Entrepreneurial spirit, virtual communication fuel the West’s interactive shops

It may be simple happenstance, but according to many, a proliferation of interactive talent exists in the West - both on the creative and production sides.
Indeed, there is a long list of independent interactive marketing shops making waves, among them Calgary-based Idea Machine and RareMethod along with Vancouver's Blast Radius, Hot Tomali and emailthatpays.com.

It may be simple happenstance, but according to many, a proliferation of interactive talent exists in the West – both on the creative and production sides.

Indeed, there is a long list of independent interactive marketing shops making waves, among them Calgary-based Idea Machine and RareMethod along with Vancouver’s Blast Radius, Hot Tomali and emailthatpays.com.

‘There is a hotbed of new media activity in the West. B.C. is very much entrepreneur-driven, as is Alberta. I think that’s a big part of it,’ says e-business consultant, Vida Morkunas, president of Vida Morkunas and Associates, of Vancouver. She says B.C. tends to breed new talent through active associations like New Media B.C., the BC Technology Industry Association, as well as the BCDMA and the AMA.

Others attribute the abundance of good shops to the West’s – in particular Vancouver’s – combined strengths in the film industry and technology.

For its part, success story Critical Mass points to a talent- pool factor. According to Dianne Wilkins, president and COO, the Calgary-based agency has grown ‘organically,’ drawing on recent graduates from the Alberta College of Art & Design and the University of Calgary, with a lot of technical people having experience in the oil and gas industry and many programmers working in Calgary. Also, the cost of living and operating factor means that it’s cheaper to do business in Calgary, or Vancouver for that matter, than it is in Toronto, she adds. For interactive shops, it’s also less important that you be sitting across the table from your client, she says.

‘The virtual world makes sense – it’s never been an issue for us. We’re able to post things on approval sites, and have conference calls and do visits every now and then and maintain a relationship virtually,’ adds Wilkins.

But John Peloza, formerly Bryant, Fulton and Shee’s Vancouver direct response marketing director, who is now heading up the Calgary office, suspects the view from outside is probably skewed because of the success of such shops as Critical Mass.

‘In Calgary in particular, I think we’ve got one really big success story and we’ve got a whole lot of fledgling companies that have their ups and downs. I personally haven’t found it more active in this part of the market than I did in Vancouver or anywhere else,’ he says.

Peloza admits Calgary has a technology business cluster that helps to broaden the talent pool. ‘However,’ he adds, ‘it’s not necessarily Web marketing related experience. Calgary is just a younger, better educated city than most.’