Advice for marketing’s next generation from this year’s Hall of Legends inductees


AMA Toronto formally welcomed the six newest inductees into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends during an event at Toronto’s Palais Royal on Wednesday, pushing the total number of people inducted over the century mark.

“They’ve ridden the wave of change, they’ve battled headwinds, they’ve battled the recession, they’ve found a way to bring the next generation into the culture, they’ve made people believe, and challenged the status quo,” said longtime agency head, and now host of the Chatter That Matters podcast, Tony Chapman in his introduction.

Chapman, himself a 2008 inductee into CMHOL, concluded a lengthy Q&A session with the Legends by asking each one what advice they would give to people who are just entering the industry. Here’s what they said.*

Chris Staples, Rethink

“A lot of young people think that it’s about putting in the hours, showing that you’re committed, and staying until 11 every night, working your life away on advertising. I would say don’t forget to have a life—it will your make your ads better and everything better.

“I was famous for leaving at 5:30 p.m. and have never pulled an all-nighter in my entire career, and hope we have a culture that frowns on that, because it’s counter-productive and it makes the advertising far worse. And it makes your life and your relationships far worse.

“The thing I’m proudest about is that we managed to do all this and still had a great life and amazing relationships.

“When I look back at my life I remember events like this, but it’s all the rest of it that made my advertising good.”

Noel, O’Dea, Target Marketing & Communications

“I think Shakespeare said it best: ‘To thine own self, be true.’

“Number two, and the corollary of that, is avoid best practices at all costs. Because best practices mean that there’s no differentiation—you’re only two degrees different from your competitor.

“Be strong enough to be able to stand up for your convictions—not for the moment of positive reinforcement and getting out of a bind in a meeting, but for the long-term success.

“Number three is really clever, but I’ve forgotten it.”

Lisa Lisson, FedEx

“What I tell all people who walk into marketing is that it’s so diverse, there are so many different jobs. Find what you’re passionate about, and don’t jump at the first job. When you’re passionate about what you do, you will shine.

“The second thing I say is that it’s so important to write down your goals. The most successful people in life write down their goals, whether personally or professionally. Write down your goals and let your intentions be known. You tell someone ‘I’m on the client side, [but] I want to go to agency.’

“Let your intentions be known, and then every single day when you wake up, figure out what baby step you can take tomorrow to achieve that goal, personally and professionally, that you didn’t achieve today.

“You will shock yourself with how that one baby step leads to another. When you believe in yourself, I promise you, you will do things that blow your mind.”

Tom Shepansky, Rethink

“For me, it really comes down to people. When I’m siting here looking at the next generation of leadership for Rethink, I couldn’t be more proud of the team that we’ve built, and I think we mutually inspire each other, each and every day.

“What I would say to the next generation, and the generations after that, is work with people that you believe in and work with people you love. Life is too short not to be aligned in your values and beliefs.

“We actually have a family business. We’re not blood family, but we love each other because we care for each other like brothers and sisters. And that’s what matters. Look for those companies that have a clear purpose, who have people you connect with, and that you believe in, and you feel loved.”

Sandra Sanderson, Empire

“I’ll give a piece of advice that I’ve given to my daughter Brooke. She’s heard this quite a few times.

“I find that when I’m at a crossroads, and I’m not quite sure what I want to do, I always step back and say, ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

“And often what I find is it’s a different answer than the path that I was thinking of taking. And so that I think illuminates more what I really want to do.”

*Absent from the conversation was Rethink co-founder and partner Ian Grais.