Curious & Wild: The Story of Spawn Ideas

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Written by Guy Ragnetti

Being in an out-of-the-way location like Alaska gives you a decidedly different view of the world—and the ad industry at large. You’re more curious. More resourceful. You’re defined not just by the hours you work but also by how you spend the rest of them outside the office. It’s what attracted us here in the first place.

Spawn Ideas is a full-service, employee-owned (ESOP), marketing agency founded in 1975 as The Nerland Agency. We became an ESOP in 2005 and, in 2013, changed our name to Spawn Ideas, an authentic brand for a group that’s passionate about Alaska and full of active, outdoor-loving enthusiasts. Identifying as such gave us the freedom to be uniquely entrepreneurial, forward-thinking, accountable, and hard-working, just like our Alaska neighbors. As it turns out our clients—who promote wellbeing through adventure, health, education, and finance—benefit as well.

We like to say that our approach to advertising “fuels the curious and the wild.” And, with experience, we’ve found curiosity can offer an interesting conundrum. While it can galvanize great ideas, they can be a bit scary at first. However, the people behind the brands we work with take the longer view because curiosity can uncover new opportunities that move their goals—and their brands—forward.

That’s why you’ll often find us asking questions. Why do people act the way they do? How can we turn a brand’s reason to be into a reason to buy? What does having a genuine human understanding of customers and prospects lead us to: an elevated more of the same, or something completely new that maybe goes against the grain, in a good way? The clients who ponder this exercise with us and have the courage to take a creative leap, reap successful rewards for doing so. And isn’t that what we’re all after?

Curiosity that leads to empathy and genuine understanding is the way to win-win advertising that delivers on the values of time and experience for customers, as well as economic value for companies:

  • For GCI, Alaska’s largest telecom provider, we thought: Why not make it more of a lifestyle brand by focusing less on the product and more on the Alaskans who use the company’s technology? Sure enough, it worked.
  • We knew that business owners were still people at heart, so we empowered them to move beyond banking with Northrim Bank to grow the client’s customer base and draw attention to its superior customer service point of difference.
  • Alaska is a special place. How could we help keep the state’s best and brightest students here to write the next chapter of this place we all call home? We did just that through artful, impactful, well-told stories for The UA Scholars Program.
  • While we’re showing appreciation for our amazing home state, let’s let would-be visitors in on a little secret: our jaw-dropping landscapes are far more navigable than you think with the help of Travel Alaska.
  • Not stopping there, let’s partner with the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts to bring the thrills of Broadway to Anchorage through Broadway Alaska. Bet that would yield season-ticket holders that come from all around the state. You’d be right.

See how this curiosity thing can catch on and lead to good things?

It’s a thoughtful and nimble approach that works for us and our clients day after day, year in and year out. It’s a point of pride for our team who know they’re lucky because this doesn’t always happen at agencies with more layers of people in bigger cities. But guess what? It attracts those who’ve come from those places, including the employee talent, freelance partners, subject matter experts, account planning and analytics teams that our Alaska team works with remotely today.

But enough about us. Let’s talk about you. Where you would like to take your brand. How we can help you get there. Where your favorite local place for coffee is. Even better yet, we’ll show you ours. Karen’s treat. Reach out to her today at

At Spawn Ideas, we fuel the curious and wild in people by genuinely getting to know them. So, if your brand helps customers embrace adventure, travel and wellbeing, we’ll turn your reason to be into a reason to buy. Our staff works hard to live well in places like Denver, Colorado, and Anchorage, Alaska.

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