Saying goodbye to Copeland Communications

16 Aug
The last day at Copeland

The end of an era: the final day of Copeland, May 31, 2012.

This summer I officially closed the Copeland office, after 31 years in business and one paltry year of ownership on my part.

I let the staff go and gave notice on our office lease on March 15th  and the next several months were spent trying to salvage something of the company I had bought in June last year.

I couldn’t make it work financially. The closing has been devastating.

I bought a struggling company, in an industry that was in similar throes, because I frankly couldn’t bear the alternative, which was that Copeland would simply be closed. Although we had a positive year in terms of attracting new business, our big clients stopped being big clients.

But it’s not all bad news. Looking back on my 3 years managing the company, I am happy to say we never played it safe and we always tried to swing for the fences.

  • We were awarded business for, among others, BC Ferries, the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers, Columbia Fuels, Robbins Parking and Connect Hearing – all of which brought us multiple media opportunities, stellar creative and successful outcomes.
  • Our Zombie Intern contest, won by Danny Prew, got us on the front page of Ad Age magazine last year, one of the Big Hairy Audacious Goals Rodger Banister and I set for ourselves in 2009.
  • Our Managing Director For A Day contest last September, won by Grace Campbell of Royal Roads, landed us on CTV news.
  • We brought influential speakers Jay Baer, Simon Salt and Tim Williams to town.

But keeping pace with the rapid transformation of the advertising climate proved too much. We made massive changes over the past year and were on the cusp of introducing a new strategic direction to the market even as the end came. We simply ran out of time.

As part of that new direction, we launched The Copeland Collective on March 12, and three days later everyone was out of a job. I pushed hard to the very end, as you can imagine. My Copeland teammates, Jodie Carlisle, Rose McDonald, Asmaa Methqal, Michael Tension, Andrea Merson and Danny Prew pushed just as hard beside me. They then stayed to work many weeks without pay after they were laid off, to complete existing client jobs. I will never forget that.

Copeland was formed by Clare Copeland, Pam Middleton and Keith Dagg in 1980. It was bought outright by Steven Dagg in 2001. Rodger Banister brought me over from Vancouver in 2008. A year later he was gone, leaving me as Managing Director. It was the best job I’d ever had. I still mourn it, to be quite honest.

During its storied run, Copeland grew and shrank and grew again, and won and lost just about every significant client on the Island. For its 31 years, it remained the dominant advertising agency brand in the market.  Sometimes it seems that everyone in marketing has worked there at some stage.

I’m sorry I let this legendary Victoria brand go under. It wasn’t from lack of trying.

Thanks to all who supported us, and cheers to everyone who made Copeland such an unforgettable ad agency. It was a fantastic run.

Jodie Carlisle, Diana Walter, Mia Watkins. Rose McDonald, Grace Campbell, Asmaa Methqal, Andrea Merson from Copeland Communications

Jodie Carlisle, Diana Walter, Mia Watkins, Rose McDonald, Grace Campbell, Asmaa Methqal, Andrea Merson in the Copeland offices on Grace’s day as Managing Director, October 2011


35 Responses to “Saying goodbye to Copeland Communications”

  1. Christie August 16, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it all Doug, Even if it was only for a short time.

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      It could have been longer if you hadn’t had to wait outside for a whole morning on your first day! 😉 You were/are awesome Christie.

  2. Trisha Lees August 16, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks for sharing this buddy. I’m glad I got to hang out in the Copeland office if only for a year. In the words of Dr. Seuss…

    “You’re off to Great Places!
    Today is your day!
    Your mountain is waiting,
    So… get on your way!”

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      He also wrote: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
      I appreciate all your support and your good company Trisha.

  3. hill copywriting August 16, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Don’t know what to say except my heart goes out to you and all those who were a part of it — sounds very special. If any consolation, I had a similar business experience moons ago, before advertising. Otherwise I’d be retired now! Many great biz people say they’ve gone through this a few times before success Doug, so all the best in the future. Keep us all in touch, even maybe keep this blog going as your personal version?

