Hi, have you met Ben and David?

Third Presenter: Ben Feist
Third Presenter: Ben Feist

Last Friday, October 2nd to be exact – we got the chance to meet both Ben Feist the VP of Technology, and David Airey the
Recruitment Manger of Taxi. I was super excited when I saw that Taxi was presenting and I couldn’t wait to meet our guests. I first found out about Taxi when I was in the Graphic Design program at St. Lawrence College, and it was the first agency I aspired to work for. So I’m just going to say I was pretty star-struck when both Ben and David came to talk to us.

They started off the talk with Ben Feist first, and told us a little bit about himself and what Taxi is like.

Taxi does a little bit of every thing, Advertising, Design, and Technology (tech was added into what taxi about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong today) and all 3 “departments” work together as a team. Taxi has offices located in New York, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto (yay!). Taxi is one the largest Canadian Agencies and has a strong focus on Canadian Clients.

Among many other awards, Taxi was awarded “Agency of the Decade” in 2010 by Toronto based Strategy magazine. They couldn’t be prouder of this achievement, and I personally think it’s well deserved. Taxi has created so many of the brands we know today brands like, Mini Cooper, Wverst, Vancouver Aquarium, Viagra, and Bombardier (this is just a short list!).

Unlike other agencies, where it might just be advertising focused in-house with the addition of contracted designers and developers on the side which sometimes leads confusion, Taxi contains them all in house. Not only do they employ advertisers they also employ designers and developers so that it is a much more streamlined process.

 “We’re in the idea business, it’s a weird place to be” – Ben Feist

Something that makes working at Taxi super appealing is the way they deal with their clients. Ben provided us with many examples where either the client didn’t have much money (Mini Cooper), had strict rules to follow when creating an advertising campaign (Viagra), or had clients reject a big plan and send them back to the drawing board (Tiff)

With the case of Mini Cooper, the client didn’t have very much money to begin with but wanted to increase brand awareness. So Ben said that in the case that your client doesn’t have much money you have to take bigger creative risks to in turn get a better payoff. Taking risks meant pushing the client to do different things that they may not have thought about doing before. Like marketing the Mini to both males and females, creating a bunch of low cost interesting instalments to draw in interest, and even doing something crazy like creating a hoax to get the brand off the ground.

In terms of Viagra no one knew what it was, in fact no one really knew what Erectile Dysfunction (ED) was at the time so Taxi had to keep things creative. They had to deal with advertising in a tricky 30-second TV spot, as well as keep with the Canadian Advertising rules that stated that if you say the name of a drug you have to list all of the ingredients of it as well as the side effects within the same commercial. Taxi got around all these hurdles by first generating talk around ED with commercials, and then once the condition was more well known they moved to funny innuendos (ie. Using the logo to bleep out words in a sentence that wasn’t even related to ED).

Lastly with Tiff, Taxi had the idea of “Nobody sees the same festival” and thought that they would commission designers and have some in-house designers work to create things that are different from each other. They took this idea and went on to create a great big pitch for it and in the end have their dreams crushed.

I spent so much time talking about these three clients for a good reason, there’s a lot of lessons here. The Mini Cooper campaign for instance showed that you have to be willing to take risks for your rewards. The Viagra campaign showed that you sometimes have to work within tight constraints, and finally with Tiff you have to be able to take rejection and learn from it and keep going. Most importantly if your idea is great and beneficial don’t be afraid to push it.

Ben also presented some great food for thought. One thought being “Where should I work, what’s my fit?

The Agency Spectrum

He showed us this great image (he created and constantly tweaks) (see above) and explained where different agency’s fit in the big picture.

He also took the time to tell us about Project based companies and Retainer based companies.

Project based companies: a great place to grow as a designer. They work by pitching to win a client then, you work on project-to-project basis and you may not even touch the same client twice. And the company will always be looking for who the next client is.

Retainer based companies: a designer can live in these companies (stay there for along time). You build on your client’s brands over time, and are always thinking about them in someway. One thing to caution about retainer biased companies would be that they could breed laziness as you get comfortable working with the same restrictions and guidelines.

Bens last bit of advice to us before letting David take the stage was as follows:

If your looking to work for Taxi these 3 things are what they’re looking for when interviewing you (the potential candidate):

  1. Contextual Thinking (Why did you do this?)
  2. Problem Solving (What problems did you run into?)
  3. Client Situational Awareness (How did you work with your client, what was successful? What wasn’t successful? Take time to reflect on this its very important.)

Also, being able to talk about your work is super important. Always pay attention to the processes you go though to be able to talk about it freely.

Third Presenter: Ben Feist
Third Presenter: David Airey

After that awesome talk with Ben, David stepped up, he is the Recruitment Manager (has worked at Taxi for 5 years) at Taxi and
hires a whole whack of people, interns, junior designers, etc. and us give an idea of what type of designer/person Taxi would be looking for.

He started off by saying he might be a little biased.

David told us that Taxi is looking for the best of the best, people who, like Ben said earlier, can talk about their work. He also said “Taxi likes to always try to push things a little bit more with their clients” so you would have to have to confidence to convince a client why they should work with you.

He also told us that even when you start at the bottom at Taxi you will be doing meaningful work, not just resizing stuff, everyone gets a bite at working at a big project.

“You don’t have to do 2-3 years of grunt to get to a good place” – David Airey

David also spoke about what the culture is like at Taxi. Everyone you work with has the passion to do the work. All departments work together and bring the best they can to the table. Sounds amazing right?!

“Taxi isn’t a sell your soul environment” – David Airey

So in closing, basically have confidence in yourself it will count for a lot, be prepared to work your hardest for them and they will work hard for you. And David’s number 1 piece of advice was: be authentic, be yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for follow-ups on your work.

This is just a small amount of wisdom our two guests imparted on us, I will definitely take it all to heart and work my best to become a designer that will fit into the world “Taxi”.

Have you ever met a super hero? I just did.


How to get in contact with Ben and David

Ben Feist: VP of Technology

David Airey: Recruitment Manager

Ben Linkedin: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/feist

David Airey Linkedin: https://ca.linkedin.com/pub/david-stuart-airey-pmp/1a/252/b29

Personal Website: http://www.patrickparadisi.com/

Company Website: http://www.taxi.ca/

David’s Email: david.airey@taxi.ca

Ben’s Twitter: @BenFeist

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