The History of Portfolio Night


Portfolio Night: A Friendly Little History

Perhaps you’re a newcomer to Portfolio Night. Maybe you’re curious about how the whole thing got started. While it’s better to be told the Portfolio Night story in person, by one of the original Portfolio Night team members, preferably over drinks, until that happens, here’s a brief look at the first ten installments of the world’s largest advertising portfolio review.

November, 2002

Like so many other great things, the concept for the very first Portfolio Night was conceived over coffee.

The idea of portfolio reviews is nothing new, but the IHAVEANIDEA team wanted to build upon such experiences. To them, portfolio reviews shouldn’t be just a chance for young creatives to get their books critiqued and then sent out the door. They wanted to create a social event to unite the entire national industry, both the present and future superstars, to work on building a bright new generation of ad creatives. With this goal in mind, Ignacio, Brendan, Nat and Jay Thompson began to iron out the details of a new kind of portfolio review, discussing it all in a hip coffee shop in the Cabbagetown district of Toronto, Canada.

February 22, 2003: Portfolio Night In Canada

pn1After many weeks of planning, the very first Portfolio Night becomes a reality on a cold winter evening. Entitled “Portfolio Night In Canada” and having an appropriately Canadian ice hockey motif, Portfolio Night takes place in Canada’s three biggest cities: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Portfolio Night In Canada I was a small event, yet a huge success. It even received international coverage on the syndicated TV show Media Television.

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pn1-2ndNot only was the whole concept of Portfolio Night still in its infancy way back in 2002, but so was the IHAVEANIDEA team behind it all. Ignacio was just starting his first job as an art director at Ogilvy Toronto, Brendan and Nat were shopping their own art director portfolios around, looking for their first big break, and Brett was still a copywriting student in an ad program. All of this is proof positive that you don’t necessarily have to be big to start something big.

May 11, 2004: Portfolio Night In Canada II

pn2We realized that just because we had a hockey theme to Portfolio Night in Canada, it didn’t have to take place in the dead of winter. So after more planning and preparations, Portfolio Night In Canada II was launched in mid- May. With a lot of momentum built up from Year One, Portfolio Night in Canada II meant bigger crowds, bigger venues and our very first expansion of cities — just one more this year, the nation’s capital of Ottawa.

May 17, 2005: Portfolio Night In Canada III

pn3Portfolio Night In Canada III truly became a nationwide event in 2005, with addition of three new major Canadian cities to the mix: the maritime city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Alberta’s two biggest cities, Calgary and Edmonton. To celebrate this fantastic accomplishment, the ice hockey theme was extended to include custom designed souvenir hockey pucks. We’re not sure if any of them were actually used in any on-ice action, but to this day we still see the Canadian keepsakes in the offices of creative directors who attended.

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May 4, 2006: Portfolio Night IV

portfolio4logoAlthough IHAVEANIDEA is based in Canada, it has a huge audience south of the border, and we knew that our American friends were anxious for us to bring the successes of Portfolio Night to their country. That would finally happen in May, 2006; we dropped the “In Canada” suffix and the hockey motif, launched Portfolio Night IV in four US cities: New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

The scale of Portfolio Night was incredible; what started as an event that drew forty or so young creatives was now attracting nearly 200 attendees in the biggest cities, and received coverage in such renowned publications as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune.

One thing we noticed during PNIV was that people were willing to travel great distances just to attend. We had eager creatives coming from as far away as Brazil, the UK and Singapore. Hmmm, I wonder when we’d be bringing Portfolio Night to places like these?

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May 3, 2007: Portfolio Night 5

pn5-logoWhen would Portfolio Night be worldwide? How about the very next year? 2006 was the year of Portfolio Night 5, when IHAVEANIDEA truly went global. We doubled the number of cities this year, bringing on Auckland, Barcelona, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Miami, Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore and Sydney, to go alongside returning cities Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York and Chicago.

burn-backNow we at IHAVEANIDEA had zero experience at putting on a globe-spanning event before, so we frantically sought out somebody who knew what a ‘world tour’ was all about. We found them in the legendary rock band ‘Burn Back’ who helped promote Portfolio Night 5 around the world. This included a documentary chronicling their Portfolio Night 5 adventures, as well as a quartet of advertising themed songs. One such song, the raucous “Make The Logo Bigger” became an unofficial global anthem for the entire advertising and design industry. To this very day, the song is still making the rounds in inboxes and in YouTube homages (like here and here), and it all came from the minds of “Burn Back” (who in turn came from the minds of IHAVEANIDEA.)

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May 8, 2008: Portfolio Night 6

May 8, 2008: Portfolio Night 6

pn6logoPortfolio Night keeps on growing! Portfolio Night 6 featured 22 cities from around the planet, including all new locations in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Milan, Quebec City and Santiago.

With Burn Back still in prison from last year, we needed a new way to promote the event. That came in the form of a hilarious video by DDB Canada, featuring a sex doll version of DDB Worldwide Creative Director Bob Scarpelli. Many of the other cities filmed their own promotional videos, from an abuse PSA by JWT London to a piñata party by Alma DDB in Miami. 180 even made a video promising an instant job for the best portfolio in Los Angeles.

