Bright Side of Business: Ottawa independent advertising agency Banfield turns 50

Timothy Jones outside the Banfield office (Photo by Zenith Wolfe)
Editor's Note

The Bright Side of Business, presented by Star Motors, highlights business success stories in Ottawa.

An Ottawa-based advertising agency that could possibly be the oldest independent agency in the country turned 50 this year.

Founded by Max McFadden and Bruce Hiney in 1973, Banfield got its start creating ads for Dilawri Motor Sales, among other clients. It’s since signed on many high-profile customers, such as the National Arts Centre, Health Canada, Public Safety Canada, March Networks and Reckitt, and won numerous national awards. 

Timothy Jones is Banfield’s president and creative director. The fact Banfield has been able to survive as an independent agency is “remarkable in itself,” he says.

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“We actually did research to try to find if we were the oldest independent agency (in Canada) and we couldn’t find another one,” he says.

He says advancements in technology have changed the advertising industry several times over since he joined the company as a junior designer in 2002. 

Today, Banfield is a bilingual agency with capabilities spanning the entire marketing and advertising ecosystem, including research, media and strategy, creative design, writing and production, motion and video, and digital marketing.

Banfield has operated out of a repurposed home in Hintonburg since the late 1990s. Jones says that, where most advertising companies might have staff of around 700, the Banfield team is made up of 38 employees.

“It keeps us hustling all the time,” he says. “We don’t necessarily have the same access to all the things that, say, an agency in Toronto or Montreal would, so we have to be very adaptive and resourceful. We’re a small shop on a national stage but we compete regularly with people outside our (local) market.”

The Hintonburg home also adds to company culture by being a casual and fun work environment. It allows Jones to feel “vulnerable,” which he says is necessary for his creative process.

Many of the company’s projects are about social change. For example, Banfield has worked with Health Canada to raise awareness about the country’s opioid epidemic, and collaborated with Public Safety Canada in 2021 to inform people about human trafficking.

“When people think of human trafficking, there’s a lot of confusion around smuggling people from an impoverished country into Canada. It’s actually people who live here that are preyed upon,” he says. 

Addressing such topics helps Banfield’s employees feel like they’re doing “purposeful” work, Jones says. “As an agency we go after work that feels like we’re doing something good.” 

Banfield’s mission statement is: “We create compelling work that makes people feel and act.”

For the human trafficking advertisement, Banfield “lucked out” with the opportunity to work alongside famous advertising director Mark Ziebert and singer-songwriter Billie Eilish. The awareness campaign won silver at the 2022 Advertising & Design Club of Canada awards.

“It’s a highly regarded industry award and usually it’s all big agencies,” Jones says. “Agencies our size don’t usually get the chance to compete at that level.”

Banfield is currently working on advertisements for the National Arts Centre’s 2024-2025 season. It’s also creating an awareness campaign about eligibility requirements and coverage options for Health Canada’s upcoming dental-care program that will start in spring 2024 when the program is expected to launch.

This column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer. Since 1957, Star Motors has provided its customers with the Mercedes-Benz “The Best or Nothing” standard in vehicle selection, service, genuine parts and certified collision repair. For your convenience, you may shop, research, chat and compare vehicles online at, visit the 400 West Hunt Club location or call (613) 737-7827 for the very best in personal service.

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