Clear concepts win Greyhounder accolades

You don't see much about them in the press, but they're there. Killer combinations of raw talent, enthusiasm and, yes, even sophistication. Strategy did a cross-country poll of agency creatives and commercial production execs, asking which new teams were doing drop-dead clever work. Despite the reluctance of some agency brass to name their brightest ('they'll get stolen') and even to name the top up-and-comers elsewhere ('I'm trying to steal them'), ultimately, after much wheedling, it was a long list.
The following teams are the ones whose names cropped up the most.

You don’t see much about them in the press, but they’re there. Killer combinations of raw talent, enthusiasm and, yes, even sophistication. Strategy did a cross-country poll of agency creatives and commercial production execs, asking which new teams were doing drop-dead clever work. Despite the reluctance of some agency brass to name their brightest (‘they’ll get stolen’) and even to name the top up-and-comers elsewhere (‘I’m trying to steal them’), ultimately, after much wheedling, it was a long list.

The following teams are the ones whose names cropped up the most.

Ask anyone who works in advertising how they got into the biz, and they’ll probably say they got in through the back door. It makes you wonder if there is a front door.

For instance, Leah Gray, the perkier half of a fresh young team at Calgary’s Parallel Strategies, ‘just sort of flukily got in’ after a stint as a coffee girl (a.k.a. high school ‘work experience’ student) when she was 18.

‘I got to know everyone in the company, and then I just sort of realized after two weeks that serving coffee kinda sucked.’ In a desperate bid to move up a rung, Gray transformed herself into the ‘go-to’ girl by hiding things around the office. ‘So every time someone needed something they had to come and ask me.’

Meanwhile Scott Park, the more reflective half of the team, just sort of followed his girlfriend to Calgary, after completing a fine arts degree at the University of Toronto and an illustration course at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.

‘When I came out here, I was originally looking for work as an illustrator. I came into Parallel originally on contract, worked illustration and design for about a year, at which point a spot opened up in the creative group.’

But no matter how they got there, this pair is starting to turn heads, despite their youth (she’s 25 and he’s 29). Especially since graduating from one of Parallel’s many Aventis herbicide, seed and fertilizer campaigns to the national Greyhound Canada account.

So far the team has only done a series of one-offs for the new client. But Greyhound was so impressed, Gray and Park were recently invited to start work on a much larger project: a complete branding make-over for all of Greyhound’s consumer communications.

‘They bring a keen sense of design and clear communication to the table,’ says Cheryl Heilman, Greyhound’s director of marketing, passenger division. ‘I’m getting a lot of positive internal accolades coming from our head office in Dallas, which I report to. So they’ve definitely been noticed among the Greyhounders.’

The art director:

Leah Gray

Education: On-the-job learning, currently going to the Alberta College of Art to upgrade art direction skills

Portfolio: Greyhound, Pizza 73 (‘it’s yummy’), Aventis (‘every group has two or three Aventis products that they work on’), Alberta Ballet Nutcracker ad (‘won merit at Ad Rodeo’), University of Calgary, Tourism Yukon

On personal style: I like to be very honest. When you can be honest and just tell the truth about your product – given that people are so skeptical nowadays – I think it goes a long way.

On coming up with the ‘big idea’: Well with the Pizza 73 account, I just ate a whole bunch of pizza – it hasn’t been good for my bum.

Best thing about Scott: He can take my ideas, and whip them around into something magical. The hardest thing with me is that sometimes I think I’m really funny. Then I’ll read my idea out loud and no one will laugh. Then it’s like, are you guys getting me? ‘Cause this is the funniest. But Scott is always like, no, it is totally funny, why don’t you just try this. He’s always extra polite.

Future goals: I just want every piece of work to be wicked-awesome. So right now I’m trying to build up my portfolio. I feel that there’s not that many women in the whole ad scene, so I might have something that’s a hot commodity.

Best thing about working in the ad biz: Just how much I get to learn. One of our biggest clients does something that I know absolutely nothing about, that’s Aventis. I mean, I don’t know a canola seed from a mustard seed. When you get this brief, and you have to sell, like, Rovral® Flo, and make something good for a farmer, that’s one of the coolest things.

Worst thing about the ad biz: I don’t get the reasons why our clients put the kibosh on our ideas. I just can’t get over that.

The copywriter/

art director: Scott Park

On indecision: I started off as an art director, but now I’m moving towards copywriting. For now, I’m doing sort of half and half. Basically, I want to do everything. I’m a bit of a control freak.

Portfolio: Greyhound Canada, Aventis (Puma Super), Pizza 73

On working for Greyhound:

Basically what we came up with is reasons why you might want to have a friend with you on the bus. Bus rides can be long, so it’s about using your friends for entertainment.

On coming up with the ‘big idea’: With Pizza 73, we probably spent more time thinking about the idea than executing the campaign. Once we had the thoughts down, the execution actually became quite simple. It’s always better to do the thinking first than to try to force fit it after.

The best thing about Leah: Her energy and enthusiasm. She’s just so excited to be doing this.

Worst thing: The weirdest thing for me is just letting the art direction go. I’ve done it for a while and I’m pretty picky about it.

Future goals: I’d like to do more radio. I think it’s a really overlooked area, maybe because in an awards book you have to read it.

Fave campaign: The Bud Light ‘Real American Heroes’ radio campaign in the States. There’s something like 22 executions of it. I like the fact that they’re making fun of themselves, and it’s a strategic plan, a big idea. Once they came up with it, they could run it forever.

On Leah and Scott:

‘For a young team, Leah and Scott have all the enthusiasm you’d expect, plus all the talent you’d hope for, but what sets them apart is that they back it up with savvy beyond their years. Scott has a deeper understanding of strategy than many industry veterans. He can write a better brief than most suits. And Leah is a naturally brilliant presenter: engaging, entertaining, and very smart.’

- Craig Copeland,

VP, creative director,

Parallel Strategies