Ad agency Sherpa's 10th anniversary celebration has evolved from its original decision to hire rival agency TBWA\Helsinki to design an ad to mark the big day. The project has evolved into what’s expected to be an annual industry event.
"Our initial insight was that it is not very interesting for an agency to do their own ad, even if the idea would be great," explains Sherpa creative director Marko Vuorinen, who created the project alongside the agency's other CD Tommi Kortesniemi. "So we got an idea to hire another agency [TBWA\Helsinki] to do the ad for us based on a thorough brief."
The two creatives also felt the project would be more worthwhile if their agency remained entirely in the dark about TBWA's work.
"At this point, we started getting nervous, which gave us even more affirmation that we might be onto something great," he says. "We also thought it would be interesting to try to create a print ad that might gain media attention and get people talking about a print ad even before anyone sees the ad. The death of print advertising has been declared so many times. We wanted to show the world that print isn't dead, you just need to reinvent it and focus on the idea."
The print ad ran in the October 23 edition of the business newspaper Kauppalehti under the message "Courage Looks Like This."
In the end, TBWA surprised Shepa by not designing a traditional ad, but instead forming an initiative with other top Finnish agencies under the banner of "Carrying Responsibility" (Vastuunkantavat in Finnish).
The core idea of the project is that once a year, all of Finland’s top agencies will give one of their talents over for one day to work with Sherpa on a pro-bono project, chosen by Sherpa.
"In a nutshell, once a year, a selection of the best Finnish creatives will work together pro-bono for a day aiming to plan a marketing concept or an idea for a charity organization operating in Finland," says Vuorinen. "Sherpa's role is to decide the 'client' and organize the day-long workshop."
At the moment, most of Finland's top agencies are involved, having said yes, with only about two or three not yet responding.
Concurrently, twenty-something NGOs have already contacted organizers seeking to become the "client" of the first ever Vastuunkantajat project.
Although the initiative's aim is not to build Sherpa's brand, but raise awareness for NGOs, Vuorinen acknowledges one side perk will be heightened awareness of his own shop. "Of course, the market now knows the story behind the initiative, and for that reason, the work that the initiative does will also indirectly support Sherpa's brand." He adds the project reached over one million people worldwide before the ad was even published thanks to the media and word-of-mouth.
Ultimately a stunt designed merely to promote one agency has transformed into something more worthwhile and long-lasting. "I think we demonstrated here that it’s possible to get really good creative outcomes when agencies share insights and work together," he says. "And actually doing things together instead of just talking about the importance of cooperation in the field of creative agencies."
Sherpa is also proud to help bring competitors closer together. "We fight for the same clients all the time but still, at the same time, we fully respect the highly talented individuals working in the industry… Raising awareness of the quality of work will benefit all agencies in the market, Sherpa included."