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Delivering a knockout in the advertising world

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When it comes to advertising, branding and communications, a small independent Winnipeg firm is delivering quite a punch in the field. Two former Valley residents with an abundance of talent and experience in communications, Jody Dundas and Jennifer Karton, co-founded Suckerpunch Knockout Creative. Both Dundas and Karton graduated from Red River College (RRC) and are making an impact in the world of creative communications.
“I graduated from Swan Valley Regional Secondary School (SVRSS) in 1991,” said Dundas.
“Shortly after, I moved to the city with my bandmates, in hopes of becoming a rock star, and quickly found out that it was going to be a lot harder than I initially thought it would be, so I wound up finding a job. I worked in the service industry for a couple of years and then enrolled at RRC in the Creative Communications program.
“From there, I graduated with honours from the Creative Communications program, landed a job with a publishing company and that’s really where my career avenue launched.”
“In 1996, I graduated from the SVRSS and I really wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do, but in my final year, at the request of my mother, she told me to take an art class,” said Karton. “I really enjoyed drawing, so I went into the Graphic Design class and it was my introduction into this world. I loved it and had a strong knack for it, so I decided to stay and finish another major in Visual Communications.
“I moved to the city after that and enrolled in RRC’s Advertising Art program, which is now known as Graphic Design. Everything I learned in those classes at SVRSS enabled me to excel in my post-secondary studies and into my career.”
After spending some time in the industry, both Dundas and Karton felt ready to invest their passion and love of what they do, into their own business. The name Suckerpunch was an ingenious concept derived from Dundas, who wanted the name to reflect the work they did and make an overall impact.
“Suckerpunch was all Jody’s concept,” said Karton. “We were young, brash, extremely honest and transparent, so we took the fluff out and told people how it is.
We had a bit of a disruptive shock factor with the name, but it stemmed from the tag line Jody likes which is ‘create it so good, it hurts’. That’s what drove the name Suckerpunch.”
At first Dundas and Karton started out small, just the two of them operating Suckerpunch from their apartment and it’s now grown into a team of ten employees working out of an office. Just this year, Suckerpunch relocated to a brand new office they built from the ground up on Corydon Avenue. Dundas considers himself the writer and Karton sees herself as the visual artist, so it makes for a dynamic combination.
“By the time Jennifer and I started Suckerpunch, we were already a couple and had been dating since she moved to the city,” said Dundas. “After working in the industry for a number of years, in 2005, we decided to combine our efforts and form our own company. Especially with graphic design and writing, people who work in these formats are either dedicated lifelong employees to a company or they break out on their own once they build their expertise and reputation for their work. We felt we were at that stage to venture out on our own.
“Since 2005, our company has grown and so has my role. My job is to attract, retain and build clients and what I like doing the most about that is watching how it reflects on our growth and reputation as a business.”
“There is definitely a level of passion and excitement that happens when you work for yourself and directly with a client, instead of being another employee in a company,” said Karton. “If you really enjoy what you do, you will put in that extra effort to put forth the best work possible. I love being able to make an impact in our clients’ brand, being completely integrated with them and being part of their success story. I really like being in on the creative process and knowing the purpose to what we are doing and why.”
Much like any other business, Suckerpunch is always looking for talent that can add to the skillset of the company. Since the onset of COVID-19, it has brought forward a new mentality that some skillsets, like graphic design, can be done individually from home and people can earn a living at it.
“My concern in the world out there right now is a human resources challenge of finding and attracting good people,” said Dundas. “Especially with the change of the workforce due to COVID-19, now graphic designers aren’t wanting to work for a company and becoming more mobile. It’s hard to put forth a compelling argument to attract those top-level employees to come work for you in an office setting.
We’re always trying to find that top talent.”
“We worked so hard to bring Suckerpunch to the level it’s at, we have very high standards when it comes to our team,” said Karton. “Having those top-level employees is very important to us, because it’s a really fast-paced environment and we need those employees who can handle the pressure and deliver results. We focus on hiring those employees whom we can have that relationship and bond with, as well retain them in the company for a really long time.
Keeping and building that in-house knowledge is crucial to preventing creative burnout, which is all too common in our industry.”
Suckerpunch primarily works in the agriculture and food sectors. The company’s mantra is to put the success of their clients first and from that, they’ve built a solid reputation in the industry.
“We’ve been very fortunate that a lot of our clients have been with us for a very long time,” said Karton. “We aren’t the kind of agency that pats our own back, we like to share our clients’ successes, which in turn make them our successes as well. We want to make sure we are able to keep connected to our clients and produce some amazing work as a result of that.
“I’m really happy that Suckerpunch has found its voice, expertise and experience all these years in agriculture marketing, because in my work experience as a young designer, prior to Suckerpunch, was working for various arts groups, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Now that we primarily work in agriculture marketing, there’s something really humbling in doing work that helps you stay connected and tied to your rural roots.”