AMA names O’Dea a Marketing Legend

Canada gets six new marketing legends


Two brand builders and four agency founders are being celebrated for their career accomplishments with induction into the prestigious Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends.

Presented by AMA Toronto, the CMHOL honours visionaries, enablers, builders and mentors for their lifetime achievements and contributions to Canadian marketing, and shares their stories and greatest marketing successes.

“This year’s inductees into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends are all exceptional trailblazers,” said Nancy Marcus, former CMO of Kruger Products, chair of the selection committee, and a 2020 inductee into the CMHOL. “They represent a diverse mix of men and women from St. John’s to Vancouver, from agencies, brands, and differing marketing disciplines.”

This year’s new Legends are: Lisa Lisson, Sandra Sanderson, Noel O’Dea, and the trio of Chris Staples, Ian Grais and Tom Shepansky (more on the Legends below).

 “These diverse marketers have each elevated our industry in Canada and on the world stage,” said Barbara Boyd, president of AMA Toronto, the association that runs CMHOL. “Through the Marketing Hall of Legends, we celebrate and recognize their remarkable leadership, vision, and achievements.”

The new inductees will be honoured at a May 10 gala event in Toronto, and take part in AMA Toronto’s  Legendary Leadership Series of live events.

Along with the new legendary inductees, CMHOL also announced Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio, founders of 437 Swimwear, as the 2023 Marketer-on-the-Rise.

“For nearly 20 years, the Marketing Hall of Legends has been evolving with the marketing sector,” said Jacob Kessler, VP, CMHOL, AMA Toronto. “Today, the award proudly reflects a mosaic of marketing talent from coast to coast, but remains a once-in-a-lifetime, one-of-a-kind achievement. Only a handful of Legends are named each year, making the honour a highly-coveted mark of distinction.”

Noel O’Dea, president and founder, Target Marketing and Communications Inc.: Early in his career, he was a professor, a brand manager and a best-selling author, but O’Dea is best known in the industry for founding St. John’s creative agency Target 40 years ago. The agency has won awards from top shows in Canada and around the world, while helping build hundreds of brands, from airlines and travel, to banking, retail, tech and food. “I’ve always been committed to doing emotional work that makes people ‘feel’ something, that moves them, that evokes laughter or love. That people remember,” says O’Dea. Read more about Noel O’Dea.

Sandra Sanderson, SVP, marketing, Empire Company Limited and Sobeys Inc: Sanderson spent much of her early career in CPG, working on brands like Ivory, Mr. Clean, Kraft Dinner and Minute Maid. Later she led marketing at Canada Post and Universal Studios before moving into retail with Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart and eventually Empire Company Ltd. At Empire, she’s been a driving force in transforming the company’s marketing, including it becoming an Olympic sponsor and the first Official Grocer of Team Canada, and becoming a co-owner of Scene+ with Scotiabank and Cineplex.

Lisa Lisson, SVP of hubs, ramps, and global operations control, FedEx Express: Last month, Lisson took on a new role leading nearly 40,000 FedEx employees across the U.S.. But before that, she spent 12 years as SVP and president of FedEx Express Canada—the first Canadian and first woman to hold the post. Lisson got her start with FedEx as an associate marketing specialist in 1992, and quickly rose through the ranks to become VP of sales, marketing and corporate communications in 2003. While she led FedEx Canada, the brand performed well in key reputation rankings and as a best employer, while she garnered personal accolades including being named to WEN’s Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.

Chris Staples, Ian Grais and Tom Shepansky, founding partners, Rethink Communications: 24 years ago, the trio of Staples, Grais and Shepansky launched what would become one of the successful and celebrated independent creative agencies in Canadian history. Staples and Grais were the creative directors, recognized in Canada and around the world for their exceptional talent, winning top awards show honours while also being invited to sit on the industry’s most prestigious juries. Shepansky, meanwhile, was the business lead, forging long-lasting client relationships with brands like A&W while overseeing strategy, account services and finance. All three have stepped away from day-to-day management of the agency while still remaining on the Rethink Board of Trustees.