The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

15. How to be innovative and make yourself indispensable with Brent Choi of DDB Canada

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Brent Choi learnt the importance of being indispensable the hard way. Fired from his first four jobs, Brent began his recovery by relying on his work ethnic, and passion to find solutions. “I’m not as talented as my competition, and so I have to outwork them,” said Brent.

In our latest episode, Brent Choi, the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of DDB Canada, talks about the source of innovation, and creativity, and how it can be developed through passion and a desire to fix problems.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast from the Pierre L Morrisse at Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Ivy Business School. In this series I be entrepreneur and Ivy Faculty member Eric Jansson will anchor the session. Brent Joy, appreciate you sitting down and taking the time to have a conversation with us. Thanks for coming in. Yeah, it's often to be here. It's great to be back in the building that I've seen built up and never got to attend, because it's pretty spectacular. I was saying it's like a Google building or something. Yeah, Google building without the free lunches, but it is. The new students are definitely spoiled coming from the old building. You think with the tuition prices they would give you some free lunch. Maybe they'll start building that in prediction. So I'm excited to sit down with you for a bunch of reasons. One I one thing I want to get to is the topic of innovation. But before we get there, you've had a really interesting career path and I think there are some listeners who are out there who may not be sure what they want to do and they're really nervous about the first thing because that's going to ultimately dictate what they do for the rest of their lives. So I wondered if we'd be, if you'd be okay with starting with where were you when you were twenty two years old? How did your career get started? Well, with business school and all your friends in the classes on where they're thinking of going does influence you. There's a lot of recruitment on campus from companies that everyone knows the brand names of, so you feel a little compel I'll to at least peek into that area. So there's all the eye banking and marketing companies and you interview for them and even though you think maybe you don't have the grades potentially for some of the eyebanking jobs or the interest in some of the Ares B still go down that path. I was lucky that between third and fourth year I had got a job for Moulton Breweries in promotion, so I had a taste of marketing and and maybe some creating, some promotions and different things like that. I was more of a handler and helper, but I got to see that. So when I graduated I did investigate the advertising world, which I think Leo Burnett recruited on our campus in like the in the s. But there's no other advertising agency. So I you know, basically, I think get to look at a phone book. I don't remember exactly how. There's no Internet. So I found a few agencies. I reached out to them and had some interviews and lucky enough I got a job at one of them. But within that it was in the business side of advertising. So for those who don't know, it's called a count service. You're basically a business manager helping to run the advertising account. My account was General Motors, so that was my starting point. It felt like it was the right sort of balance between my business school education and being in an industry is a bit more creative, which I've always had an interest in. In even through the business cool time and Ivy, I definitely gravitated towards like the marketing classes versus the operations ones or the HR ones. So that was it felt like a nice fit. But as I got into the business I learned about advertising and there's this whole other department that's the creative department, which is I won't see it's absent of business, but it's definitely using your creativity to come up with the ideas that's going to really help clients, businesses with from commercials to different ways to think about their product and innovation, and that was something that really excited me. So it didn't take me long, maybe eighteen months or so, before I decided to put my portfolio together. And that's how you had to get a job before. You showed a portfolio to different creative leaders and they, based on that, decide whether you're creative enough to work in the company. And I got luck enough. Well, I didn't get like an I got luck enough to be fired from my count service job, which kickstarted me to get my portfolio together and then get...