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Portfolio Night 6 was also the most travelled one for the IHAVEANIDEA team. During the week of this event, the IHAVEANIDEA team put in more than 33.500 miles (53.000 km) in airplane travel — roughly the distance of travelling from New York To London ten times!

June 2009: Portfolio Night 7

PN7logoIn the fall of 2008, the global economy took a staggering financial nosedive that shook the advertising industry to its very core. Budgets were slashed, departments were downsized…. In the midst of this turmoil, the IHAVEANIDEA team wondered if it would be even possible to hold Portfolio Night in such a climate. Those thoughts were quickly cast aside; not only was it possible, it was crucial that PN7 happen. After all, the ad industry is built on new ideas, and there was no better time to help agencies introduce new ideas from fresh, young talent into the mix.

Portfolio Night 7 ended up being a huge success, with Ogilvy & Mather stepping into the role of Global Partner alongside longtime Portfolio Night supporters Corbis. Seven new cities got involved for the very first time. Beijing, Beirut, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon and Tunis all joined the worldwide party and had phenomenal evenings.

PN7 also meant another batch of city promotional videos, and the Host Agencies didn’t disappoint. Highlights from the bunch include a crazy dolphin story for New York, a suspense filled evening for Barcelona and a trio of kick-ass secretaries for Buenos Aires.

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May 20, 2010: Portfolio Night 8

pn8historyWhat a difference a year makes! From a recession-weary PN7 taking place in a “mere” twenty cities, Portfolio Night exploded back on the scene in 2010. Armed with a funky brand identity created by Sydney based director Gabriel Poirier-Galarneau, and alongside returning Global Partners Ogilvy & Mather and Corbis, as well as newcomers Adobe and  Microsoft Advertising, PN8 took place in a record shattering 39 cities across the globe. Even more astounding: all 39 cities took part on the very same day, a remarkable feat when dealing with so many nations and cultures.

PN8 saw the event return to cities such as London, Hong Kong and Mexico City, and included an astonishing number of brand new cities in every part of the world: Athens, Atlanta, Austin, Brussels, Cairo, Caracas, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Jeddah, Kuwait, Madrid, Manama, Mumbai, Philadelphia, Seattle, Shanghai, Stockholm, Taipei and Tel Aviv.

Of course it wouldn’t be Portfolio Night without a collection of promo videos created by the various host agencies around the world. This year included some of the best ones ever, including an epic war scene from Tel Aviv, an overconfident junior from Mumbai, a dangerously good portfolio from Quebec City, and a stunt from Madrid that was so good it was shortlisted at the 2010 Cannes Lions.

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May 26, 2011: Portfolio Night 9

Portfolio Night 8 was the biggest Portfolio Night ever, and now it was time to take this global event out of this world! Well no, we weren’t quite ready to hold the event on Neptune or Alpha Centauri, but we wanted to give the next Portfolio Night a really cool theme. The end result: a fascinating astronaut motif created by Montreal designer  Jeff Kulak and animated (in 3D. no less!) by Hungarian post production house Umbrella.

Unfortunately Portfolio Night 9 would have no Global Agency Partner, which meant that it would be a challenge to bring in as many cities as the year before. Even so, a number of individual Ogilvy offices, impressed with being part of PN8 under global partnership, happily returned on their own. And much like the intergalactic mission of Star Trek, PN9 continued to go “where no Portfolio Night has gone before”, taking place for the very first time in Budapest and Istanbul, as well as returning to Paris for the first time since 2007.

Of course Portfolio Night wouldn’t be Portfolio Night without the Host Cities having fun by creating promo videos. There were a number of gems this time around, including a foray into the dark arts for Philadelphia and Montreal, and a clueless creative waiting in vain in Helsinki.

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May 23, 2012: Portfolio Night 10

2012 was a milestone year for Portfolio Night — a decade after its founding and the world’s largest advertising portfolio review was as strong as ever! To mark the ten-year occasion, we returned to the talents of Kulak and Umbrella, who created a celebratory theme involving landmarks from every PN10 city, from world famous structures like the Statue of Liberty and the Parthenon, to more obscure buildings like Budapest’s Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Montreal’s Five Roses Flour Mill.

PN10 also marked the first time the event was presented under the umbrella of The Art Directors Club. The ADC is the world’s oldest advertising and design association, and Portfolio Night became part of this historic institution through a partnership between the ADC and IHAVEANIDEA, Portfolio Night’s creators.

PN10 was also proud to announce Getty Images as a new Global Partner. The premier media provider was enthusiastically involved in as many cities as possible, and even featured participants’ work on a special “Make. Be.” Tumblr page.

Portfolio Night 10 took place in eighteen cities around the world, including a first ever appearance in Dallas, Texas. PN10 also marked the return of China to this global event. In the past, Beijing and Shanghai have participated in different years, but this time around, both cities got in on the action, encouraging creatives from all over the region to travel and make their creative dreams come true!

For the tenth edition of Portfolio Night, many of the Host Cities really stepped up their game to create some truly impressive promo videos. The results were as disparate as they were brilliant, from a Japanese horror-themed scarefest from Helsinki, a simple, charming animated piece from Beijing, and a Mad Men spoof from New York starring Grey’s President/CCO Tor Myhren.

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And there you have it: a full ten phenomenal years of one of the biggest and most anticipated events in all of advertising. What will the eleventh edition of Portfolio Night be like? Just you wait and see!