Ukrainian agency IamIDEA wants Canadian clients

As its home country remains largely closed, the agency has pegged Canada as a place it can pick up work to keep staff paid.

Idea1

Things changed suddenly for the Ukrainian creative agency IamIDEA when Russia declared war on their home country.

The agency is doing its best to get by under difficult conditions, with many of its resources dedicated to work in support of Ukraine and several employees spread out across different countries in the EU, such as Poland, Germany, Spain and Lithuania, as well as in Canada.

But things aren’t always easy. While the team has largely stayed intact – “85 to 90% of our team has remained the same as before the war,” says Irene Ilchanka, IamIDEA’s creative group head – salaries and taxes still need to be paid.

“We are supporting our team and our country however we can,” Igor Finashkin, founder and CD at the agency, told strategy. “We are working as a kind of informational army to support Ukraine, and we are working as an agency to keep our clients in touch with their audiences.”

The work IamIDEA is doing now in support of Ukraine is largely pro bono, supporting various aid causes and advocacy work, such as lobbying NATO to “close the skies” over Ukraine and end Russian bombings, as well as work to promote donations and assist in the evacuation of Kharkiv, one of several cities to come under attack during the war.

But to support those efforts – as well as keep employees paid – IamIDEA is seeking clients outside of Ukraine, “because the market here is almost closed, and we have to live.” While those efforts weren’t focused on any market in particular in the early going, the agency has since tightened its focus to a few key areas.

“We’re focusing on the Canadian market because Irene is in Toronto, and we’re trying to open a new unit in Toronto to work with local clients there,” Finashkin explains. “We also have a client in Austria and I think we’ll try to do something there. We are still considering other markets, as well – we had a client before the war in Kazakhstan, and we are trying to continue working with them.”

In the effort to find new clients, the company has adapted its website “to show the world we can do great creative work,” says Ilchanka. Some of the agency’s clients have included Domino’s Pizza, Jagermeister, Mini, local ride-hailing service Uklon and electronics brand Comfy, work that has won it top marks from Effies Ukraine.

Despite the war – and the team being spread across several countries and time zones, which Finashkin calls a “superpower” because it means the agency can be working almost 24 hours a day – IamIDEA’s leadership is staying optimistic.

“The work has changed because of the war. As a result, Ukrainian agencies will be looking toward foreign markets to find work. For western agencies, it might seem like an unwanted situation because more competitors are entering the market and surely Ukrainian creativity is a high-quality product,” he says. “But we see this not as an opportunity to compete, but to cooperate. Our industry is known for being harsh, with endless tasks, unreal deadlines and high pressure – with Ukrainian creativity, agencies in the international market can harness a new superpower. This is a new way to grow the international market. Use Ukrainian agencies as your superpower.”

Idea2