April 26, 2021
When most people think of a company’s history, they typically envision a generic “About us” page on a corporate website, some black-and-white imagery from the company’s early years, and a quote from the company’s founder.
Sadly, many companies, including advertising agencies, don’t see the value of their heritage apart from a small portion of their website and maybe a brief mention when a major milestone rolls around.
In reality, an agency’s history is enormously valuable, and it seeps into every level of an organization – from clients’ initial interaction with an agency, to leadership, and to the very foundations of an agency’s culture.
The history of Junction59 begins at Camp
The history of Junction59 begins with the history of our founding agency, Camp Associates. It was September of 1959 when Dalton Camp opened the doors of Camp Associates, along with fellow partners, Norm Atkins and Hugh Segal.
It was a time of curiosity, invention, enthusiasm and trust. There was sense of wonderment and possibilities. The space race was in full swing with Sputnik sending pictures of the far side of the moon back to earth, and within a decade, Kennedy’s challenge of putting a manned space craft on the moon and returning safely to earth was met. It was also a time when ad agencies and their clients valued each other and the work they did together.
If you read several business books, you’ll notice that most companies are formed by an inspiration to find a solution or fill a void in the marketplace. Whether they’re founded to start a movement, solve a problem, or assist a specific community, companies are created with the purpose of being a force for positive change and shaping a better future.
Purpose forms the very heart of the company. That was never more evident than when our founders created a direct response division in 1985.
Back then, the agency’s partners saw a gap in the industry and recognized that the not-for-profit community lacked the financial resources to hire full-service agencies in order get impactful strategic and creative thinking. Instead, non-profits could only afford hiring consultants or freelancers to help with their fundraising, creative and database services.
This didn’t sit well with the partners as they saw an imbalance in the industry and wanted to give back to the NFP marketing community by evening out the playing field.
They invested in this new direct response division by partnering with the leading political fundraising agency in the U.S., Odell/Roper, and named the division, Camp, Odell, Roper Direct or COR Direct. This brought immediate talent and credibility to the division.
Within five short years, COR Direct had some of Canada’s largest national fundraising accounts on its roster, including, The Canadian Cancer Society, The Arthritis Society, Alzheimer Society of Canada, Canadian Diabetes Association, and Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation – you name the major diseases, we helped fund their research. The staff felt a tremendous sense of pride because they were working on accounts that affected millions of people’s lives. Their work mattered. The vision of the founders was making a real difference to not only their clients but to Canadians as well.
In the early ‘90s, each of the partners retired from advertising and moved on to other careers. Dalton Camp became a journalist and could be heard regularly on CBC radio offering political opinions. Both Hugh Segal and Norm Atkins became Senators and continued serving in the public sector for several decades.
Then three Camp employees, Diane Axmith, John McIntyre and Arnold Wicht, purchased the shares from the original founders and rebranded the agency to Axmith, McIntyre, Wicht, or AMW.
The direct agency expanded its services beyond the not-for-profit sector at this time, first in the public sector, specifically around tourism, economic development and finance. And then by 1997 – the year I joined the company – they expanded our offerings into the private sector. It was a time of remarkable revenue growth for the division as we landed the TELUS Business account.
In 1999, the Direct division left our U.S. partners and rebranded as AMW Direct to produce a more integrated expression for the entire agency.
Digital marketing was exploding in the late ‘90s and the agency saw this as revolutionizing our industry. So, the Direct division built a digital team within its department in 2004. After all, digital marketing is direct marketing. My first order of business was to hire someone to run the digital work in the office. Enter Marc Cooper, a talented Account Supervisor and future agency partner. We once again rebranded by adding this new service to our name – AMW Direct & Interactive.
By 2008, Diane Axmith, and Arnold Wicht had been retired for a few years and the remaining partners, myself, Al Scornaienchi, Brian Howlett, and Marc Cooper decided to rebrand the company. This time, our names would not appear on the door. Could you imagine clients and prospects trying to say, let alone spell, Scornaienchi? No, this rebrand would be all about our history.
In every new business presentation, one of the first things we say is that we were founded in 1959. In this business, especially for an independent agency, having a long history is unique and something to be truly proud of. It says to potential clients; “Wow, these people must be doing something right.”
Thus, AMW became Agency59, and AMW Direct & Interactive became Agency 59 Response.
While Agency59 Response wasn’t founded in 1959, we share the DNA of the founding enterprise and can lay equal claim to its heritage. In fact, CAMP worked on response programs well before we were officially created.
Why did Agency59 Response rebrand to Junction59?
It’s a fair question and one we grappled with ourselves for a number of years. Approximately eight years ago, we noticed some of our clients began hiring us for more than just our direct marketing expertise. They liked our creative thinking and the service our people provided, and wanted to give us more work beyond response campaigns. They began giving us studio work, we were awarded event work, we were asked to design trade show booths, and we were even asked to develop some general advertising.
However, one of our largest accounts said to us privately, “You are losing work from us because of the word response in your name. It telegraphs that your agency doesn’t know brand strategy or brand creative, yet most of your staff started their careers in brand advertising.”
We opted to come up with a new name that would maintain our link and heritage with Agency59 while reflecting the evolution of our business offering – data-driven, integrated communications.
Moreover, we needed a name that identified with our purpose. We’ve always been driven by a vision to help all of our clients punch above their weight. It’s the result of several decades of direct marketing experience, where testing, learning and improving is at the heart of everything we do. And above all else, we’re passionate about finding smarter ways to market and helping our clients make tomorrow better than today, for themselves and their organizations.
We’ve also always been a place where strategy, creative and client services work together to create turning point ideas for businesses and their customers. Specifically, we work at the intersection of people and points of view. Where smart people come together to create smarter communications, and where emotional connections meet measurable results.
“Intersection59” sounded like a place on a map, but Junction59 evoked connections and a meeting place for meaningful relationships. It was just pure coincidence that we moved our office to the Lower Junction three years ago. Perhaps it was meant to be, after all.
We stay the course
Through each new generation of ownership, several rebrands, new media channels, and new clients served, our purpose and culture remain the same. Today, our fundraising business is still growing strong under the Candela Strategies banner. Plus, we take pride in offering our staff incentives for their good deeds.
That’s why we have two Charitable Giving Policies:
Combined, these programs offer our team a way to contribute over $90,000 of their time to great causes.
Why we’re proud of our lasting culture
It’s a fact, an agency’s culture can become difficult to establish and maintain. You see it all the time. Once a founder of an agency steps down, the agency often begins a slow decline, losing client trust and brand value over time.
This all-too-common decline in brand trust, client relationships, and internal culture is due to the agency losing sight of its heritage: the foundational values and original guiding vision that anchored the agency to the virtues that once made it innovative and trustworthy.
Furthermore, with the quality of an agency’s culture playing an increasingly important role in attracting and retaining staff, it’s even more vital that agencies understand their history and leverage it to build a culture that brings order to it, inspires talent, and wins the hearts of clients.
Why our history is important
When clients recognize that we have stood the test of time and see that we celebrate a long-standing, trust-based relationship with our other clients, they inherently place more trust in our agency.
By taking the time to learn more about our agency’s history and sharing its story, we’re not only investing in our agency’s ability to inspire staff, but also our ability to build relationships with new clients and maintain the trust with existing ones.
It’s for these reasons that we constantly remind ourselves of our past and the vision our founders established so that we can ensure another 60 years of growth at Junction59.