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Opinion and Insight

Ten Years of Juniper Park: The TBWA Agency Ready to Tackle North American Turbulence

LBB’s Paul Monan talks to the founders of one of Canada’s hottest agencies to find out what makes them tick…

Ten Years of Juniper Park: The TBWA Agency Ready to Tackle North American Turbulence

In August 2015, creative agency Juniper Park merged with TBWA\Toronto to create Juniper Park\TBWA. Juniper Park’s founders - Jill Nykoliation, Barry Quinn, Terry Drummond and Alan Madill – were brought in as the new management team to oversee an agency that coupled Juniper Park’s formidable strategy and design with TBWA\Toronto’s stellar digital power. 

Ten years on from Juniper Park’s inception, LBB’s Paul Monan talks to the team to find out how the agency has evolved, embraced the merger, and prepared itself for a potentially turbulent time… 

It was the mid-2000s and having worked together, side by side at another agency, Jill Nykoliation, Barry Quinn, Terry Drummond and Alan Madill realised that the advertising industry was in the midst of a dramatic change. Brands were taking on new opportunities. They required new skills and new ways of working. 

In an attempt to embrace that change, the four teamed up to create a new agency. One that was free from any traditional legacy; one with a highly flexible, dynamic culture.  And so, in 2007, Juniper Park was born. 

As a boutique agency within Omnicom, its name is a reflection of its agile, highly collaborative approach. “Just as in a park, people from numerous backgrounds come together to experiment, imagine, and create. Teams form and reform, depending on the project to be tackled,” explains Drummond. “The key is to have vastly varied points of view at the table, right at the beginning, so thinking can fruitfully diverge, before it comes time to converge on a single idea.”

Nykoliation installed as President, with Quinn, Drummond and Madill as Executive Creative Directors and, reporting at the time to BBDO’s Global CEO, Andrew Robertson, they meshed the disciplines of marketing strategy, brand design, and advertising to build an agency that fully embraced the modern world of branding.

Regardless of the discipline, at the core of this agency is its design thinking. Their design prowess ensuring the ideas they conjure are visually ownable, regardless of the message or medium. Each brand’s work is underpinned by brilliant, razor-sharp strategy and a distinctive visual language. They pride themselves on going well beyond campaigns – an ethos that’s still firmly in play today – to create ‘brand platforms’.

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Their first client was Texas based PepsiCo Frito-Lay and, starting with SunChips brand, went on to pitch and win Lay’s - the largest food brand in the U.S. - and the rest of Frito-Lay’s ‘better for you’ portfolio. Quite a coup for an agency in Toronto, Canada.

They’ve been the AOR for iconic lip balm brand, eos, headquartered in New York for nine years; worked with Chicago Tribune, Miller Lite, Tropicana, Quaker, all in Chicago; and Del Monte Foods in San Francisco. In 2016, they won two global clients: Capital Group in Los Angeles, and Johnson & Johnson’s Vogue International haircare brands out of Clearwater, Florida.

It’s a geographically diverse roster that reinforces the strength of their offering. They continue to defy the paradigm of what a ‘Canadian agency’ should be. Clients don’t care where they’re located, they want the unique offering that the Juniper Park team brings to the table. 

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Not only were they winning the hearts of their clients, but they’d caught the eye of TBWA’s Global CEO, Troy Ruhanen. Having reported to him for six years when he was President of The Americas BBDO, he knew exactly the unique value they agency possessed – and he wanted Juniper Park to be part of the new TBWA.

In August 2015, the agency merged with TBWA\Toronto and, within a few months, the redefined power of Juniper Park\TBWA showed itself.

The agency won a spot on the roster of U.S. beer account Miller Lite; Nykoliation was appointed to TBWA’s 30-person Global Management Team; and the agency became a global contributing office, collaborating on five network clients with TBWA offices in Europe and North America.

“Joining TBWA rapidly broadened and deepened our offering,” says Mark Tomblin, Chief Strategy Officer. “The seamless transition was driven by a shared belief that razor-sharp insights and strategy are essential for great creative, along with the value of a highly entrepreneurial culture. Combining the two put fuel on an already well-stoked fire.”

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Embracing TBWA’s longstanding belief in strong planning, the agency made a key appointment when expanding the leadership team to include Mark Tomblin as Chief Strategy Officer. Hailing from the UK (“the birthplace of planning”), he’s developed a reputation as a renowned planning ‘guru’ and is the founding chair of the Account Planning Group of Canada.

“Under Tomblin’s leadership, we’ve really embraced TBWA’s Disruption® approach in a quest to become a knowledge and data-based cultural engine for our clients,” says Nykoliation. “This includes the innovative Disruption Live® ideation process that creates real-time content, social, digital, and statement initiatives. Our team acts, creates and produces every day, not just when prompted by a client briefing, but when prompted by culture and social stimuli.”

Juniper Park\TBWA’s 12-strong planning team joins the network’s global collective of over 200 spotters who identity cultural triggers, edges and stories which are then used to create timely culture immersions, all delivered to TBWA employees worldwide each day through a video editorial arm called Backslash.

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For this Toronto-based agency, contributing on a global scale comes naturally. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North American, boasting 51 different spoken languages, and is a hotbed of cultural diversity acoss arts, music, sports, and entertainment.

Yes, it’s a pretty turbulent time in North America, particularly south of the border. With changes to US policies on immigration and a proposal to eliminate funding for the arts, many are anticipating a shake-up in both the Canadian and US industries. So, is the agency equipped for a period of change and, potentially, disruption?

“The world is watching the turbulent times south of the border, but so far this hasn’t had any impact on Juniper Park\TBWA’s business, creative work, or ability to attract talent,” concludes Tomlbin. “Nor are we fazed at what’s to come because one thing we are proud of at Juniper Park\TBWA is our ability to embrace and welcome change.  After all, TBWA is The Disruption® Company.”