Duncan Channon is an independent, integrated advertising and design agency with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Founded in 1990 by Robert Duncan and Parker Channon, the agency has continued to thrive in the fast-changing world of advertising and has done award-winning work for clients such as StubHub, the Golden State Warriors and Kona Brewing Co. The agency recently acquired award-winning experiential, influencer and digital agency A2G, which brings a dynamic, new roster of creative talent to the agency. Learn more about what makes Duncan Channon unique in this fascinating Q&A with their co-founder and CMO, Parker Channon.
What is the name of your creative agency?
Tell us a little bit about Duncan Channon. How did your agency get started? What inspired the founders to start your creative agency?
Duncan Channon was built from humble beginnings, which is why it still feels crazy to think about how far we’ve come. We’ve been an Ad Age Small Agency of the Year a few times over now and have a roster of clients that are household names like SweeTARTS, the Golden State Warriors and Kona Beer. Robert Duncan and I were escaped Foote, Cone & Belding creatives who hung up our own shingle in 1990 – literally working out of a garage. We were inspired to do great things creatively – and to have fun with the people we were working with in the process. We wanted creativity, trust and camaraderie to coexist at Duncan Channon in a way he hadn’t seen at the big agencies we’d come from. Almost 30 years later, we’re still fiercely independent and proud of the close, collaborative relationships we have with our clients and colleagues.
Is there any significance or meaning to your agency’s name?
When we started, every new agency was named after a color, an animal or a number. So, we thought we’d zig when everyone zags. That meant just using our names.
How would you describe the working culture of your agency?
Our agency’s rallying cry for close, friendly and fun collaboration is summed up in our philosophy of “guanxi,” a Chinese business term we discovered over late-night whiskey drinking on a trip to Shanghai. Guanxi says that there is no successful business without a successful relationship first. You have to take the time to get to know, understand and, heaven forfend, even like the people you work with (and for) before you can even hope to make great stuff. We’ve found that deep, trusting relationships and mutual understanding, among clients and staff, lead to more insightful and effective work. And, these internal habits of listening, caring and collaborating are just as important to clients who want to build relationships with today’s highly skeptical and social-media-active consumers. Guanxi is particularly relevant at a time when people want to be seen and understood by brands, not marketed to.
How big is your team now?
We’re now over 80 strong. It’s an exciting time for us. We recently acquired the award-winning agency A2G, who are real pioneers in experiential, influencer and social marketing. A2G created the first pop-up shop for GAP before the term even existed, and found influencers for Nintendo before modern social media was born. As part of this move, we welcomed a new partner and Chief Experience Officer Amy Cotteleer as well as new teams specializing in experiential, influencer and social activations for brands.
How would you describe the working dynamic of your team?
We think people love our agency because there’s no typical day. Some of us may be flying to Hawaii for a shoot for Kona Beer, while others are heading to Sacramento to brainstorm new ideas to end the teen vaping epidemic with our clients at the California Department of Public Health. Those of us at the office are working hard, but also working smart. We’re making things, writing things, and talking to clients from varied industries like food, beauty, e-commerce, sports and health. Yet, we make time to eat lunch together in the open, communal café we recently built to create more space to spend time with each other. On Fridays (and some other afternoons), we finish the day with drinks upstairs in The Tip, our agency’s rooftop speakeasy and temple of ‘guanxi.’
How do you keep your team inspired?
Do you have any advice you’d like give to those looking to start a career in your industry?
Learn by doing. Get in there and go. It doesn’t matter where you went to school if you can start making things right away. The ramp from copywriter or designer to creative director can be short if the work and hustle is there.
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