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st. JOHN’S, NL — After 41 years in an office building on O’Leary Avenue, St. John’s staff for one of the largest independent marketing agencies in Canada are getting accustomed to new surroundings.
m5, an Atlantic Canadian agency with five offices in the region and approximately 150 employees, was founded in St. John’s in 1981. About one-third of the company’s staff is still based in St. John’s, and earlier this month they moved to 570 Newfoundland Drive.
Heather Dalton, one of four partners with the agency, spent 25 years in the old office and was admitted to “some mixed feelings” on moving out of the building.
“We’ve been kind of re-looking at our footprint as we grow across the region,” said Dalton.
The company has offices in all four Atlantic provinces, including spaces in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Charlottetown. m5 also moved last month into a new home in Saint John, NB, and recently expanded its Halifax home.
Dalton said the company wanted an office that would align with the type of work environment m5 wanted to create in St. John’s. She added the time for the move to coincide nicely with the new branding, also launched last month.
“The timing on the building and the new brand went hand in hand because our new brand is based on that curiosity, a sense of discovery and the ability to co-collaborate with other people in the organization, work across disciplines, break out of our silos and coming together in this open-concept type space was important for us,” she said.
Dalton and her fellow partners acquired the business five years ago — the anniversary was Wednesday, Feb. 1 — from company founder Gary Wadden and his business partner Derek Langdon, two Memorial University graduates who started the business in St. John’s.
Since then, Dalton said they’ve looked to position m5 as an agency that’s not slowing down but keeping pace with everything that’s happening in the marketing, communications and advertising world.
“We’re taking the growth that we have and using that to leverage and fuel more growth, and part of that is looking at all of our office spaces across the region. It’s part of our vision to make our spaces for our people, ( and for) where we want to go for the organization as a whole.”
Curiosity and creativity
The new brand was part of an effort to recognize that five-year anniversary of the ownership change. With a new chief creative director brought on board, a new vice-president of insights and innovation was hired in St. John’s and expanded media and digital video teams as a whole, Dalton said there’s been a continuous effort within the company to enhance their internal expertise on a wide array of disciplines.
This, she said, will help m5’s quest to serve its many clients into the future. Those clients include all four provincial governments in the region, Subway, General Motors, Fortis, law firm Cox & Palmer and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association, among others.
“Our vision is to have creativity recognized for its power to solve problems,” Dalton said.
“There’s just something about that line that I absolutely love, because often when we produce a campaign, you see the end product, which is beautiful and creative. But really, what makes that work is the insight and discipline that goes into the up- front part, to really make sure that everything we do is related back to the client’s root problem or business issue that they’ve come to us to solve.
“That doesn’t necessarily happen naturally. It comes by making sure we hire employees who have those qualities; that are interested in digging and learning and working together to solve problems — and part of that is the space as well. Making sure that we ‘re set up at all our locations to work together and have lots of spaces where we can come together. Even remotely, all of our boardrooms are set up to connect in our other offices so that we can actually work together across the region as well. “
Dalton believes the move into the new office space is thus far paying off for the company after only a couple of weeks.
“We’ve seen some real differences in us coming together and brainstorming,” she said, adding it’s also been good for social interactions among colleagues.
“Getting together down in the kitchen space, getting together in the meeting spaces and collab spaces to just chat things out. Then, when we need to pull in our other teams (remotely), we can do that. Just being here together has really allowed us to really start to live that new brand spell of curiosity on a day-to-day basis.”
To help further spark that creative streak among staff, m5 recently launched an employee program that contributes $300 annually towards any sort of activity that furthers their curiosity, whether it’s an art class, university course or martial arts.