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Cheers Bazz. You won’t be seeing my name up on any agency door anytime soon. There’s something to be said for sticking with what you’re best at. Thanks for the supportive comment.

  4. Deb Pound August 16, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    When you know you have given it everything you’ve got, and then some, you have nothing to apologize for. Doug, my dear friend, you are the best. Never forget how hard you tried – you never walked away until they pushed you over the cliff. You WILL overcome, or something along those lines. I still owe you a beer.

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Not sure I didn’t step over the cliff while I was focused on writing a blog post Deb. You’ve been a great friend – to me and Copeland. We loved having you over to help us out.

  5. Russel Lolacher (@RussLoL) August 16, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks for this article. Sounds like it was cathartic to write it.
    Doug, you’re an amazing leader of people and ideas. I could go into the cliched “one door closes and another opens” which is nice but is rarely true, but what is a fact is you left an impressive impression on those you engaged with, fought for, led, inspired, supported, encouraged and drove.
    I consistently endeavour to bring to the table what you do.
    Doug (Copeland) Brown is dead, long live Doug (the future) Brown.
    (sorry, Game of Thrones is awesome)

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Holy smokes Russel. Look I’m pretty sure I mirror the good people around me. Hire well and you get better yourself. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for this tremendous comment!

  6. cyrille dEstienne dOrves August 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    My dear friend,
    Failure is always hard to take (that I know firsthand) , and I just want to tell you I feel sympathetic. It won’t help much, but you might just feel a bit better knowing there is support at the other end of the world!
    Don’t forget you have a friend in Paris, if you ever feel like breathing some fresh air.
    Lots of hugs and love,

    Envoyé de mon iPhone

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      There’s fresh air in Paris now? 😉

      Merci beaucoup pour l’offre. J’espère que je peux venir encore à Paris avant de devenir un vieux chien! Je t’embrasse très fort Cyrille.

  7. Cale August 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    It’s sad to read this after the discussions we had earlier this year and I’m disappointed that I never did have the chance to work with you and Copeland in a more official sense.

    This was a fantastic, heartfelt post.

    On the brighter/future looking side, I look forward to working with you more from here in Yellowknife!

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Thank you Cale. There is no longer a Copeland website for you to re-skin with corpses, which is too bad. At least Zombland is still out there! I’m thrilled for your move to Yellowknife and hope our paths will soon cross again.

      • Cale August 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

        Speaking of, your blog totally doesn’t have enough zombies! My offer still stands for helping out if you want to get your own site/domain set up for your blog!

  8. Chris Burdge (@b_WEST) August 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Hey Doug – that sucks, full stop! There are plenty of cliches that might fit. But like you said you swung for the fences. Most never even pick up the bat.

    I have enjoyed working with you, especially our trip to Yellowknife. Wishing you the best – knowing you’ll bounce back…

    • Doug Brown August 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Props to you for anticipating the industry curve-ball Chris and moving to the right place to catch it.

      I have no doubt we’ll find ourselves in the same meeting room again before long. Thanks for your supportive comment here. And your support in general.

  9. Courtney Maier August 17, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Doug, as a client of Copeland, I can say that you never once let us down. You made us better. You did not falter, even through your most difficult times. You and the entire team kept us as a priority and you completed what you started, even though you had already closed. You made a classy and distinguished exit with Copeland. One’s character is greatly tested in situations like this and your result? You have come through this as a hero of mine. Thank you for everything.

    • Doug Brown August 17, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      I almost hate to ruin such a beautiful comment by responding. At least I will say thank you Courtney. That made my day.

  10. thatguylam August 18, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I’m a bit choked up. My time at Copeland was short but sweet. You worked hard to keep a good bunch in the game. Thanks for signing off with excellence and all the best for your future that I’ll keep following on your other blog.

    • Doug Brown August 18, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Nice of you to say Lam. Yet another good Copeland alumnus…best of luck to you too!

