Meet “Joan”: Why A Pair Of Top Ad Execs Decided to Launch Their Own Agency

Former Wieden+Kennedy exec Jaime Robinson talks about teaming with former Refinery29 COO Lisa Clunie to open a creative shop called Joan.

Meet “Joan”: Why A Pair Of Top Ad Execs Decided to Launch Their Own Agency

Despite a storied and successful career with some of the best and brightest ad agencies in the world, Jaime Robinson couldn’t resist the opportunity to start from scratch. The former Pereira O’Dell and Wieden+Kennedy executive creative director has teamed up with former Refinery29 chief operating officer Lisa Clunie to launch a new creative shop called Joan.


“I was very privileged to be at Pereira O’Dell from almost the beginning, and to really enjoy seeing and experiencing something come to life from nothing,” says Robinson, one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People in Business in 2013. “I love start-up energy. I love the thousands of questions you need to face every day. I just love the electricity of it. I also think we have a different point of view to offer, than a lot of the other players out there. We love this industry and want to make it as great as can be, so we want to do our part to see if our point of view helps do that.”

Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson, co-founders of Joan

One of the more influential projects of Robinson’s career was an Cannes Grand Prix and Emmy-winning social film for Intel and Toshiba called “The Beauty Inside” It represents the foundation of the new agency’s creative approach, one that spends as much energy on the right platform or format, as the right idea.

“One thing we’re excited to bring to the table is brand thinking and ideas executed through modern channels,” says Robinson. “Thinking about how stories will move and where they will live is just as important as what the story will be. There are a lot of people looking at just one side of the equation and then handing it off to someone else. For us, it’s going to be important to have a POV and to be able to advise our clients on, not just what kind of ideas they should be doing, but the pathways those ideas should be taking in order to reach the audiences they need to reach.

“I fell in love with this way of working when we started working on the Intel films, because the idea didn’t exist without thinking about the platform. We created the idea to be on that platform.”

Between them, Robinson and Clunie bring a formidable amount of experience to Joan. Before Refinery29, Clunie held leadership roles at leading agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, BBH New York, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Fallon.

Photo: Flickr user karen2754

The new agency’s first client is General Mills, and Robinson says there will be more announcements in the near future. Right now, she says, starting a new creative company is the assignment of a lifetime.


“It’s such a phenomenal opportunity for creative people,” says Robinson. “It’s the best brief you could possibly get. If you were going to create a place where people were going to do the best work of their lives, what would that place look like? If you could create a place that was fun to come to work, produce great work, that had a profound effect on your clients’ business, what would that look like?”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.