Celebrating 20 years of Elevation: Changing the Rules from Day One

It was 2002. A year of “firsts. . .” Serena Williams beat her sister Venus for the first time. Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. The FIFA World Cup was hosted in more than one nation. George Bush created the Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorism and protect our homeland, in a post 9/11 era.

And Jimmy Learned opened the doors to Elevation, a boutique Hispanic ad agency first launched from his home and then tucked within a converted row house off Dupont Circle in Washington DC.

He had a vision and a bootstrap, plus an inspirational phrase he once heard Lee Clow, renowned creative director from Chiat/Day, utter: “Every now and then somebody changes the rules.”

Why not Elevation?

In the 20 years since, that once small but mighty agency has evolved into an international, multi-cultural communications firm with customers and campaigns that span the globe.

Indeed, Elevation has changed the rules by…

  • Redefining how organizations talk to diverse audiences. The Elevation team has long recognized that good communication is global. It requires far more than adapting English campaigns into other languages. From the start, campaigns need to be designed to be culturally relevant if they are expected to resonate with specific audiences. It’s the strategy we applied on campaigns for the Virginia Lottery, Canon Cameras and CBP.
  • Unifying disparate voices behind a common mission, like when we brought diverse stakeholder groups together—including officials from DHS, DoS and ICE along with executives from Marriott, Google and Facebook. These public-private partners collaborated on DHS’s BLUE CAMPAIGN, the national public awareness campaign to fight the atrocities of human trafficking.
  • Reinvigorating brands, such as The Preakness Stakes, that were worn and weary and in desperate need of creative care and attention. Through the International Pavilion, MUG Club and InfieldFest, Elevation created immersive experiences for racing fans that featured popular musical acts, top corporate sponsors, like Dell and Longines, and food and drink from around the world. This holistic approach grew sponsorship dollars by the millions and restored shine and glory to the second jewel of the Triple Crown AND brought us KEGASUS for God’s sake.
  • Propelling trailblazers like Michael Bloomberg’s quest to become Mayor of New York City for an unprecedented three terms, and Barack Obama’s election as America’s first Black President.
  • Perfecting the art of celebration for moments large and small—piling empty SALDO bottles as high as the Washington Monument and breaking bread (or in some cases, pan de muerto, brioche, ciabatta and challah) with those we love.
  • Delivering the unexpected. As guides for our clients and partners, we lead the way through the hardest challenges to the highest points, cutting trails for a safe passage to the edge—where the best ideas and experiences are discovered. This was our path when we helped launch the Pangiam brand and campaigns for CMS’s Affordable Care Act, CBP’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Global Entry and so many more.

Today, the Elevation family hails from over 12 different nations, brimming with a cohort of lifelong creative friends and a range of generational perspectives (Boomers to Gen Z). Over the last two decades, as Elevation has come into its own, we’ve realized we’re not just changing the rules. We’re changing hearts, minds and how people think.

Cheers to growing older and wiser.