Career Advice From Top Creative Leaders in the Canadian Ad industry: Ari Agency Leadership Series

Ari Agency Leadership Series, Sept 27, 2017

Our latest Ari Agency Leadership Series event brought the creative community together on September 27, 2017 at The Spoke Club in Toronto for an intimate and interactive conversation on “How to Manage Your Creative Career.” Attracting approximately 60 creatives from all stages and areas of the business, the attendees had a chance to hear industry icons share their experiences and ideas as well as what they’ve learned while building their own successful careers.

Watch one-on-one interviews with the panel:

Special thanks to our Panel:

Judy John – CEO Canada CCO NA, Leo Burnett

Stephen Jurisic – Partner ECD, John St

Angus Tucker – Partner ECD, John St

Pete Breton – Partner ECD, Anomaly

Dom Caruso – President CEO, BBDO Canada (Moderator)

Outside of award shows or Cannes, it’s rare to have industry leaders at this level in the same room. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the panel and boy did the panelists deliver, generously sharing their personal insights and wisdom on how they’ve cut their career path while creating great work.

We heard that the road isn’t always linear and it takes a combination of skill, attitude, and self-awareness to create your own opportunities. Here’s what we learned:


The work doesn’t start or end with the brief


Judy John, Leo Burnett

The “Brief.” It can kick-start an award-winning campaign or have you sitting in a breakaway room at round 36. “If you see gaps, it’s up to you to make your grass greener. The best teams see the opportunity in every brief,” said Judy John.

Angus Tucker added, “Early in my career I stopped waiting for the cavalry to come with the perfect brief and client where the stars aligned. So we started doing our own stuff.”

It’s just as important to figure out how to sell your creative. Half is coming up with the creative – the other half is to sell it.

“Bring the work forward. Sell your concepts,“ advised Pete Breton.


Your Personal Brand – How you work is as important as “The Work”

How you express yourself is just as important as your book—from working internally with fellow teams or other departments to presenting to your ECD or clients. “Are you the go-to creative or the whiny creative? You dictate how I see you so know what your brand is and exude that,” said Judy John. [Watch video for more advice on personal branding]


Angus Tucker, john st

Throughout the discussion, we heard that leaving egos at the door and soft-skills like high EQ can amplify a successful career. The panel all nodded to Stephen Jurisic’s point, “We like optimistic creatives, normal people who just want to do a good job.” And, resourcefulness and tenacity will take you a long way.

The panel shared that you can find authentic ways to make your CD notice you.

Angus Tucker shared, “I love the ones who have Grrr.. who can rally people and get them excited about the idea.” [Watch video to hear Angus expand on grrrrr]

“No department is more critical than the other. Be open to what other departments are saying as they give you a [fresh] or different perspective” said Pete Breton.

The industry is known for being under immense workload at times, which can cause stress. The panel suggested it’s time to “get over the emergency” and re-framing your mindset with “what’s the worst that can happen.”


The Prize Isn’t Always Making CD

Learning how to advance your career was a hot topic. Attendees asked many questions: When do you know you’re ready? What does it take to make CD? What are the challenges as a CD/ECD?


Pete Breton, Anomaly

Judy John candidly shared to take time to understand the job you want – don’t just do it for the title. “A lot of people are too focussed on titles. Ask yourself: what are you really good at and do that. If you say ‘I don’t actually like clients or having to sell work’ then CD is not for you.”

“If you are on a great creative team, people assume you’ll get promoted,” said Pete Breton. “But there should be no rush. Teams and individuals need to have a body of work to get to CD. There is a level of respect to having done the work and your opinion will gain more weight.”

One clue to note if you’re ready for your next move is having a sense of boredom, added Angus Tucker.

Stephen Jurisic said, “It takes time to grow into your job as CD, and know that guiding and teaching is a big component of the role.”


Diversity and Dealing with the Evolving Industry:

On Diversity:

Stephen-Jurisic-Ari-Agency-Leadership-Series2Diversity is no longer a buzzword but should be ingrained in your company culture as well as your creative, when appropriate.

“It’s important to have an open culture of respect where mentors are available. We’re proud to have such a diverse staff, be it gender or culture, which only enhances creativity,” shared Stephen Jurisic.

Judy John shared, “You see many ads on diversity and every client has the fear of being on the wrong side of doing this. As a creative: Does the brand have the right to do this? We always want to be more progressive but make sure you do your homework to ensure your brand is aligned.”

“We get to be the voice of these brands so it has to make sense coming from the brand, not what YOU want to say through the brand,” added Pete Breton.


On Awards:

While awards are a mainstay in the industry you don’t need to wait for award season to see or showcase a stellar campaign. The medium is changing and sites like Buzzfeed can create momentum for creative.


On Network vs Indie Agencies:

The panel was unanimous: as long as the leadership is strong, it doesn’t matter whether you choose large publicly-owned organizations vs start-ups.


On the Possibilities:


Content Creation in all of its present and future forms will open up all kinds of opportunities. “The media landscape is so much more diverse.. requiring CDs to solve the business problem at a deeper level.” [watch video for more]

“The creative people that are really going to thrive have all those creative skills that have always served creative people well, but also are super-curious and really interested in everything that’s new, to give them another way to express themselves,” said Dom Caruso.




Check out our recent Ari Agency Leadership Series:

The New Marketing Department in a Digital World



About Ari Agency

Ari Agency, founded by Canadian media industry leader Ari Aronson, is a boutique executive recruitment and consulting firm. We’ve been building strong matches between candidates and employers in the advertising, digital marketing, media, and technology arenas since 2006. Our decade of success in this industry is due, in part, to where we’ve come from. Our team of executive recruiters, researchers, and support staff have over 20 years of practical industry experience, working for award-winning ad agencies, multinational marketing organizations, top media companies, and international brands. With countless successful careers built to date, we’re confident that we help make good people decisions! Learn more at