The 2013 IABC Ottawa Excel Awards: DNA 11 and CanvasPop the 2012 Communicator of the Year

By Rebecca Ford

Be remarkable.

These two words hang in large letters on the wall of the DNA 11/CanvasPop art factory—and that, according to cofounder Adrian Salamunovic—is part of what makes these companies so unique.

“It’s our internal value statement. We are saying that in everything we do, try to be a little bit remarkable.”

But that’s not the only thing that sets this IABC Ottawa 2012 Communicator of the Year apart. It’s their PR-centric business model and fun company culture (their unique office design has been featured in Mashable and Inc. Magazine) that also makes them stand out.

“We started the company on PR,” Salamunovic said of DNA 11 (the parent company to CanvasPop). “We didn’t buy Google adwords, or ads in a magazine or billboard. We strictly built the business on the back of our PR.”

He added that very early on, their focus was on getting into top-tier publications, which proved a massive success. DNA 11 and CanvasPop have been featured in Wired Magazine, Playboy, and even on CNN.

“We saw very early what being in these publications can do for your business—generate a lot of traffic, and a lot of sales,” he said. “We got to respect and understand how PR works, and to this day, every time we launch a new product, we ask ourselves, ‘how will this be received by the media, and how can we drive more traffic organically through word of mouth and PR?’”

What started as a tiny company in a 600 square foot apartment, DNA 11 has become a rapidly-growing international success story, now with 50+ employees in offices in both Ottawa and Las Vegas. The company—which turns your actual DNA sample into personalized artwork and its subsidiary, CanvasPop, which allows you to print virtually any image onto any sized canvas—now have a global and international reach.

“[This global reach] is a result of two things,” Salamunovic noted. “The power of the internet as a game changer, and what allowed us to expand our business so rapidly without spending any money on advertising—public relations.”

Winning Communicator of the Year was an honour for Salamunovic and his hard working team, who were taken aback by the distinction. Salamunovic was thrilled to be a part of the event, and even brought his entire marketing team to the gala to accept the award.

“It was great to have them all there to share in that. Because of the team approach, we are able to do all these wonderful things. It was an opportunity to thank them,” he said.

He added that being a part of the Excel Awards was also a great way for him to catch up and connect with folks he hadn’t seen in a while, and to also present himself and his companies on a local level.

Most of all, Salamunovic commends the IABC community for bringing everyone together.

“It’s such a great opportunity to network, and to connect with likeminded communicators to share information,” he said. “Just by coming to the event, I could tell that there was value in being a part of IABC Ottawa.”

Salamunovic appreciates the recognition and being honoured by the community as last year’s top communicator, and looks forward to seeing who will take home the coveted Communicator of the Year award this year.

“It’s always nice when your peers recognize you for something that you’re doing. It makes work even better,” he said.

Don’t miss out on finding who this year’s big winner will be! Make sure to join us for this year’s Excel Awards Ceremony on May 16th.

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