Why Ryan Apps left the agency he founded

Ryan Apps, co-founder of Toronto-based TraffikGroup, sold his ownership in the company last April after spending nine years growing and helping lead the 70-person agency. Now, one year later, Apps has been named chief experience officer at Public Agency and Public Innovation Labs – an agency, consultancy and incubator dedicated to showing clients how to […]

Ryan Apps, co-founder of Toronto-based TraffikGroup, sold his ownership in the company last April after spending nine years growing and helping lead the 70-person agency. Now, one year later, Apps has been named chief experience officer at Public Agency and Public Innovation Labs – an agency, consultancy and incubator dedicated to showing clients how to make a profit by doing good.

Ryan Apps

“It was a tough decision to walk away from something that I created and passionately built,” says Apps, who has developed and launched campaigns for some of the world’s most recognizable global brands and consumer products companies. He founded TraffikGroup with Mark Ferrier and Eli Craig in 2005, building up a roster of clients that includes SunnyD and Crown Royal.

Why leave? Written on the wall in TraffikGroup’s Toronto offices are the words “Our ideas help solve problems.” But Apps had discovered that he has stopped wanting to solve certain problems.

“Helping to sell another bottle of juice to kids just didn’t do it for me anymore,” he said. Call him hokey, but Apps says he truly believed there was a greater purpose for him. “My belief that I need to leave the world a better place for my kids and their kids.”

With that in mind, Apps accepted this new position at Public. “I had been talking with the team at Public for quite some time about their agency ethos and greater vision of the future. Their beliefs around placing purpose at the heart of organizations to impact behavioral change in consumers, their views on the creating true social impact, really resonated with me.”

The agency pushes for action over awareness, selling corporate responsibility as a way to drive profits.

“Lots of people in the industry say they want to create impact in the world,” says Apps. “The reality for a lot agencies [is] it’s about creating one-off pro-bono ads that might win industry awards, but don’t actually move the needle for creating interventions for real behavior change.”

Apps says the status quo in the industry has been a focus on creating awareness, not action. “That doesn’t work anymore.”

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