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Agency Profile: Taxi 2

Posted on September 16, 2007 and read 6,365 times

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How big is too big?

How big does an ad agency have to get before its size becomes a hindrance? Before spontaneous meetings become difficult to call? Before departments and communication breaks down? Through careful observation of such things as African tribes and US military units, Taxi co-founders Paul Lavoie and Jane Hope determined that number to be 150 people.

The Taxi network first grew by expanding to the Big Apple with Taxi NYC opening in 2004, followed by a westward jaunt to Calgary. And then as Taxi Toronto reached that magic number of 150 people, the doors to Taxi 2 opened in the fall of 2006.

“I’ve been with Taxi for more than seven years now,” says Lance Martin creative director of Taxi 2, “and what I’ve always loved about Taxi’s culture is how nimble and effective our size allowed us to be. Now with Taxi 2, we have the opportunity to grow the network, while still preserving that culture.”

Taxi 2 is located on the fourth floor of an old loft-style building at the corner of Spadina and Front, just down the street from Taxi. Initially they didn’t need a whole lot of office space, as the small shop opened with a staff of six, which made it a very hands-on environment. “We’d go from pitching a major piece of business to changing the toner in our photocopier,” said Lance.

One year and 17 new staff members later, Taxi 2 has already expanded its open concept environment. And now, the mix of veteran Taxi crew and new hires is an even mix. We asked Lance if it was easier to get a job at Taxi 2 with Taxi experience. “Taxi is always ready to help people garner new skills and experiences and if that means moving offices, we’re always open to it,” said Lance. Adding, “and that doesn’t just include Taxi 2, it could mean NYC, Calgary or Vancouver.”

“Paul [Lavoie] has given us a lot of freedom to run Taxi 2 and to do what we feel is right”

Taxi 2 may have been born out of Taxi, but that doesn’t mean it functions as a division of the office down the street. While Rob Guenette is the president of all of Taxi Canada – and they all report to Lavoie, Taxi 2 enjoys a high level of autonomy. “Paul has given us a lot of freedom to run Taxi 2 and to do what we feel is right,” says Lance. “We have the power to define our own success, as well as having the responsibility to own up to our own mistakes, dust off and try again.”

Upon opening its doors, Taxi 2 had the benefit of already having a number of clients to work on. Taxi’s much celebrated MINI account was moved over Taxi 2, and brands such as Jack Astor’s, Fresca, Purdy’s Chocolates and M&M Meat Shops all quickly found a home at the new office. Since opening, Taxi 2 has also won the opportunity to work on the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, Red Leaves Muskoka, as well as the global account for the Association of Tennis Professionals.

Taxi 2 has ‘unofficial’ assigned creative teams for various clients – a MINI team or a Jack Astor’s team, for example – but because the agency is so small and nimble, creatives have a very good chance of getting opportunities to work on the full roster of clients.

Many of today’s agencies talk of tearing down the barriers that have traditionally existed between their advertising, interactive, direct and design departments, and Taxi 2 is no exception. “With all these worlds colliding more and more every day, it doesn’t make any sense to keep those disciplines separated,” explains Lance. “I’ll have traditional copywriters working on interactive sites, art directors working on web banners, and interactive designers coming up with outdoor billboards.” This has resulted in creative teams of three and even four people, instead of the usual AD/CW pairing.

“I’d rather not strand a team with an all-nighter.”

So what about the workday itself? Is Taxi 2 the type of place where people start working at daybreak, or does the creative department tend to wander in around noon, then burn the midnight oil? According to Lance, most people are in the office by 9–9:15 AM. “I’d really like to avoid that ‘working super late everyday’ environment, because that can burn people out,” he exclaims. “There have been times when we’ve been here late at night or on a weekend, but more often than not it’s just teams wanting to make sure the work is the best it can be. And if it looks like a team might be in for a long night, I like to get everybody into the boardroom late in the afternoon and see if there’s a way we can help them with their problem. I’d rather not strand a team with an all-nighter.”

As for traditions and events to bring the agency closer together, Taxi 2’s size has been an asset. “We have the luxury of still being small, and since it’s open concept, there’s a really friendly, energetic vibe,” says Lance. He speaks of spontaneous agency lunches and dinners, and games of office chair soccer that break out suddenly in the office. “Recently somebody had the idea of racing a mountain bike through the office. We set up a course and we all took turns racing against the clock, starting and stopping at the front door. By the end of it, we noticed there was a whole mess of tire skid marks that just wouldn’t come off. So now they serve as sort of an homage to the way we blow off steam here at Taxi 2.”

So with a year on the books, what does the future hold for Taxi 2? “I can see us having around 45 staff members in the near future, which will be like coming full circle for me, as there was about 45 people at Taxi when I started there,” says Lance. “The nice thing about being this small is how closely everyone works together and when someone is away sick, everyone in the office knows and is concerned. It’s pretty cool when the people you work with feel almost like family.”

Thanks to Lance Martin for giving us a glimpse of Taxi 2.

Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer/SBN2




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