Roche succeeds by keeping it simple

The first bit of evidence to suggest that Geoffrey B. Roche and Partners operates outside of accepted ad agency convention hits you right at the front door.The reception area of the Toronto shop looks like most others, with the predictable glass...

The first bit of evidence to suggest that Geoffrey B. Roche and Partners operates outside of accepted ad agency convention hits you right at the front door.

The reception area of the Toronto shop looks like most others, with the predictable glass doors, agency name plate and fresh cut flowers.

No receptionist

But soon you realize, after peering around a partition in search of human contact, that this reception has no receptionist. That function is taken up by anyone, and everyone, passing by.

‘We keep our structure as flat as possible,’ says Geoffrey Roche, an unabashed ad guy, from his carefully art-directed appearance right through to his table-thumping belief in the advertising process.

‘Whatever money we can save by not having a full-time receptionist is money we can invest in our creative product,’ Roche says.

Ask him what it takes to run a successful ad agency today, and the answer is simply, ‘Keep it simple.’

Roche, who has gone from a tiny boutique to one of the hottest names in Canadian advertising in less than four years, says he sees other agencies making the same mistake all the time.

More complicated

‘When we go in to see new business prospects, we see other agencies making it [advertising presentations] far more complicated than it has to be,’ he says.

‘We are constantly saying in here – and we say this to clients as well – that the moment we allow the business [of running of the agency] to become the business of the agency, and not about the business of our clients, then we’ve failed.’

No hierarchy

As his shop has grown over the years with new business and a staff of now 22 full-time employees, Roche has insisted there be no hierarchical structures, no cumbersome management (‘I have yet to write a memo’) and, therefore, no internal politicking.

‘In other agencies I’ve worked at, there was more time spent worrying about what was going on inside the agency – who would go to what meeting, and saying the right thing – than what was going on in the client’s business,’ Roche says.

Day-to-day

To keep his focus on advertising, Roche has left day-to-day management as well as long-term business decisions in the hands of Ed Roncarelli, a seasoned agency executive who has owned and managed Canadian and u.s. agencies.

The two met when Roche returned to Canada to become creative director of Foote Cone & Belding.

‘A simple thing’

‘Advertising is basically a simple thing,’ Roncarelli says. ‘When it’s very direct, with a direct objective, it can be very successful. There’s this tendency, however, to make it very complicated and only for the initiated.’

Roncarelli says Roche made a smart move when he started the agency to concentrate on the advertising side only.

‘That’s a job in itself,’ Roncarelli. ‘To do that properly, and also negotiate leases, and be expected to understand the full taxation system would be impossible.’

Of his agency’s work, Roche says he has heard people say it looks like advertising that was easy to create.

Really works

‘All I can say about that is that the advertising really works,’ he says. ‘It means direct sales for clients.

‘We spend a large amount of time getting to where we get to in our advertising. We don’t have time sheets. I think they’re totally meaningless.

‘The creative process and the strategic process gets solved when the problem is solved. You can’t say it’s solved just because you’ve spent 10 hours on it. You have to keep working until you get there.’

Roche’s brand of advertising is being noticed in the u.s.

Recently, Ziebart, the company that markets car care products hired Roche to help in the launch of a new product.

‘One of the reasons I’m so happy about winning this award [Strategy's Agency of the Year] is because I hope it will make other people pay attention and recognize that if they were to stop complaining and put all their energy into their work, they could do it, too,’ Roche says.