Portland Agency AHA Gives Clients a Gift They Might Actually Enjoy

By Doug Zanger Comment

Don’t get us wrong, it’s fun to see what ad agencies do for the holiday season. There is all kinds of thought, effort and time that goes into these gifts, videos and the like. However, one agency, AHA outside of Portland in Vancouver, Wash. may have trumped them all.

The agency’s annual Praxis tome isn’t a holiday gift—it’s a completely different beast altogether. The beautifully designed and packaged book (which turns 21 this year) is conceived, written, edited, designed and printed by AHA employees. Contributions come in the form of fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, poetry, songs, illustration and animation, needlework and other digital art.

The theme of this year’s edition is “Coming of Age,” and it clocks in at a hefty 128 pages comprising 23 pieces by 26 contributors (some work was pulled from previous editions). By comparison, the first issue, in 1998, was 68 pages and contained eight articles, one by each of the individuals the agency employed at a time. Over the years, Praxis has published 342 pieces by 118 contributors.

For those here in the Pacific Northwest who know AHA, this is a perfect reflection of the agency’s work and point of view. Its core success concerns sustainability and brand purpose work for the likes of Google, HP, Nike, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft.

“What started out as a gift for clients has proven itself to have outsized impact on the culture of the agency. It’s a complete reflection of our values,” said Betsy Henning, AHA’s managing principal and founder.

Indeed, this isn’t a garden variety coffee-table book. Clients seem to look forward to the diverse, eclectic and unique stories and art that fill the pages.

“It’s not uncommon to walk into a client’s office and see their collection of Praxis editions on their bookshelf,” said Henning.

The impact of the book can be transformative and show clients another side of the agency. In one case, according to Henning, an account leader was having a tough time with a client and expected that Praxis would be ridiculed. Instead of leaving them off the mailing list, the rep sent the book. Shortly thereafter, the difficult client called directly, emotion in his voice, saying that he read Praxis cover to cover and that the stories resonated so deeply, that it changed his perspective on the agency.

“Time and again, Praxis has helped us redefine ourselves for our clients,” noted Henning. “They see our capabilities and creativity in a whole new light, and come back to us and say, ‘what if?’”

Though Praxis is only available to AHA’s clients, it probably wouldn’t hurt to reach out to the agency and see if they’re willing to share a copy.

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