Spotlight on Saskatchewan: Brown Celebrates Golden Anniversary

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Spotlight on Saskatchewan: Brown Celebrates Golden Anniversary


Fifty years ago, in 1966, The Beatles released their ground-breaking Revolver album. The most popular show on television that year was Bonanza. And the Saskatchewan Roughriders won their first Grey Cup. It was also when Brown Communications - an award-winning advertising firm that clients from all across Western Canada consistently turn to for results - first opened their doors for business.

In the years since, Brown has worked hard to maintain a reputation of innovation and excellence in service of their clients. In advertising, coming up with a really good idea is crucial. But for Brown, following through on that good idea is what matters most. 

We caught up with Jim Aho, executive vice-president of Brown Communications, to find out what the 50-year milestone means to the organization, reflect back on major successes and learn what the future might have in store for him and his team.

What does it mean to the company to have reached the half-century milestone?

Given the dynamic nature of the communications industry, it's really quite amazing. To give it some context, in those five decades we've seen six different mayors, six different premiers and 10 prime ministers. And we’ve been here for every one of the Riders’ four Grey Cup wins since the very first one the year we opened, 1966.

This is a company with a lot of heart and soul. We've worked hard all these years to build something special, so it's quite gratifying for all of us to have reached this milestone.

Looking back, what are some cool campaigns and projects that have had a big impact?
Brown has been behind many high profile ad campaigns over the years:
  • "100 Years of Heart" for Saskatchewan’s Centennial in 2005 was an incredible success. I think it resulted in a real mind-shift in the pride Saskatchewan people have for themselves and for this province.
  • We built an awesome campaign around "Huddle Up in Saskatchewan" for our first time hosting the Grey Cup in 1995.
  • We worked with SaskTel for more than 20 years and had a huge hand in much of the "Little Red" creative that is still around today.
  • Major clients like Health Canada, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and other federal government work has helped us gain great respect and profile at the national level as well.
How has the advertising landscape changed over the years and how has Brown adapted?

Well, this is a dynamic industry – it always has been – so we've really been innovating and adapting all along. Certainly our world changed dramatically early in the 1990s when the Internet became ubiquitous and gave birth to this new and amazing marketing tool with incredible reach and potential. And then of course, the advertising world changed again when phones became smart, apps began to proliferate and social media platforms exploded.

At Brown we were early adapters on the technology front. Early on we had an interactive team of eight people focused exclusively on bringing clients new and innovative ways to connect with their audiences digitally, which at that point was an entirely new field of practice. Our embracing these new technologies so early really made a huge difference in the innovation and creativity we could start bringing our clients. And that continues still today.

What has been the secret of your success?

There have been a few things. I worked for the original owners Joe and Anna Brown in the 1980s, and they always referred to our staff as their "family." They really promoted collaboration, team work and a sense of family among us. And we're never lost that. To this day we take our wins and losses as a team.

Another important factor is that we have always had the philosophy and mindset to "pursue the extraordinary.” That idea was often the driving energy and force behind not settling for "good enough.” It helped build the quality of our creative product and won our clients tons of IABC awards over the years.

Keep in mind we're a marketing communications consultancy, so in our world, the client is king. We have always measured and defined success from the client's point of view. We love helping our clients innovate, see their world in different ways, and keep digging for new and more interesting ways to engage their audiences. It's one of the most fascinating careers out there, and even after all these years, I still get excited about getting to work in the morning.  

Where is the industry headed next and what can we look forward to seeing from Brown?

Predicting the future of our industry is tough. For certain, it will always need smart, talented, driven people to fuel the fires of creativity. I think the influx of new technologies, new platforms and new devices will continue, as the big digital brands battle it out for market dominance.

This is the new world of advertising and targeting, engaging, tracking, communicating one on one with customers will be a big part of the future. I don't suspect mass media advertising will die anytime soon, but it is certainly changing and evolving and will continue to do so to find its new (and smaller) space in this highly digital world.

IABC/Regina champions all communicators and their teams in southern Saskatchewan. Would you like to share your story or your team’s achievement with the membership? Contact us at