Ammirati opens shop

Ammirati and Puris is two important steps closer to its goal of establishing a full-service advertising agency in Canada.Intense searchAfter an intense, summer-long search, the company's new Toronto office has found the two key people - a president and senior art...

Ammirati and Puris is two important steps closer to its goal of establishing a full-service advertising agency in Canada.

Intense search

After an intense, summer-long search, the company’s new Toronto office has found the two key people – a president and senior art director – around whom its Canadian chairman, Tom Nelson, intends to build the agency here.

The president is Dennis Stief, a 12-year veteran of Ogilvy and Mather, who joined o&m after six and a half years on the client side with Procter & Gamble and Thomas J. Lipton.

And the creative person is Doug Robinson, an art director with Young & Rubicam for the past five years, whose work there includes the ‘Bob’s Favourite Snack’ campaign for Hostess Frito-Lay Doritos chips and the introduction of Lemon Ginger Ale for Cadbury Beverages.


Robinson will be vice-president and associate creative director.

He will team up with Nelson, a copywriter who is also the agency’s creative director.

Equally significant to the people announcements is the fact that Ammirati and Puris also picked up its first piece of local new business, even before its doors were officially opened.

The client is Labatt Breweries of Canada, one of the country’s major advertisers.

Labatt project

Neither Labatt nor Nelson would elaborate on the nature of the assignment, but it is understood to be a strategic project that will be completed over a fixed term.

Nelson resists playing up the Labatt win, portraying it as ‘a neat opportunity to help them [Labatt] out with a project,’ and the ‘crowning touch’ to the news of whom he found to join him in the launch of Ammirati and Puris in Canada.

Nelson is quick to point to the pedigrees of Stief and Robinson, and the legwork that went into finding them, as a statement in itself.


‘It has always been our philosophy to find the smartest possible people,’ he says.

As to the type of agency he hopes to build, the soft-spoken Nelson replies:

‘Very smart, very humane and dedicated to doing teriffic work.’

He describes some of the salient characteristics of the Ammirati and Puris culture as having ‘a track record of doing smart work that holds up over time,’ and an agency ‘where people do the work.

‘There isn’t a lot of bureaucratic interference,’ Nelson says. ‘We’re all expected to be able to do it all.’

In the u.s., 20-year-old Ammirati and Puris has maintained an image as an agency that has kept its focus and commitment to advertising during a time when others on Madison Avenue have lost their way.

This reputation was enhanced about a year ago by the agency’s decision to withdraw from a review ordered by its long-standing client, bmw.

For Stief, who leaves the position of managing director of o&m, the move represents ‘a unique opportunity, because we’re starting from scratch.

Where the fun is

‘Other agencies are going through the process of how to reshape themselves,’ he says. ‘We’re beginning at the beginning, and that’s where the fun’s going to be.’

Asked whether he feels the Toronto market really needs another ad agency, Stief says: ‘There’s always a need for a good ad agency.’

In addition to the Labatt project, Ammirati and Puris opens with two other Canadian clients, Compaq Computer and United Parcel Service.

In fact, Compaq and ups – Ammirati and Puris clients in the u.s. – were the driving force behind Ammirati and Puris’ decision to open in Canada.

Both clients felt the need for service from a local advertising agency.

Already shooting

Ammirati and Puris is already shooting a Canadian commercial for ups and will take over the Compaq account as soon as possible.

The agency bills about US$350 million in the u.s. for 11 clients which, in addition to Compaq and ups, include such names as Aetna Life and Casualty, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, MasterCard International, The Stanley Works and Nikon.

The agency has opened in temporary offices in downtown Toronto and will move to permanent space in the city’s BCE Place early next year.