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Meet The Canadian Agency Throwing a Full Punch for Its Clients

Company Profiles 442 Add to collection

LBB’s Ben Conway speaks to the team at Vancouver’s ambitious advertising and design agency Full Punch about their philosophy, 2022 plans and the Canadian ad scene

Meet The Canadian Agency Throwing a Full Punch for Its Clients
“It's our trifecta of skills that help us create something unique for our clients. It's why Full Punch is so strategically brave, creatively bold, and business strong.”

Formally launching in 2019, Full Punch is a “fiercely independent” creative agency based in Vancouver. It brings together former president of TAXI Mike Leslie, experienced creative director and designer - with stints at FutureBrand, Taxi and Cossette - Chris Zawada, and a life-long strategist Jack Dayan, who has over a decade of experience in agencies across the US and Canada. The three worked alongside each other at TAXI before deciding they were ready to glove up and have their first bout with their toughest and most rewarding opponent yet - working as an independent agency.

Full Punch has recently undergone a rebrand that president Mike says “better reflects who we are and why we love this industry,” defining the team as “champions of creativity” since day one. The agency has developed a lot since starting as a “little run-and-gun” in Mike’s kitchen, using every cent of its budget on talent and clients and consequently giving the agency’s branding a back seat… until now. Head of creative Chris says that the new visual language is an extension of Full Punch’s purpose and draws a parallel between the world of advertising and boxing, “Brands can’t make an impact without throwing a full punch.”

Full punch prides itself on being a “champion of creativity” and fiercely independent, as to avoid getting lost in the mix of creative agencies. Head of strategy Jack says, “We wholeheartedly believe every brand needs to stand for something, or they’ll fall for everything. That means we’re always looking for new and diverse ways to solve creative problems and create the unignorable.” He believes that whilst brands want creative thinkers, most agencies can’t deliver on this due to various restrictions enforced by interfering bureaucracy and shareholders that prioritise everything but creativity. He continues, “That’s what we mean when we say the world doesn’t need another agency. Brands need partners who can help them solve their challenges with ingenuity and creativity before anything else.”

Mike doubles down on this philosophy, recalling his experiences with holding companies purchasing great agencies, “I’ve seen how they gobble them up, reap the profits, erode the culture, and ultimately make it challenging to do good work. Complex structures, outdated processes and billable hours are not what clients want to buy. Our independence allows us to put our people and the work we do for our clients before a nameless shareholder. I dare you to find a client who doesn’t want that.”

‘The craft’ is what Chris considers to be their speciality - utilising their independence to carefully consider the “nuances of a brand identity” and its finer details so that everything they produce “sounds, looks and feels amazing, no matter the budget.” Whilst they have six permanent members (and look to expand to 15 by 2023), Full Punch’s production-inspired model leverages the utility and talent of the freelance community and generally operates at a combined force of 20-25 people. 

“This hybrid model has allowed us to be agile and profitable through the pandemic - scaling up when we need and having the right talent on any given project,” says Mike, “In some ways, we were ahead of the curve. With the Great Resignation, working with exceptional talent that was previously locked into a full-time role has become a mainstay of our operations.” In a similarly innovative way, Mike also expresses a desire to create a campus-like atmosphere in any new office space that they may grow into - a place where employees can meet, work, present and collaborate in.

Something that has enabled Full Punch’s unconventional hybrid model is the technological innovation that has provided flexibility for talent and clients to work together more seamlessly regardless of location. It has also improved the team’s work-life balance, allowing them to spend more time with family and enjoying life outside of an office, although Mike is eager for face-to-face work to return in some capacity. “Video calls are still no replacement for in-person collaboration. Not only are they less efficient, but you begin to lack the connection involved in meeting with people in person. It’s easy to forget those are real people behind your screen!”

Based in Vancouver, Chris says that Full Punch has access to “a great talent pool” with diverse skill sets. Though he says that the “booming” film, animation and tech communities in the city are attracting global eyeballs, he explains that being smaller than Toronto and other major markets, and lacking advertising education infrastructure, also results in less young talent entering the industry in Vancouver. Chris describes the current Canadian scene as undergoing something of a creative-advertising renaissance, with agencies like Rethink and Zulu Alpha Kilo picking up where TAXI, Sid Lee and others left off, in terms of drawing international recognition and attracting global brands. 

Mike also paints a picture of Canadian agencies as a hidden gem or largely untapped resource in the market, “Many brands don’t realise how much of a draw the Canadian dollar can be. I’ve always thought, dollar for dollar, Canadians deliver some of the best creative ROI in the world. From an individual creative talent perspective, the world has already taken notice… It’s just a matter of time before brands start tapping Canadian agencies more.”

In a bold recent campaign for Save-On-Foods, Full Punch launched a video that told customers to not come to Save-On-Foods’ stores -  a risk that paid off. Chris says, “. In-store grocery shopping is still their bread and butter (pun intended), but they wanted to pull focus on a lovely insight that people would rather do anything other than their weekly grocery shop.” Focusing on playful, real-life family moments and authenticity, the spot cast actual Save-On-Foods employees as the team carefully navigated Vancouver’s covid protocols. Another bold idea from Full Punch was the brand and packaging for equine supplements company StableFeed, “We revolutionised what food means within the equine industry,” says Chris. “It proves that if we can do something bold and innovative in this somewhat obscure and traditional space, what can’t we do?”

This bold work continues outside of the advertising realm too, explains Jack, “We’re working on a couple of exciting projects that we hope to launch this summer. One is to help address the needle littering problem in Vancouver, attached to the opioid crisis, and the other is around mental health in the creative community. Mental Health is an issue for all Canadians but a particularly bad problem in the creative community. It’s shocking, so we want to help.”

Full Punch celebrates its mantra: ‘What’s the best that can happen?’ and drives their ‘champions of creativity’ culture through proudly displayed messaging on its site for all prospective clients and employees to see. The company provides a lot of autonomy for its talent and makes an effort to attract people who are just as passionate about advertising as they are. Chris says, “It all comes down to passion and drive. I’ve always believed that working in advertising isn’t a job per se, it’s a lifestyle. We want hungry people who are motivated to be their best.”

Hoping to continue championing creativity in 2022, Mike shares that Full Punch recently won business with Northland Properties, which will see them work with great brands including Denny’s, Chop Steakhouse and a variety of hotels and resorts not just in Canada, but in the US and UK as well. “We see a lot of opportunity helping those brands realise their potential,” he says. As well as the aforementioned summer projects with the needle clean-up and mental wellbeing initiatives, Chris shares his excitement for the rest of the year, “We continue to add great brands to our roster, so we’re seeing a lot of creative potential and hunger coming from all our clients, new and old. It’s going to be a great year for Full Punch.”

Agreeing that 2022 will be “another year of growth” for the agency, Jack says, “We are busy onboarding new clients and growing a team of talented people who are passionate about throwing a Full Punch for our clients - we can’t wait to get started!”

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Full Punch, Tue, 29 Mar 2022 16:47:00 GMT