...a job in advertising. Creative. Fired on your first real job out of Ivy. Yes, wow, yes, and it actually goes on further. In I was fired. I'm not proud of it. I wasn't proud of it then, but I in many ways it's defined me today. I was fired from four out of my first five jobs and that is you know, it's funny in a way now, but it really helped me and you know, people would think, Oh, you must been a real screw up up or told the boss off or what did you do? I actually, in my heart of hearts, don't believe I did anything wrong. One of the jobs there was a merger, so in a lot of duplication at the do some changes there. Another one's a major client left, so some staff reductions. I was caught in them for that. Another a new creative leader came in and they cleaned out the third of the department and I was one of them. And a fourth one there was my boss want to bring in a superstar talent and need to find some salary money, and I was out on that one. So case by case you can rationalize, oh it wasn't me, but looking back now, especially in the role I am but also you know, it didn't take me long, maybe like well, it did take me long for my first five jobs, to realize I wasn't making myself indispensable, I was doing an okay job. And that's what one of the best lessons I would tell people today is you have to be indispensable, and that means, of course, doing your job, but raising your hand to do more, getting in front of the senior decision makers. So if there's like a big extra effort pitch or initiative that people are asking for volunteers on like raise your hand. Do it. Be there at night helping, if you have to go get coffee, if you have to like do real work, whatever it is, be there so the senior decision makers see your face, because it's still a human business, and they look at a data line and see my name in someone else's name. They see nickel, Brent. Oh Brent's awesome, I remember him. He's a real go getter. We gotta we got to keep him and the other name might, like I did in the past, fall off because they just don't see me as indispensable. So it was something that earlier, maccarew was really hard. You can imagine trying to explain to your friends and family each time you get fired that you might question whether you're in the right business or industry or whether you question yourself and try to explain to your parents they got fired again, your friends, your girlfriend. It's it's really tough on your self esteem. So I know your class is about grit. Grit really is something that you have to like look deep inside yourself to find your way fire or sort of round about answer that question. But my crew did not start off well, like put that way. So what was the self talk that you had after? I mean one one you get like okay, to see me for what was the the self talk was? Is All right, I'm just going to go back at it again, like what did you tell yourself? You back at it, man, you got it. You Question Yourself, for sure. I mean it's almost blocked out of my head, but I can, I can still remember. There are times like I think I need to get a job as a waiter, like just to regroup, because you have to actually pay rent still, right, and and as a mid twenties, twenty six year old kid, still got to go to a bar, you still got to go on a road trip here and there as and you can't ask your parents from my me. So it's, you know, trying to balance financial obligations. You have to give the aura to your friends that you're still doing stuff. So there's you can't see me, but I'm air quotes of freelance. So people's all you just freelancing and consulting, but you're really unemployed. Starting my own business and starting your own cells. Yeah, sure, so there's a bit of that, but you, yeah, I question whether I'm in the right industry. Whether I question whether it was good enough. But all those questions were great because it reaffirmed that I do love the business and I was passionate...

...about it. What I learned the most was that comment about indispensability, if that's a word, but I wasn't doing enough. And then my next job, I dedicated myself to the to the role and I said I'm not going to get fired from this job. Arm Everything I can, and I was about unknown, Twenty eight or twenty nine, I don't remember exactly, but I said I'm going to work by butt off every night, every weekend. If there's anything to work on, I'm going to volunteer for it. And through that you learn a lot about yourself, but also you learn about how do your job better. So like, Oh, if I actually spend extra time on this, I can make this better. Or if I work on more things and you have more time, you put more time into it, you get a better result. So there's a lot of action learnings on how to do your job better, but there's also the just that commitment that your organization sees in how much you're dedicated to the good of the company. So that really launched my career that next job and my whole mindset, and that's I can't say I work as hard today, but that has really changed how they approach everything's like you got to put it in the time. I know that there's probably talk of millennials or allenneils looking for more worklife balance. For me it wasn't worklife balance, it was work hard and when you have time then you have fun. But it's like you got to work hard and and everyone's got their own choices. But for me I wanted my career to be awesome and I love what I do, so it wasn't sure I'd rather go away on a road trip with my friends, but if I'm working hard on a big thing for a client that's going to everyone's going to see, I'm just as passionate about that too. So I have some guests commit who talk about different chapters of their lives and I'm seek a pattern amongst people who have had some at some point. I've had some good early career success and it often comes with just putting the work in the beginning. Some people do end up taking their foot off the gas a little bit later on, but there's sort of a commonality that's coming up where they almost for a period of usually about ten years, sort of fall off the face of the earth. They're consumed in their work, not because they they do lose touch with everybody, but they love it. You know, they kind of lose themselves, they find themselves, they figure out what they're good at, what they're not good at, and that sort of sets up the next chapter. So was that? How long did that chapter last? Call it you were late s when you started that. How long did that chapter go on? For? Probably a good ten fifteen years, I think, and this is maybe a bit of my losing for my first five jobs psyche, but I never thought it was as good as anyone else. So you're always going into a situation thinking you're the underdog. There's so many talent to people in my industry, but also just in the world, and you, when you compare yourself, you like wow, that person is amazing. They're going to kill me in any head to head type of situation. So the only way I can win is to work them. So if you always go in with that mindset, probably a little unhealthy. But I have to. Let's just take any project. If we both have three hours, they will win, but we don't have three hours. They have three hours and they might go home, but I have all night and my twelve hours will beat there three hours. So that is I still think about it today. I might have taken the gas off the pedal a little bit. Way. Is that the pedal off the gas? Whatever, the foot off the pedal? Way, you know, whatever, a little bit, because once you have kids it's a bit harder to work all weekend and all night. My wife has been awesome in in taking on so much too, and I obviously wouldn't have been all done to do it without her. But I still believe when there's moments that you have to you have to put everything to the size. So if there's a major project due, I give my wife at heads up. My family sort of nosegay. For the next month brand's pretty much going to be at work and because it's competitive, there's a lot at steak. In my role now there's lots of people's lots of jobs at stake that are depending on me. So you...

