It's a big deal when an agency hits 20 years old. The majority don't survive a quarter of that time … and when they do, it's sometimes only in name, as the culture and identity are watered down by attrition or resource bleed from a Big Four parent company.
But despite its acquisition by WPP in 2013, Canada's john st. has managed to protect both name and culture. What a culture it was, and continues to be. We will never forget "Pink Ponies: A Case Study" … or, more recently, the "No Frills" work.
Anyway, john st. is 20 now. And for obvious reasons, it can't throw the kind of bash that would probably embarrass employee offspring. But like creativity itself, john st. thrives under constraint, so it did something cooler: It recreated its entire office in Minecraft (down to Doug, a dog who really likes the elevator) and threw the whole party there.
This work is replete with inside jokes designed as side quests—our favorite kind of quest. But in typical agency style, these inside jokes feel universal and make john st. feel even more likeable. Can you find Megan's strategy buzzwords? Or help solve the mystery of chief creative officer Cher Campbell's missing awards? If danger's more your speed, you can always help Aimee put out production fires.
A playthrough was streamed via Twitch. For staff members hired during pandemic times, this was their first real interaction with the agency space.
"Our location has been very important to us—we're named john st. after all," says CEO Stephanie Hurst. "The experiences we've shared here—from sneaking chocolates from the reception desk, to the random pigeons who like to visit the first floor—have helped form who we are over the past 20 years."
The Minecraft office was designed by Gamefruitpulp, a Toronto-based gamer and YouTuber who worked on the Building Toronto Project, a 1:1 Minecraft recreation of the city of Toronto. This was his first agency project, which he called "the perfect addition to the online version of Toronto that I've spent so many years completing."
The digital office space was unveiled during a Friday breakfast all-staff meeting on July 23, the date john st. officially opened for the first time, and people had a day to explore it while engaging in its quests. It kicked off with a digital hall of fame of previous john st. work, just outside the building. Staffers were welcomed in by the longtime receptionist, who bugged them about timesheets before letting them loose. The quests culminated in a rooftop party that included dancing, a virtual bar, fireworks and the presence of agency alums.
"john st., and the people who have made this agency what it is, deserved a big celebration," Campbell says. "That's why we had to find a way to be together when we couldn't do it in person and, most importantly, why we had to make it fun. A 20th anniversary is a big deal, but we as john st.'ers have never taken ourselves too seriously."
The office does a lovely job of immortalizing the quirky granularities that give an agency unique life and form. It will remain in Gamefruitpulp's Toronto cityscape, and exploration of it will be open to anyone with a Minecraft Java account for the next few months. If you'd like to access it, the server name is Toronto Server. Here's the server address.
Agency: john st.
Chief Creative Officer: Cher Campbell
Creative Directors: Jordan Cohen, Cam Boyd
Associate Creative Director, Copywriter: Marc Levesque
Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Dan Cantelon
Art Director: Shirley Xu Wang
Copywriter: Marly Dichter
Producers: Aimee DeParolis, Cas Binnington, Matthew DeWaal
Jr. Gaming Consultant/Volunteer: Harris Boyd (9 years old)
Production/Minecraft Build: Gamefruitpulp
Editor: Nicole Sison
Editor: Peter Guzda
Post Production: Alter Ego
Executive Producer: Hilda Pereira
Producer: Andrew Tavares
Colourist: Patrick Samaniego