskas, Starburst); Molson