No Fixed Address is a looser, leaner kind of agency

Serge Rancourt and Dave Lafond explore new ways to build a creative agency

David Brown November 11, 2016

Maybe the first thing you should know about the new advertising agency No Fixed Address is that they will, in fact, have a fixed address.

The agency led by Serge Rancourt and Dave Lafond, which already has 15 full-time staff and eight clients including Questrade (and more to come), officially launched Thursday. But it will soon have a suite of office space in the funky new shared space development called East Room just outside of Toronto’s downtown core (also home to the just-launched Central Strategy).

The name, however, is fitting both for how the agency will operate day to day and the larger philosophy that will serve as the “no fixed” guiding ethos for the founders and staff.

NFA staff will be able to work wherever and however they want, said Lafond, who left a role as president of English Canada for Cossette last year. (His partner Rancourt, a former Publicis Canada president, ended a six-year stint at DS+P last year as well). There are no fixed work hours or expectations about coming into the office every day, nor even any fixed holiday limitations.

“It is about treating people with intelligence,” said Rancourt. “The industry is filled with talented people. Why are we treating them like children? It’s a lot of freedom, but the best people deliver the best work (and make the clients happy) when they are given that freedom to work where and how they want. If there is a meeting or they need to see the client, sure, come into the office. But if not, why make them spend an hour going into the office, and another hour to get home at the end of the day.”

The “no fixed” approach even applies to compensation models. No Fixed Address won’t be using time sheets and will eschew the agency model of hourly rates. “The right compensation is when a client says ‘I’m getting value,’” said Rancourt.

That model, Lafond and Rancourt believe, will allow the agency to break free of the downward slide that most agencies have been experiencing in recent years.

“It is pretty miserable out there,” said Rancourt. “When you talk to people, there is a sense that there is so much tension. Clients feel like they don’t’ get the value from their agency and the agency feels like they don’t get the billing to make money,” said Rancourt. “So we said we need to reinvent this. The premise was clients deserve something better.”

Rancourt and Lafond believe they will be better by attracting the best thinkers, doing the best work because they are happy in their job and being treated fairly and compensated well.

NFA is committed to a leaner operating model, avoiding the overhead costs, complex processes and holding fees that come with larger agencies. By doing that, NFA plans to commit, at minimum, 70% of its revenue to staff while most network agencies can’t spend more than 50% of revenue on staffing, said Rancourt.

That smaller, leaner model has become more feasible with the up swell in other smaller, niche players and specialty agencies that form a dynamic new commercial creativity ecosystem for brands.

“The communications landscape is changing and evolving so fast,” said Lafond. “And we wanted to be unencumbered, to be fluid, able to partner with whoever we want, other independents or other entrepreneurial companies.”

Every client is unique and every client challenge is different and requires a customized approach and that means drawing on the best resources from across the industry.

“We don’t have any fixed process,” he said. “The ideas is we literally build the right team for our clients with the right process. We have to customize that model for the individual client. “That said, you need the core bench strength and we want to have a really deep creative and strategic bench.”

For the moment, that includes Sabrina Kandasamy, strategy; Jenna Yim, digital transformation; Rachel Lai, insight; Dhaval Bhatt, creative director; Shawn James, creative director; Randy De Melo, design lead and Rebecca Ho, client and integration lead.

But that is changing quickly, just three weeks ago the shop had only 10 full-timers. With a new big-brand and so far anonymous client just landed, the current total of 15 might increase again.

Aside from Questrade, No Fixed Address is already working with the radio stations Boom 97.3 and 93.5 The Move, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Egan Visuals, and three Toronto start-ups called League, Evree, and Vena Solutions.

The agency only won the Questrade account in August but went to market with a multi-media campaign including TV this past weekend.