Ex BBDO CD to bring U.S. shop to Canada

Fair warning to Canadian agencies - hang on to your top creative talent. Larry Tolpin, former chief creative officer of BBDO Canada, is planning to expand his current agency - Los Angeles-based Duncan & Associates - into Canada within the next 12 months.

Fair warning to Canadian agencies – hang on to your top creative talent. Larry Tolpin, former chief creative officer of BBDO Canada, is planning to expand his current agency – Los Angeles-based Duncan & Associates – into Canada within the next 12 months.

Tolpin is managing partner and chief creative officer of the $175-million U.S. independent agency, which also has offices in Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia.

After sweeping clean and rebuilding the Duncan creative department, and bringing in some new business categories to the agency (two of which will soon be announced), Tolpin will turn his attention to Canada.

Tolpin says former associates on the client side in Canada say there is a real shortage of independent agencies.

‘There is a huge vacuum when it comes to independent shops in the States right now. In the past year we’ve seen major independents like Fallon, Deutsch, Riney and Hill Holiday GMO sell out.

‘You have the same problem in Canada. There aren’t that many independent agencies without conflicts. There are some good opportunities for smart creative shops. We have a lot of telco experience and there are lots of possibilities there as they continue to expand.’

Tolpin is leaning towards buying or becoming affiliated with an existing Canadian agency or agencies, but is not completely ruling out a start up, particularly if Duncan & Associates wins some new business in Canada first. While it would be a logical move for the agency to head north from L.A. to Vancouver, there’s more potential in Toronto and Montreal, he says.

Most recently Tolpin was worldwide creative director and CEO of JWT West in San Francisco. He chose not to renew his four-year J. Walter Thompson contract, and officially joined Duncan & Associates August 1 after the non-compete terms of the contract ran out. Tolpin preferred to be a partner at his own agency and to work with agency founder Hugh Duncan again. They had worked together at FCB West in L.A., where Duncan was CEO, just prior to Tolpin joining BBDO Canada in 1989.

‘The opportunity to build a North American independent agency at Duncan & Associates was too good to pass up. It’s going to be much more rewarding for me personally and financially to get back into creating and producing world class advertising versus overseeing it in a global creative director position.’

Tolpin adds, ‘My goal in life in the short term is be happy, creative and independent like Paul Lavoie [of Taxi]. In the future, I’d like to be happy, rich and part of Omnicom like Frank Palmer [Palmer Jarvis DDB].’

While in Canada, Tolpin worked on Molson Breweries, Chrysler Canada, Pepsi BCTel (now Telus), Bell Canada, FedEx, A&W Canada, Sony and Polaroid. He moved to Canada as creative director at BBDO Vancouver in 1989 and then to BBDO Toronto as CCO in 1992. At BBDO Canada he packed the creative department with stellar talent such as Stephen Creet, Michael McLaughlin, Neil McOstrich, Zak Mroueh, Jamie Way, Randy Diplock, Scott Dube, Steve Denvir, Mike Smith and Judy John.

Besides cutting a swath through Canadian and international creative award shows in the ’90s – the BBDO Canada creative department won more than 500 medals – the agency topped the Strategy Creative Report Card form 1995 to 1997.

Tolpin’s secret for his success as a creative director? ‘Hire the best,’ he says. ‘They make you look good. Most creative people want to create, and I free them up to do that.’

In 1996, Tolpin migrated to Atlanta, Georgia as president and CCO of BBDO South and then to JWT in 1997.

Six-year-old Duncan & Associates’ client roster includes Albertson’s, SaveOn Drug Stores, Jewel Food Stores, Osco Drugs, ACME and two unnamed new clients in the adult beverage and tourism categories.