IABC Capital Awards’ Creative Sponsor Spotlight – Alyson Hodson

Our partnership with IABC Capital Awards’ Creative Sponsor, zag, has led to many innovative themes over the last four years. From Create the Impossible, The Science of Communications and now to this year’s 90’s themed Capital Awards Online, the team at zag have produced ideas that always make this program dynamic. 

We caught up with our frequent collaborator’s president and CEO, Alyson Hodson to learn more about her, the agency, the marketing world in general and zag’s involvement with IABC Capital Awards.

Building blocks 

Every company is built on a founding idea, and zag is no different. In addition to a solid foundation, the agency’s clever name originally stemmed from the premise of when others zig they zag—providing their clients with innovative marketing solutions.

On October 1, 2009, zag opened its doors to Edmonton. The agency was led by Alyson and her two business partners whom she had met while working in marketing at other companies. A year later, their fourth partner joined the team—with each person bringing a different skill set that complimented the others’. 

Having known each other from previous work relationships, there was an organic comfort to working with each other. “I feel incredibly blessed to have been so lucky to have found such great business partners,” says Alyson. 

The decision to open up shop in Edmonton came before the revitalization of downtown at a time when not everyone was beaming with hometown pride. Alyson had considered moving to other Canadian hubs like Toronto or Vancouver, but ultimately she said, “I decided that instead of leaving, I wanted to [stay] and get involved in more things and open my own business, take what I learned from other people I’d worked for—the good, and the things that were learned experiences—and get involved to make the city a better place.” 

With all the success zag has had, one would think that marketing was always this CEO’s first career choice, but that wasn’t the case. When Alyson first landed in university, she was on the path to becoming a lawyer. After being continuously frustrated by one portion of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), she decided to make her way to NAIT. Here she was introduced to marketing in her first year and fell in love with it. She got a job with a small design house in St. Albert, finished her degree through a transfer program to the University of Lethbridge, and the rest is history.

The world of marketing 

zag tries to reserve the last half hour of all meetings for a group brainstorm. Up-and-upcoming trends and sharing new inspirational ideas that team members have seen are often discussed. The CEO believes these types of group conversations help with promoting an environment of creativity. 

One thing that Alyson has found over the years is to not approach pitches with hesitation. “Don’t go into it protecting yourself,” she says. 

Alyson does not work in the design or creative department at zag, but she empathizes with her team when a client shoots down one idea after another. “You have to just keep going and keep trying, which can be difficult when everytime you come up with something there are obstacles like the client not being able to afford it, or they don’t like it or it’s too scary for them. It’s important to just keep trying,” she says.

A wonderful partnership 

Alyson says that working with IABC on the Capital Awards is a project her team always enjoys. This partnership is an opportunity for zag to get creative and also a really good way for the agency to give back to a community that does great things. “IABC has always been such a wonderful partner from day one… there’s mutual trust, there’s mutual respect… it’s been a really great partnership,” said Alyson. “One of the things that I really like about the IABC awards specifically is that it’s based on thoughtful and results-based ideas.” 

She thinks it’s important for people to continue to do great work and submit their entries to the Capital Awards, and believes that professional organizations like IABC are important. “What we do is a craft. We do it, we go to school for it, we put time into professional development to become better at it, and I just think whatever we can do to keep that culture going in the community around our craft is really important.” 

Tickets to this year’s Capital Awards on May 28, 2021 are available until May 26, 2021.

Written by Kasia Galica, IABC Member

Kasia Galica is a graduate of the MacEwan University’s Public Relations program and is an IABC Capital Awards’ volunteer. As a biography buff, Kasia enjoys writing profiles on both people and organizations.