...have to do that. Plus I know that that's how you get to work better too, like you got to spend the time on it. So it's at all perfect. Storm combines into you. If you work at it and work harder, there's good results all around. So you spend a lot of your time now. I then know you were dual hats in your role at DDB. Maybe you could let's get to the next phase. So when you you started really working hard, this was your sixth, fourth, fifth, six job, call it. Figured out what it was, what you're success formula looked like, and then it was mostly then creative work that you got involved in. Is that we spend most of your time on the creative set then in that new role. Yeah, I'll just talking to Sharon Hodson, the you're dean here, and I was telling her for the first I'll say fifteen years of my career, I told no one that I went ivy because being a business graduate, business school graduate, I also have an economics degree, doesn't give you that impression of old, that person so creative, which we have to change. I mean as creativity is critical to business, but I was ashamed to tell people have an economics and business degree. So focusing on creative and early on it was about disruption and being different and thinking about things differently. But as I got more senior and you had more client responsibility and you were in charge of more people and culture and capabilities. Then all of the business school learning starters becoming more applicable to me. So it's almost like early in my career creativity was more important and some of the learnings that had in school were less important. But as I every year and every time I got a promotion or a new senior role, the ivy education became more important. I mean today I'm involved with HR operations, finance as well as culture and people and, you know, international things. It's so important today. So that's that's the tricky balance is early in your career you you might not use some of the stuff, but it's important to have that foundation as you rise in the ranks. To so you've risen. Maybe let's face forward to your role today. So what is it the spend most of your time on today and what is DDB DO? So DDB is an advertising agency, but what advertising is today is very different than what from Madmen, when you watch those shows, did he be has a lot of it's in global network, lots of great clients. But what makes our office in can our offices in Canada different than a lot of the DDB around the world, but also the changing landscape in advertising. Data is so critical. So we have a very robust data analytics team. Almost everything to do starts with data, including crm, custom relationship management. So really following, in almost a creepy way, your whole journey through the Internet. We know everything about you. May Not be you, but might be just you know your ip address or your your Google. You know all the places you go through Google. But we know so much. A facebook knows so much it's scary. So managing all that, but then it goes into not only mass advertising but shopper marketing. I think everything that the ECOMMERCE sites are doing today is like I used to believe that the TV spot was a big thing to drive awareness and then you have to drive men in store to get them to buy something. But I've boughten so many things, for example on Instagram, where you see it for the first time, you've never seen this thing before, you read the review, you watch the little video and then e commerce buy it right there in a minute and a half. I've never seen it before and a buy it. So that's the kind of change that's really happened now and all the data we just learned from that. Everyone that is on Instagram from a company standpoint, know that you own a dog now and that you watch this video and...

