Venture names new ECD amidst strategic shift

Dan Strasser will lead creative as the agency solidifies its focus on entrepreneurial clients in food, health and wellness.
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Venture Communications ongoing transformation to position itself to serve entrepreneurial clients in food and health now includes new creative leadership, as the agency has hired Dan Strasser as VP and ECD.

While Venture continues to work with more established clients – recent projects include work with aircraft manufacturer De Havilland – Arlene Dickinson, the agency’s co-founder and CEO, tells strategy that the last several years have been about setting the agency up to best serve entrepreneurial businesses.

“That doesn’t mean that we are just working with startups, that means we’re supporting any business that’s led by an entrepreneur, to help support them and their journey and realize their vision,” she says, adding that its philosophical approach includes supporting local, national and international companies that have been established for decades.

With that in mind, Strasser will join Venture’s executive team, leading its creative business and supporting its development and growth. But he will also lead creative for District Ventures Marketing, a shop focused entirely on providing marcom support to companies that come through District Ventures, the agency’s accelerator and incubator program for start-ups in the food, beverage, agriculture, and health and wellness spaces.

The other strategic shift born out of District Ventures’ work is that Venture, as a whole, is in the midst of a strategic shift to meet a growing need for its services in the food and beverage, health and wellness, and agriculture sectors. Dickinson did not provide more details about the further changes Venture has planned as part of this shift, but says details will be announced in the coming months.

“It’s what we’ve built the entire ecosystem at Venture around, whether its District Ventures, or the funds we’ve established, or the marketing we do that supports them,” she says. “Over the course of the last two years, we’ve put the infrastructure in place that serves these sectors incredibly well. It’s about how do we build the pillars to now be able to not just support with marketing, but also with capital and knowledge around things like retail and distribution that are vital to their success.”

Strasser spent the last eight years with creative agency Bensimon Byrne and its sister shop OneMethod, joining the former as CD in 2012 before moving to the latter in early 2019. He also has creative leadership experience from Leo Burnett Zurich and DDB Germany.

Coming from OneMethod, an agency known for its work building and establishing new brands, Strasser is at home with Venture’s entrepreneurial focus, but adds that the agency’s holistic approach when it comes to supporting clients is what really excited him about the job.

Strasser, whose first day with the agency is Oct. 30, will make the move out to Calgary, where Venture Communications is located. While the last six months have revealed that geography is not as important as previously thought, Strasser says he is still going to relocate to the agency’s base.

“The shift in the whole industry to working from home has shown everybody that it’s really not that difficult to be doing great work from anywhere,” he says. “I certainly haven’t noticed creative or strategic thinking being affected by these new working arrangements, across all agencies. There’s a new openness, especially from clients, who’ve had to work from home as well and seen first-hand how seamless it can still be.”

That’s a sentiment Dickinson echoes, adding that the industry is beginning to see what Venture – which has worked with national and international clients in the past – has long believed: that great creative and strategic work can come from anywhere, a shift in perception the agency plans to take advantage of when it comes to attracting new talent and clients.

John Halliday, who had been Venture’s creative director since 2014, left the agency in August. Dickinson says Venture did not have to conduct any layoffs or furloughs during the pandemic, but did have to do temporary salary cuts. Those have since ended, and the agency is in the process of paying back missed pay to employees.