Who’s walking around in Poppy Barley shoes? Here, we spend 5 minutes with our customers to find out who they are and what they do.
Co-founder of Berlin Advertising & Public Relations
Poppy Barley style(s) I own:
The Toronto Brogue in Black
The Edmonton Oxford in Tan
How did Berlin Advertising and PR get its name?
We think that good advertising and communications often features tension and creativity: creativity, to get your attention, and tension, to make you look twice or think harder. Berlin, the city, was the site of global tension in the 1960s. When the wall went up, Kruschev and Kennedy stared each other down while the world hung in the balance. It was tense. But now Berlin is one of the most artistic and creative places on earth. It’s defined by tension and creativity, just like good communication often is. So, that’s how we named the company.
What is your creative process like?
We probably don’t have a specific way that we always do it, we kind of adapt to the circumstances. One thing that might surprise people though is that we do set some pretty strict parameters around creativity. We don’t just go crazy and think of anything we can—rather we try to get a really tight brief first, a really clear articulation of the problem from the client, and then we do our best to solve the brief. It’s funny, lots of the best creative comes when the account people do a great job of boxing the problem in at the start.
What are some key attributes one needs to be successful in starting their own business?
I think a youthful naiveté and fearlessness is important. It was for me anyway. If I knew everything I know today before we started the company I might not have done it. What I mean is that you can tie yourself in knots with risk management and mitigation and all this stuff. Paralysis through analysis. If you really want to do a company and you have this itch that you need to scratch, do it. The market will tell you if it’s any good. I have a great partner too. Michael Brechtel. But you can’t have him he’s taken.
If you could work with any client, who would it be?
I love living in Western Canada. My parents moved out here in their 20s from Windsor Ontario, kind of hanging on to each other for dear life, and they raised me and my four siblings out here and made a fantastic go of it. The possibilities out here are just totally endless. So I’m always looking at great home grown Western Canadian brands. My all time favourites are lululemon and Westjet. I’d obviously love to work with them but at this point they are so big and established that I’m not sure that will happen. So really I’m looking for the next ones coming up. I think Famoso Pizza is a fantastic brand that started here in Edmonton. Also Kit + Ace I think is very cool, it’s kind of a spin off from Lulu. And really, so is Poppy Barley. I love what you guys have done. So those would be ones I’m excited about.
You have been working in the Edmonton market for over 10 years now, how do you see the market for advertising and creative agencies changing?
Well online and social is definitely bigger than it used to be. I have a distinct memory of when I was working in politics in maybe 2006 or 2007 and Facebook was just getting known, and I was setting all these MLAs up on Facebook and it was this new exciting thing. Now, all politicians are on Facebook. In fact old Facebook posts are probably the most likely things to sewer them these days as we just saw in the federal election.
Really though, the principles of communication haven’t changed. You still need to have an objective, and then connect with an audience. The tools are a bit different now though.
I grew up in Calgary and moved here after university to work in politics. I was a total political junkie and it was either here or Ottawa, and I had an opportunity here. I thought I’d be here for a year or two and then move back to Calgary. But then the Oilers went on a playoff run in 2006 and one night I was out watching the game with a bunch of political guys and the waitress came over and asked us if her friends could sit with us cause there was no other room for them and the place was jammed for the game. One of those friends turned out to be my wife. So here I am. And I absolutely love it.
Your 3 key tips to creating a successful brand?
- Think of your audience.
- Be real.
- Remember: people are busy; no one really gives a shit about your brand. If you can get their attention, do something interesting with it.
How do you stay current?
Well, I’m always reading a ton. I guess the staff probably keep me current on a lot of stuff. I always kind of joke that they are all millennials and I’m not but really I am too. I was born in 1980 so I’m the very oldest of the millennials. I love learning about what the kids are up to and where the culture is going. I basically think that the culture is generated by 18-25 year olds and that influences everything else. But I love trying to stay aware and relevant. The kids will never cease to amaze me. Also I think music these days is at an all time high and I’m very grateful that I get to live through that.
If you weren’t doing what you are currently doing, what would you be doing?
Right before I moved to Edmonton to work in politics I almost started up a breakfast place in Bridgeland, in Calgary. I was really serious about it. Like looking at leases and stuff. I actually think it would have worked out pretty well when I look at what that area has gone through. I would have modelled in on Dairy Lane, which is a breakfast place on 19th
Street in Calgary right by where I lived in university. So that, maybe?
How would you describe your style?
One of the things I like about advertising is that you get to wear whatever you want. So if I don’t have meetings I’m in jeans and a tee shirt. On bigger days I might throw on a suit, or a blazer at least. I guess I dress sort of downtown casual. I actually kind of get a kick out of it when I’m in jeans and a bunch of bankers or real estate people or whatever walk by in suits. Like they had to put the uniform on but I’m just schlepping around having a ball.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? Why?
I would like to be more organized and more diligent with details. I’m very good at big picture stuff. Less so at spreadsheets. I actually don’t even know how to make the formulas in excel. I have to get other people to. I need to take a course or something.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
My dear friend Tyler Hargreaves. He died in a car accident a few years ago. It would just be nice to have dinner one time and kind of wrap things up. We never got to do that. Sometimes something will happen and I’ll be like “oh I have to call Tyler and tell him”, and I’ll forget that I can’t call him just for a second and it’s amazing but then I’ll remember. He died just after I started the company and he was so proud of it, proud of me. We were friends since junior high when we were skaters and the cool guys would always try to kick our ass but not him. He’d give it right back to them.
What’s something that no one knows about you?
Oh man, I’m an open book. Nothing, probably.
If you could turn into anything for the day, what would you pick? What would you do?
My favourite thing to do is to go snowboarding on a perfect powder day. I’m not religious but I’ve had some moments out there that really make you wonder if maybe there is something perfect. So I would turn into a person with no responsibilities on a blue bird powder day at Kickinghorse.
If you could walk in anybody’s shoes for a day, who would it be?
There’s this thing in PR consulting circles about being “in the room”. As in, who was in the room when a big decision was made. I think if I could try out anything for a day I’d like to try out being in the room with Obama or whoever the US President would be in this hypothetical world. Just to see the whole thing up close. I’ve been in some interesting rooms over the years and it always strikes me how it’s just people, you know? No one really knows what the hell they’re doing.