Marketing in Vancouver: Hot Shops

Michael Shandrick began writing about advertising in San Francisco in the mid-1980s when he covered the births of agencies Hal Riney & Partners and Goodby Berlin Silverstein.Shandrick has taught and written extensively about marketing, and his articles have appeared in Advertising...

Michael Shandrick began writing about advertising in San Francisco in the mid-1980s when he covered the births of agencies Hal Riney & Partners and Goodby Berlin Silverstein.

Shandrick has taught and written extensively about marketing, and his articles have appeared in Advertising Age, among other publications. He has covered Vancouver advertising for the past four years and has written three previous Vancouver special reports for Strategy. The following is his take on the advertising agency scene in Vancouver.

charlie Mayrs, Vancouver agency veteran and president and creative director of The Dome Group, says the advertising industry is going through profound change, making it the toughest time for ad people in 100 years.

Even so, Mayrs believes the local environment will rebound, maybe even surpass earlier levels in the next three years.

But it will be a different business.

Here are some interesting agencies to watch because they have avoided compromise, done the unexpected on occasion, and survived.


Torontonian Baker was recently taken off the masthead, along with Vancouver’s Lovick.

Now the agency is left with ‘four dead guys,’ Americans Batton Barton Durstine and Osborne, who had never heard of account planning.

A noted humorist once said those names sounded like utensils being dropped down stairs.

The sound you hear out of BBDO Vancouver these days is a cash register ringing with the income BC Tel is bringing in in its fight against long-distance competitor Unitel Communications.

bbdo is bound to be strengthened by the return of David Stanger as the agency’s media director.

Stanger was a key member of the powerful triumvirate including Peter Stringham and Larry Tolpin that rode Baker Lovick through a highly successful run in the late 1980s.

Stanger has been in Toronto for the past three years and is coming back to be the agency’s senior vice-president, western media director and resident golf expert.


Smart move for fcb worldwide, which has been buying agencies in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, and bought Ronalds Reynolds in the ’80s.

Recently, it merged its Vancouver office with The Dome Group, a top flight mid-sized agency, which has the new National Basketball Association franchise promotion account under Northwest Sports Arena.

The Dome players definitely bring more bench strength, but will they stay on with fcb in the lineup?

Glennie Stamnes

Partners Bob Stamnes and Rob Glennie are earnest and make no excuses – they walk away from people who don’t want to increase their business.

Never good at the cattle calls, the agency is actually thriving now that today’s clients just want honest hardworking help and not smoke and mirrors.

Lanyon Phillips Brink

Founded on the premise of ‘Build It and He Will Come,’ the upstart agency landed Peter Lanyon, one of Canada’s most sought-after creative minds.

After two years, Lanyon is going back to Toronto as president of a prestigious agency brand name that has big client brands to play with.

Will never-say-die Lanyon Phillips Brink President Chuck Phillips deliver on his promise of making Vancouver into Hal Riney North ?

Moreland & Associates

Bloodied in a couple of scrapes with Wasserman Cozens Dundon and Lanyon Phillips Brink, this start-up has yet to prove it can take a punch and come back for more Lotus awards.

To doubters, he is tilting at windmills, to admirers, he’s Rambo, but former Marine Moreland has already proved critics wrong by producing work that raises eyebrows.

Now he pledges to be the first local agency to bring back a brand from Toronto.

NOW Communications

This left-of-centre group was supposed to have its pick of the ndp litter, but all it got was the litter box.

That was then, this is now.

Today, the agency is moving its seven-person staff out of the Shane Lunny bin and uptown, and ‘to the left’ nearer unions, government agencies and politics.

Familiar with backing dark horses, the agency has landed a private sector campaign for televised off-track betting, where the odds are no doubt better than a political horse race.

Palmer Jarvis


When Woodward’s fell and took its $2 million in billings with it, the agency had to take a half-million-dollar bath to pay its suppliers 100 cents on the dollar.

Instead of throwing in the towels, the agency restructured into a la carte services clients said they wanted at prices they would pay. The $85-million powerhouse also has some creative muscle. It beat a New York and San Francisco agency to win back the $10 million Clearly Canadian account for b.c.

Scali McCabe Sloves

The agency hit the jackpot in winning B.C. Lottery’s $8-million account in 1992, pushing the agency into the No. 3 spot behind bbdo and Palmer Jarvis in Vancouver.

Not bad, considering General Manager Bob Bryant once told Strategy that government business was too unprofitable to pursue.

Last November, Interpublic bought out Scali’s parent company worldwide, and while all other branches go under the Lowe SMS title, the Vancouver division gets to keep the Scali McCabe Sloves brand.

Steve Vrlak and Company

Steve Vrlak was the ‘V’ in VRH Communications and is amused by how many new people in town do not know that.

Twenty-five years ago, he started Verlak Robinson, with the ‘R’ as in Red Robinson, the legendary radio disc jockey.

vrh is now a subsidiary of bbdo.

Business is so good at his new company, Vrlak only has time to play golf a couple of times a year. Now he is doubling his staff to two, with the addition of his wife.

He says he can resist the temptation not to grow another large agency, but, can he, really?

Wasserman Cozens Dundon

Alvin Wasserman, who wore out the carpet carrying Lotus awards in his years as president and creative chief with McKim, set up a small boutique designed to nurture the right (creative) side of the shop without bothering about the left (account planning) side.

Wasserman Cozens Dundon bested Moreland & Associates, Lanyon Phillips Brink and Borders-Perrin of Seattle for the Whistler Resort account; and won out over Lanyon Phillips Brink, Palmer Jarvis and a u.s. agency for International Salmon Marketers.

Add these to a win earlier this year for a government project called Jobs Initiative and it appears Wasserman Cozens Dundon is emerging as a creative agency with staying power.