November 6, 2018 by Mark Brownlee

Banfield: An oral history

Banfield is celebrating 45 years in business in 2018.

To mark the occasion, we asked five of Banfield’s most influential (and longest-tenured) employees and partners to mark the occasion. They described, in their own words, what Banfield’s 45th year in business means to them.

Here we present to you, for the first time ever, Banfield: The oral history.

 

The anniversary

Forty-five years is a long time to be in business. And you don’t get there if you don’t show flexibility.

Timothy Jones, President: It is pretty significant. It shows that as a company we have been able to constantly change and adapt to ever-evolving trends and technologies. And we’ve been able to do that by leveraging our past experience and history while not letting it keep us from being fresh and agile.

Nancy Webb, CEO: It’s a proof point of a company with a culture of continual creativity and innovation, along with the strong basic processes to enable it to embrace and successfully navigate continual change.

Véronique Gravel, Director of Client Services: We work in an industry that thrives on change. If we don’t embrace it, then we get left behind. Being in business for 45 years means that we’ve had to hit refresh many times and that we’ve done it successfully.

Derrick Outram, Senior Writer: To me, it means we have shown an ability to adapt and evolve to stay relevant to clients in an ever-changing landscape.

Kelly Rusk, Digital Director: Agency services is a tough business and 45 years says a lot for who we have been, who we are and who we will become, because the only way to survive in this business is constant change. Banfield is a lot different than it used to be — even since I started six years ago. And that’s a great thing.

Jones: 45 years in business is a testament to continually building and nurturing the right team to help Banfield grow and build a legacy that is worthy of continuing.

Gravel: We continue to be curious and bring everything that we learn to our clients.

 

The past

A lot of important memories have been built over the last 45 years. Some have slipped by the wayside while others are as clear as ever.

Webb: One of many major pivot points both for myself and for the company was in 1988, when one of our largest and longest-term clients at the time (White Swan Company) closed down operations in Ottawa. It was a dire time and we didn’t know how we would survive. But, as I came to learn so many times over the next couple of decades, the greatest challenges tended to have the biggest silver linings. Their marketing department moved en masse to start up Irving Tissue in New Brunswick and took us along to create and manage some major brands (Majesta), followed by Cavendish farms, and Saint John Shipbuilding. Those accounts were instrumental in moving the company ahead – beyond the realm of a small local entity – to give us a national and North American scope. And they were all absolutely wonderful people who we had great fun working with in the Maritimes.

Jones: One of my biggest memories from my time here would have to be the day we (the new partners) all signed the deal to start the transition of becoming the new owners of the company. It was a boardroom with a large table containing many stacks of papers that required so many signatures! It was years in the making and the culmination of lots of hard work that led to a full 12 months of discussing, planning and dreaming what the future could look like — not just professionally for each of us but also what the next phase of Banfield could be. I remember thinking that we have embarked on a great journey and we were all so excited to get to work and take on our new roles.

Gravel: In 2011, I worked on the creation of the new NAC Presents brand. I often get to work on rebrands or brand refreshes, but it’s not as common that I get to create something from the ground up. This was a unique opportunity to help the NAC attract new, younger audiences, with the expansion of their programming to embrace the full range of expression in Canadian performing arts with a new contemporary music series. It was a privilege to be a part of this brand project – I think this is one with a historical value – and it was no doubt the most pleasant soundtrack to be inspired and stay focused.

Outram: I remember one day (probably 12 or 13 years ago) where I wrote a brochure about procuring heavy equipment like tanks and fighter planes for the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) in the morning, then in the afternoon I wrote tips on how to achieve the perfect “smoky eye” in a piece for Place d’Orléans. That’s quite the range! This story always reminds me of how fortunate I am to be doing something that’s always changing, and will never get boring.

Rusk: Um. I have a terrible memory… I would have to say our 40th anniversary party. The whole team came together and threw a killer party that was the most collaborative experience I had had here at the time. It also opened the door for some new clients we are still working with today. Plus, we won an IABC Excel Award for it. I was a little over a year into working here and it solidified my love for the company so I’m pretty proud of it.

 

The future

The 45th anniversary is a great opportunity to reflect on the past. But it also begs the question of what’s next. So, what does the future hold for Banfield?

Rusk: I can confidently say I don’t know and that’s a great thing!

Outram: I would say more of the same, which to me means doing great work for great clients and taking on new challenges to continue staying relevant. We have the right team in place, so I think there are big things to come for sure.

Webb: If history proves itself, I’d say more (and more rapid) change.

Jones: Change is a good thing for our company, it keeps us moving forward by attracting great clients and great talents. It keeps us from getting too comfortable, which is essential in this industry — it makes us more agile and collaborative hence a stronger Banfield.

Gravel: The challenge of the unknown future seems like it’s always so much closer than it used to be because change happens so fast.

Rusk: The industry is changing so quickly! I love the idea that we need to plan and be aware but also ready to change course at any time.

Webb: The exceptional culture of the company – fun, familial, creative innovation, mixed with a “driven to go beyond” sentiment – seems to have been well-routed in the last 45 years. That culture will be the backbone that will enable the company to successfully navigate and stay ahead of the major changes to come in this industry.

Gravel: We’re committed to staying ahead of this constantly changing industry and adapting accordingly. We’re going to continue being really strong in big ideas and guide our clients to better understand what customers want and how to connect with them.