CRC 2019: FCB/Six’s ECD on staying agile

Ian Mackenzie plans to fail over and over and over again before hitting on that winning iteration.

Ian Mackenzie, FCB/Six’s ECD, says one of his secrets to success is using an agile workflow. Credit: Ryan Walker

You’re reading a deep dive into what helped propel this year’s best and brightest to the top 2019 Creative Report Card. Be sure to check in throughout the week for more, and check out the full listing of the country’s top creative and strategic minds.

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Strategy.

Fail fast, fail often, fail forward. That’s the mantra repeated ad nauseum by Silicon Valley start-up types the world over, including in Canada. It’s also been a key philosophy of Ian Mackenzie, FCB/Six’s ECD and #6 CD on the CRC list, ever since he joined the data-first creative agency almost three years ago.

FCB Canada’s sister shop uses an agile workflow in a bid to build compelling creative for clients. That approach has paid off, with FCB coming in as the #2 agency, primarily for work for PFLAG Canada (#2 brand) and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (#5 brand). The 18-month process of creating PFLAG’s “Destination Pride” campaign was all about building iterations that failed, until finally they got to the current version, which won the Strategy Awards Grand Prix, the CMAs Best of the Best and 13 Cannes Lions.

Mackenzie looks to the tech and gaming industries for inspiration on how to work better and faster. Under his leadership, along with FCB/Six’s president Andrea Cook and EVP of strategy, Anna Percy-Dove (the CRC’s #2 planner), the trio are fans of using an agile workflow rather than the more traditional “waterfall” method.

“Agile is an alternative production methodology that works in sprints,” explains Mackenzie. “Basically you iterate, then you prototype, then you launch. And then you take learnings, you iterate, you prototype and launch.” Over and over and over.
Desintation Pride 4The agile approach means people frequently move in and out of the project. That’s why the credits for “Destination Pride” lists 33 agency people. So the lone ECD certainly knows that no man is an island, and considers Cook and Percy-Dove his partners in lieu of a traditional co-ECD. “When I have moments of doubt or if I need help, or I need to spitball something, those are the people I go to first,” he explains.

FCB/Six has always been different, in both its vision and approach. The agency started when FCB’s Rivet was rebranded in June 2016 as a “small, super lean” team that would focus on merging data, creative and technology to create ads for our digital-first world, says its ECD.

It currently has about 90 staff across offices in Toronto, Montreal and New York City, and several of its staff don’t fit in traditional boxes, with many in hybrid roles that combine digital and creative skill sets.

“You’ll find agencies that are really good at creativity or really good at technology,” says Mackenzie. “Our vision is to be really good at both at the same time, at the same place, for the same people.”

Mackenzie and this team have been able to make that vision a reality by not being afraid to fail. Again. And again. And again. Until finally hitting on the winning iteration.