The Best Agency Cultures: Palio+Ignite
I’m moving to Saratoga Springs, NY. Effective immediately. It’s been nice working with y’all.
Just kidding, but I were free to move, Saratoga would be at the top of my list!
It’s a wonderful secret 3 hours north of NYC. With a downtown full of restaurants, bars and boutiques, anchored by a State Park at one end that features Saratoga Performing Arts Center (or SPAC) and the famous horsetrack at the other.
Everything is walkable and almost everything promises a garden patio or outdoor seating. Strolling along Broadway, you can buy cowboy boots, a fancy hat, or of course, a painting of horses. The bars are open until 4AM for the college kids here (There are more than 15 colleges and universities in the Capital Region). And during the 6-week horse-racing season, packs of merry and boozy racegoers fill the streets. It’s like Georgetown meets Newport, RI meets The Great Gatsby. The New York Times captured it perfectly: A Step Back in Time.
Mary Ann and I are here for Palio+Ignite’s 15th anniversary. They brought us to the race track, and as we hung around waiting for everyone to arrive, I joked with Mary Ann that we were like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson: Professional party crashers. As new recruiting partners, we hadn’t met anyone from the agency yet. “I hope this isn’t awkward,” I said gazing at the track, and “I don’t even know how to bet on horses.”
Flash forward a couple hours and I’m yelling “Let’s go ‘Wine Burglar’ and ‘She’s Got the Moves!’ Give me an exacta!” and high-fiving the Talent Director.
Oh yes, we had a fantastic time!
Guy Mastrion, one of Palio+Ignite’s founding partners and Chief Global Creative Officer, introduced himself immediately and had us laughing with funny stories from the agency’s early days. He spoke warmly of people on his team, many of them have been with the agency for 6… 10… 15 years.
“We’re there for each other. Because the community is small and close-knit, our interaction quickly transcends business relationships. We help each other out. At work, with babysitting, house hunting, whatever. It’s a very different from NYC. Here it’s not unusual to run into each other at the supermarket, or have your kids playing on a sports team together.”
Our conversation was interrupted by an eruption of cheers as the horses ran by. That’s when Scott Neverett, Recruiting Director, turns to us and says, “You guys are betting, right?”
Hmm… Show us how. Suddenly we are knee-deep in race reports, the stats and odds of horses, jockeys and trainers, past race performance, etc. My head was swimming, and Scott, taking note, said: “Or you can just ask our professional handicapper, Jim Mittler.” That’s horse speak for betting expert. We went with his pick and won!
It’s a much different experience when you’ve got skin in the game – you want your horse to win. As soon as ‘Wine Burglar’ crossed the finish line, we asked: “When can we bet on the next race?!”
And so went the afternoon. Eric Delnicki, VP, Creative Director, who’s been at the agency for 15 years, was our constant wingman, with entertaining commentary about the history of racetrack, top restaurant picks, etc.
We had a blast. Not awkward at all. Palio+Ignite pulls out all the stops for its clients and visitors. They’re so passionate about their town, community, and agency and their colleagues. Turns out this is all part of the “Give us a day” recruitment strategy, scripted by Scott and Mary Kate Hallahan, VP, Human Resources. They hosted our office and city tour the next morning.
But before we get to that, Mary Ann and I had a scenic run on Avenue of the Pines, entering Saratoga’s lush state park and passing SPAC’s amphitheater. We found a tow path that followed a stream over tremendous calcium deposits. Then we swung back into town to enjoy an almond croissant at Mrs. London’s. Our cars sat in the parking lot all weekend. No need for them.
Palio+Ignite has roughly 100 people in their Saratoga offices – between advertising and managed markets, housed next door to each other on Broadway. One in the historic House of Pansa with unexpected nooks for foosball tables, Wii and a beer fridge. The other an ultra modern new construction with a screened-in veranda for open air working. There is a lightness about the space and people, calling out sincere hellos to each other as we pass through.
Palio+Ignite works with healthcare and pharma companies, shaping both HCP and patient communications across all channels. You can check out their reel here. And not just at the Saratoga headquarters, but at its NYC and Irvine offices too. All told, the agency is about 200 people and $35MM in annual revenues. Kim Johnson recently joined as President, working out of NYC.
In the end, I was sad to pack up and leave the painted horses and manicured neighborhoods behind. I would’ve liked to stay the weekend – especially knowing that this weekend boasted the 145th running of the midsummer derby, The Travers Stakes.
Palio+Ignite’s “Give us a day” tactic had been 100% effective. On the drive home, I rehearsed how I’d break the news to my husband. “Hon, we’re moving to Saratoga.”
Want to know more about Saratoga and Palio+Ignite? Well call us, silly! We’re actively recruiting for all 3 offices.