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The History of Portfolio Night

Portfolio Night: A Friendly Little History

Perhaps you’re a newcomer to ihaveanidea or our annual 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 ihaveanidea team, preferably over drinks, until that happens, here’s a brief look at the first six installments of the world’s largest advertising portfolio review.

November, 2002

Like so many other great things, the concept for ihaveanidea’s 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 us, portfolio reviews shouldn’t be just a chance for young creatives to get their books critiqued and then sent out the door. We 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, Jay, Brendan and Nat 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 Portfolio Night 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 portfolios around, and Brett was still a student in an ad program. 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 five 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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Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

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!

And there you have it: six amazing years of one of the biggest annual events in all of advertising. What will the seventh edition of Portfolio Night be like? Just you wait and see!