Agency A-List – Juniper Park\TBWA: The home of disruption

The agency drives growth and defies conventions.
CIBC mascot Percy the penguin gets a checkup and helps show Canadians all the ways the bank can fit their lives.

CIBC mascot Percy the penguin gets a checkup and helps show Canadians all the ways the bank can fit their lives.

Juniper Park \ TBWA is an agency of disruptors. That’s how it’s able to find new sources of growth for its clients’ brands; it uses disruption to break them free from the conventions that hold them back.

“No brand aims to blend into a sea of sameness, but unfortunately that’s what often happens,” says CEO Jill Nykoliation. “Our strength is finding disruptive ideas that will pull brands apart from their competitors, making our clients’ dollars work as hard as they can.”

“Disruptive thinking is at the heart of every big idea at Juniper Park\TBWA, but being disruptive means being proactive,” says Terry Drummond, chief creative officer, Juniper Park\TBWA. “We don’t wait for the ask. We identify the client need and then we build it, because when you build it, it actually exists, which helps clients choose the braver idea. We think of ourselves as a product company, staffed with an army of ‘makers.’”

“Our strength is finding disruptive ideas that will pull brands away from their competitors”

Juniper Park\TBWA successfully put its disruptive, maker-powered thinking to work in helping big American beer client Miller Lite defy the conventions that were holding it back. The agency created a more genuine and engaging conversation between the brand and its consumers, taking it out of a one-size-fits-all approach by proactively making culturally relevant assets, like regionally inspired beer cans and custom-created concert festival campaigns. After almost a decade of decline, Miller Lite is now the fastest growing light beer in America, and, in the summer of 2015, it surpassed Budweiser to become the #3 beer in America.

FROM LEFT: To disrupt the idea that only pro athletes represent sports brands, videos of a surprise pickup game between athletes with disabilities and NHL stars, like Sidney Crosby, were filmed for Gatorade; The shocking reality journalists face in other parts of the world where press freedom is repressed was brought to life in a series of posters for Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression (CJFE).

With 160 people in its Toronto HQ, Juniper Park\TBWA is a relatively new entity, the product of a marriage last year between two agencies, Juniper Park and TBWA\Toronto. Each of them brought a complementary core discipline to the table – creative underpinned by sharp strategy and a good social and digital backing, respectively – with Juniper Park\TBWA then combining them into one exceedingly effective, disruptive, cross-pollinated package for its commingled client roster.

Since the merger, the agency has invested in making itself even more disruptive. Most recently, it hired Mark Tomblin, former chief strategy officer at Taxi and head of planning at Leo Burnett London before that, as its chief strategy officer. Tomblin was the hallmark hire of 14 recent additions to the agency. It also leveraged the scale of the TBWA network last year to invest in analytical data tools that help it to be more fact-based. They allow the agency to examine insights gathered from past events and performance coupled with analysis of real-time events to help predict and manipulate future events through micro-trends and possible triggers.

FROM LEFT: Category-defying videos for Project Consent brought the issue to life in a playful yet unapologetically direct manner; Wild postings for the Governors Ball in NY helped Miller Lite become a culturally relevant partner of the music festival; Regionally-inspired beer cans were designed for Miller Lite, this one for Texas featuring a Longhorn.

“It’s about being more relevant and timely,” says Nykoliation. “Having these tools enables us to gather insights at the speed of now.”

“Having real-time data built into the brief is really powerful,” adds Drummond. “When you have your finger on the pulse of culture, you can better define and defy conventions.”

Proof positive of Juniper Park\TBWA’s penchant for using data to power convention-defying disruption is its recent work for Project Consent, for which it leveraged its tools to help define its content and publishing approach. The campaign was geared towards speaking to people directly about the issue of sexual consent, bucking a previous trend wherein past campaigns talked around the issue, burying it in analogies. Juniper Park/TBWA’s direct approach involved videos depicting consent played out, demonstrated by animated body parts, one whose advances are rebuffed by another. Featuring the tagline ‘consent is simple: if it’s not yes it’s no,’ the campaign, with no money behind it, achieved 411 million impressions across 231 countries, and 12 million YouTube views.

Both its work for Project Consent and Miller Light have garnered Juniper Park\TBWA multiple awards. Not only that, but since the merger it’s also won four major clients, including Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and the CIBC sponsorship portfolio. Clearly, on top of disruptive, convention-defying client work, the agency is adept at making its own success too.

The Agency A List stories originally ran in the June Cannes issue.