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Think About It

Posted on July 30, 2003 and read 9,226 times

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(This article first appeared in the new and amazing Calgary magazine Show Off)

Why do I live in Calgary? Look outside. The sky is blue and on any given Friday afternoon, the most beautiful mountain range in the world beckons. It’s a healthy existence. Which is perhaps why people out here live on average four years longer than the average Torontonian. Think about it. Four years extra of life. That to me is 1460 reasons why I chose to leave the Big Smoke (I think named after the fact that everyone, and I mean everyone, in T.O. smokes their brains out. You can even get a “smoking cab” in Toronto.) and start an agency in Calgary. 1460 more opportunities to kiss my daughter good-night and 1460 more mornings that I will wake up beside my beautiful wife.

That alone was worth moving back to Calgary. But there’s more. Actually there’s less. As in less bullshit to put up with every day. Fewer meetings in which I waste time that could be spent creatively, covering some asshole’s… well ass. Especially when some asshole would have eventually tried to backstab me to get one more rung up the mighty T.O. corporate ladder. There’s less sucking up to pompous, full of themselves creative directors who won a Clio in 1983 and have since made a career of taking credit for the ideas of junior creative teams under them.

There’s less money to focus test every good ad to death. That alone was worth moving back to Calgary. I live here in Calgary because I love to live here. The air is fresh and the people are real. Most of our clients are on hand-shake agreements. And when we have an issue, we get to talk to someone who has decision making power. Not some schmuck marketing co-ordinator who has four levels of approval above him.

I once presented a campaign to a client committee of like, 25 people on the 70th floor of some office tower in Toronto. They asked us to leave for half an hour so that they could consolidate their opinion. That alone was worth moving back to Calgary. My father in-law lives just outside Milan, Italy. “Oooh,” you say, “Milan.” Whatever. Anyway, he’s a man of impeccable taste who drives a new Mercedes every year and has a beautiful home adorned with stunning photographs of just about every major city and tourist destination on the planet. Proudly sitting on his walls are photos he took the other year of Calgary. A city that he feels is the most beautiful he’s ever seen. Sometimes you have to see things through others peoples‚ eyes to really appreciate what you had all along. Sure there are some challenges here. At industry parties everyone whines to me that clients here are more conservative than they are in Vancouver. I’ve worked in Vancouver. Trust me they’re not. Sometimes creatives here whine that we don’t have the same budgets as they do in Toronto.

Well, we don’t. But that’s not always a bad thing. While working in Toronto I once spent over $250,000 of a client’s money on a one day shoot of a really bad testimonial ad. But we got to hang out with a big name American director (who didn’t even stay for the whole shoot) and drank copius amounts of alcohol on the client’s dime (I think we drank to forget what crap we were producing). Woo-hoo! That alone was worth moving back to Calgary. At the ripe old age of thirty-six, I’ve come to realize this. Where I live doesn’t limit my creativity. Only I limit my creativity. As long as you think anything but you limits your creativity, you will never do great work. For it will always be too easy to blame the market, the budget, the client, the suit and your dog. Look at the U.S. Some of the best creative shops are in smaller markets, like Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon. Both of which are smaller than Calgary. But only in size, not aspiration. Hmmm, a lesson perhaps.

So we can do it here. In fact, at Push, we’re betting our careers on it. Most of the leading creative shops in Canada have all, at one time or another, called Push to try to hire one of our people. So they think we have the talent. All we have to do is believe ourselves what the outside world believes; that advertising people here in Calgary are just as good as they are anywhere else. Just ask Jack Neary President of BBDO Canada, Marc Stoiber, Creative Director of Grey Canada, or Neil McCostrich, Creative Director of Palmer Jarvis‚ Toronto office. They’ll tell you. Because they’re all from Calgary. And while you’re talking to them do me a favour and ask them why the hell they would want to live in Toronto?

Andrew Shortt
Push Branding




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