  11. kinematicdigit August 18, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    You did your best to steward the ship through the storm. Copeland brought many talents to the forefront in the years it was around. I myself never worked for Copeland but always admired it. I’ve had my share of seeing creative companies come and go. I had to close my own creative company back in 92 and that was tough news for my staff. However many have gone on to do great things. One of them ended up working for George Lucas while others went to other big agencies and media companies. Knowing that they made their start at my company gave me a little inner peace.

    I think the same goes for your time as Managing Director. You have had a lot of talent under your stewardship, and I expect that all of them will gone on to do something very inspiring.

    Best of luck in your next ventures, and look forward to reading more.

    Terrance Lam

    • Doug Brown August 18, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      Copeland sure got some tremendous talent from the Pacific Design Academy Terrance, Michael Tension and Danny Prew being just two examples. I’ve had the fortune to work with Megan Louie the past month and she is an outstanding designer too.

      Thanks for your support of Copeland over the past few years. Good luck with everything at PDA!

  12. jenni m. August 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m really sad to see this. I never got to work directly with Copeland during my brief two years in Victoria but I kept an eye on the blog and your projects and always had a lot of respect for your work.

    • Doug Brown August 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      Thank you Jenni. You’ve always been generous with your comments towards our team and the things we did. Sincerely happy to have you along as a reader here now. 🙂

  13. Al Albania August 20, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    It seems that running an agency,these days, is less about the creativity and strategic advice we offer our clients and more about our dealings with bank managers, lease agents, property managers and such.

    You my friend are a passionate practitioner. Dedicated to your craft. Simpathetic to your staff’s needs. Acutely focused on delivering the best results for your clients.

    We were all, in a strange way, your clients when you took on the task of hosting T-CAAN, and the passion and dedication you brought to the task at hand was laudable. Perhaps to the detriment of your business.

    I understand the pressure you faced and in a way regret that we as an organized association of like minded practitioners could not help you in a meaningful way.

    Thank you Doug for your great effort.

    It gives me solace to know that you will resurface, better, wiser and stronger for this experience. (sounds like the 6 million dollar man)

    I look forward to staying in touch and working with you in the future.

    • Doug Brown August 20, 2012 at 6:54 am #

      It’s all about learning Al, isn’t it…and the process never ends. You’ve been a tremendous friend to me through my own learning curve, checking in with me often to see how things are going and offering your wisdom and guidance.

      Many T-CAAN members – and you in particular – already helped me in many meaningful ways ever since I attended my first conference in 2009.

      Wishing your own agency the best, and so glad to have you in my corner.

  14. Sanci Solbakken August 20, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    When a door closes, a window opens. All the best to you, Doug, and all your team for a future filled with new adventures and opportunities.

    • Doug Brown August 20, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      Staying lean to be able to squeeze through some of those windows! You’ve always given me good advice and this time is no different. I appreciate your good wishes Sanci.

  15. Allen A August 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    good luck on your next venture –

    • Doug Brown August 22, 2012 at 4:03 am #

      Thanks Al…see you around town soon!

  16. Devin Boyd August 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
    ~Winston Churchill

    Best of luck in all that your future holds Doug!

    • Doug Brown August 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      Thank you Devin. Thank you Winston. It’s good to have smart people – and smart to have good people – cheering you on.

  17. Brian Hartz August 30, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Doug, you were and are a kindred spirit, a source of solace and camaraderie, when I really needed one. I will never forget the most-excellent times we had during my brief but satisfying time in Victoria. Although I am truly sorry that Copeland is no more, you are one of the world’s Good Guys and I have no doubt you will bounce back and achieve success in ways no one would/could have predicted. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

    • Doug Brown August 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      I could have written much the same sentiments about you when you left town Brian. I tried, but I was bamboozled by the sight of you in front of those donuts and eloquence escaped me. Thanks for stopping in here to leave me with some of yours. Very much appreciated. Ain’t as much fun here without you, I have to say. Thanks Bri.

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