Big Ideas from a Small World

A Word From Jack Bensimon

Posted in Change Something, From Canada, Global Outlook, Make Friends by Ryan Thomas on February 3, 2010

At the Advertising Week Gala hosted by the ICA, I stole a moment of Jack Bensimon’s time.

I wanted to ask a brilliant and independent mind on advertising how he did it; how anyone can be small and independent and build an award-winning advertising agency.

Personally, I think I wanted to hear that strong investors or a rich background with industry connections made Bensimon-Byrne what it is today. That’s the kind of answer that would have excused every small agency struggling to keep above water in our holding-company-owned world.

The answer I got was surprising to say the least, and on a day when TOY in NYC has died an early death I think it’s an answer worth sharing.

Jack’s answer was humble:

We were five people working out of a small agency. I think the one thing we got lucky and did right was the day we were called by a potential client in the rental car business. He had heard of us and wanted us to submit for the RFP.

I made him commit right then and there that if we produced the best creative, we would receive the account. I did not want to create a full pitch and then lose because our agency was too small to handle the account. If we were big enough to submit a proposal, we were big enough to handle the work.

The Bensimon-Byrne team did in fact submit the best creative.

The client was hard pressed to admit it, but they were too small. But, they had promised to take a risk and the creative was there. 13 years later that same agency has created some of the most effective creative advertising in Canada.

Risk and Commitment – the two words we never hear often enough from clients and agencies alike.

To see a little bit of what Bensimon offers its clients look no further than


Designers off the runway and onto this thing called the interweb.

Posted in Method to the Madness by Ryan Thomas on March 8, 2009

Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson, have ditched the New York Fashion Week runway for the greener pastures of the internet. I’m told that these shows can be a little expensive – The JWT’s AnxietyIndex has the cost of a Fashion Week show at around $100,000 for a 20 minute show.

I don’t know a single ad agency that could not do quite a lot for $100,000. Here is Halston’s 2009 social media space fashion show.

Now I’ve never claimed to be a fashion expert, so I’m going to rope in the talented Brook Alviano an alternative fashion designer and fashion week participant to comment on the effectiveness of this new shift in fashion world.

Stay tuned to this space for more info and if you want to read up on fashion news from Canada, her blog is the place to catch it.

MoMA fallsout with Happy Corp.

Posted in Method to the Madness by Ryan Thomas on March 3, 2009
What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

I wonder what went on in the boardroom when this all went down. I had the privilege of attending the Art Directors Club when Paul Lavoie handed the reigns over to Doug Jaeger during Advertising Week. Doug seemed like a man as passionate about art as he was about advertising.

Until today I did not even know Happy Corp. had the MoMA account but it really seems like a perfect agency/client match. On the surface even the strategy behind this work seems sound.

It’s hard to argue that the most buzz surrounding art in today’s culture has been from graffiti artists – Banskey and the Wooster Collective have almost become household names.  Taking art to public places has been a full-blown movement in recent years and has even spawned some really great graffiti like advertising such as Dentsu Canada’s Vespa work.

I don’t know what went wrong, but listen to the language of the MoMA representative Kim Mitchell:

“No one at The Museum of Modern Art had any role in or prior knowledge of the acts of vandalism committed against posters in the Museum’s installation in the Atlantic Avenue subway station. On February 27 we ended all work to be done by Doug Jaeger and thehappycorpglobal on this project and all others, and have completely severed our relationship with the company. The Museum deplores any kind of vandalism and is profoundly distressed that the posters were defaced.”

That’s not the kind of corporate language you use lightly. Something here went really wrong and I doubt it was just one act or one defaced poster. Which is a shame, because outreaching to those bright young artists who see a gallery as the enemy would have gone a long way towards fostering the art community for years to come.

Poster Boy at work creating press for the MoMA - if only they had been warned.

Poster Boy at work creating press for the MoMA - if only they had been warned.

Those are some harsh words when only two weeks earlier The Happy Corp posted a blog entry praising the project and how glad they were to be on board:

Blogs are abound with praise for the installation including: Creavity-Online, Gothamist, The New York Times and TED blog have had some great things to says about MoMA’s current initiative. We’ve been to the station and couldn’t be more pleased to report the way this project has transformed the usually less than stimulating subterranean environment into a much happier place where commuters are literally stopping in their hurried tracks to get a little art on.

MoMA definitely hit a home run with this installation and we are thrilled that we had the chance to help out. Take the subway to Brooklyn, check out some art!

Moving forward I guess we’ll just say “all the best” to both the MoMA and Happy Corp in all their future relationships – and just call this one a learning experience.


The vandalized now repaired art can be seen here, and New York Magazine has a quote from CBS’s outdoor rep:

“As far as we’re concerned, the Happy Corp is MoMA’s agent and has been throughout this entire process, so to detach them now at the eleventh hour when something kind of funky happens is not an assumption that I would make,” says Jodi Senese, CBS Outdoor’s executive vice-president of marketing.”

More drama to come I’m sure. Who knew that when things go south people start talking about modern art? My bets are on Doug.

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