Paul Lavoie, TAXI
LBB: Do the new delivery channels available to you and the new media on which to create content excite you? Frighten you?
PL: Creativity is investigating uncharted territory and so it's the driving force of our industry. Integrating media of all kinds has always been at the core of what we do at TAXI. Almost twenty years ago we reacted against brand schizophrenia by doing package design, store design, stunts - whatever was needed to deliver brand synergy, in addition to advertising campaigns. Social media is what's new today, and who knows what tomorrow holds?
LBB: Have you had to employ a lot of new staff to adapt to the new technologies and ways of thinking?
PL: We have always preferred to hire ''greys'' or ''greens''. Greys are the old hands who've seen it all, won a truckload of awards and don't have anything to prove. Greens are young, eager and have no preconceptions about how things should be done. In both cases the common denominator is hiring thinkers who focus on ideas and are eager to play across any medium.
LBB: Congratulations on your new office in Amsterdam, your first foray across the Atlantic. Why Amsterdam and not another European city?
PL: We considered several European cities before deciding upon Amsterdam. This was a decision to invest in Europe to deliver local and global reach to both European and North American clients. We chose Amsterdam because it is a creative and multi-cultural hub with a straightforward no nonsense approach to business. And a wonderful place to live.
LBB: And while we're at it, why does TAXI have two offices in Toronto (TAXI 1 and TAXI 2)?
PL: Years ago, Jay Chiat asked a question: How big can we get before we get bad? It's a great question, but one that was never really answered. TAXI thinks - actually the English anthropologist Dunbar thinks - the answer is 150. He found that Nomadic tribes as well as U.S. or Roman army units beyond 150 tended to form factions rendering them dysfunctional.
The Nomads solved this by sending a small band out to form another tribe. At TAXI, we limit group size to 150 and spin off new offices. The resulting tight knit group preserves the TAXI culture and assures clients close contact with senior people. Plus, new teams need new leaders so career opportunities multiply, allowing talent to continually grow at TAXI.
LBB: We note that you are creating consumer sites (i.e. www.foodcontentalerts.com). Is TAXI looking to create its own companies and brands in the future?
PL: www.foodcontentalerts.com is a tool for families whose members struggle to manage food allergies and a media environment for advertisers wanting to reach this group. Our clients appreciate that we are an entrepreneurial and independent company and we think it gives us a deeper and daily understanding of the realities of business.
We have helped clients create and launch brands from a - z and so it's something we are comfortable with and believe in. Some of our projects have been charitable, like 15belowproject.com where we designed, produced and distributed a unique jacket for the homeless, and the recently launched ecobot.taxi.ca, a downloadable open source carbon calculator, or commercial as in the case with
LBB: TAXI is an independent network. Is it important for you to keep that independence? If so, why?
PL: We are fiercely committed to independence. We believe that we can do better work and make smarter business decisions when we are answerable only to ourselves, and to our clients.
LBB: We have asked you to select one of your favourite pieces of work that best represents your agency. Can you tell us about it and why you chose it?
PL: TAXI New York placed statues of naked people in public places in San Francisco and nearby interactive booths explained that they were uncovered like the 6.7 million Californians without healthcare. The interactive booths encouraged the public to comment in video testimonials that were added to a website (www.letsshieldcalifornia.com) rich in information on this highly provocative issue. Though seemingly out of character, the campaign was brought to the public by health insurance provider Blue Shield of California. In fact, Blue Shield is an advocate of universal healthcare and with this campaign, generated huge public and political awareness. In addition to nearly $2MM in editorial press coverage, the site generated over 40,000 unique visitors, 3% of whom signed a petition asking state congressional lawmakers to make universal healthcare a priority in 2009.
This case delivers on metrics that we consider critical a) they involve the audience b) they breed in a social context c) they deliver business results d) they demonstrate unconventional thinking.
Link to work:
You asked for one piece but can't help including this hilarious new stunt being picked up around the world.
Link to work:
LBB: What is the future of large agency networks, in your opinion?
PL: I have worked in all sizes. Small, medium and large agencies are all capable of creating memorable and effective solutions for their clients. That said, the track record is clear, smaller shops where teams are tightly knit and leadership includes strong creative players deliver great work more consistently.