...then you just bought this and you maybe didn't buy that time, but you stayed on it for a minute and a half. So everyone that has a dog product suddenly is buying the rights to advertise to you. So that all that date anathletics, the loyalty, the ECOMMERCE PR is so big now, like we talked about social media and and there's a lot of talk about fake news and all that stuff. Everyone needs to year and see about bitesize moments that are promoting or putting brands in the public eye. So those are big parts of the story that we work with too. So pretty much brands now. It used to be paid advertising, TV, newspaper, radio, but now it's it's everything and we have to be one of the expressions we use at our office is every moment is a moment of truth, because from an email to an APP experience, to a website, to a store experience, to a PR event to, you know, watching a movie and you see the trailer or a commercial there, all of those are moments that we can really affect. How someone thinks about a brand and clients are looking for us to really pick the right moments and be meaningful there. And now everything's about conversions. We have to get people to actually buy. Can't do those three year in three years of buy because they love the emotion of a BMW. It's no needs to buy, like before Christmas. It's like a fan of OGL these work right, we sell or else it's everything is conversion now. So what types of companies come to you and why do they hire you? What do you would problem you solve for those companies? Well, it's changed a lot. I think a lot of the big network agencies really made their way with a CPG package, goods consumer package, because like the Jay Jay's at the Jake Johnson and Johnson Peng, you know leaver, that's what it was the big marketing companies before. Now it's completely change. They still have a huge role, but with things like Amazon and Walmart, dots a there, those brands are finding it hard to compete and so you can see their sales numbers and ads been numbers really going down. At the same time, different tech companies, phone companies, are really exploding. There's luxury brands premium brands are really exploding fashion brands, so there's a lot of opportunity there. We have also food brands, like food is. Food has always been big, but there seems to be a real learning that's happened where we can really promote food from you know, QS are to delivery services to restaurant chains that have a you know, different delicacy that they promote. So foods become really a big part of culture. Now Music, as your business was like. Music is still strong but also under major transformation and you know, one of our our global seal had a story last time she was here a couple weeks ago. She said every client of ours is under major transformation and they're really looking to us as through innovation or parts of different ways to think about their business to really give them an advantage against all their competitors, because it's every business has changed. Education, as we were talking, has changed dramatically, music industries change. It's like everyone that we can talk to or work with their they're thinking that their business is under complete transformation, but it's everyone. There isn't one that isn't, and so they're hiring you to help them through that transition. Yeah, sorry, I didn't quite answer your question. There's, you know, they have to sell product or make money in your quarterback quarter now a month to month. And how do we get before you do a TV spot and everyone sees it or because you're watching gray's anatomy or whatever...

...it is. But now people are spend their time differently. So how do you reach the right people, targeted people, with the right message? Do you have the right product offering? So we're working with them on from what the product is to how the product is positioned, to how to reach the people to convert them on it, and then, even with that, how do the people who buy it become part of your promotion after that, and then how do you get them to buy it again? So the loyalty part of it. Those are all things that we can help them with and each client asks us for different things or all those things or parts of those things. It's a some people say it's a really difficult time for advertising agencies, but it's also an exciting time. Like we've built robots for clients, we've built prosthetic legs for clients, we've done big TV spots for them as well. So creativity is being used in so many different ways. Now, like when, when I first came into the business, creativity was applied through TV and print, debts and rare. Now we're coming up with acting machines, where or that you know, facial reck recognition software's with with where a robot, the races usain Bolt that we created. It's and the world, and that's just some stuff I touched. The world is creating things that are curing diseases and helping people in thormal countries to have light. We've seen that happen through advertising agencies. It's it's a remarkable time. It's but it's a challenge time because the innovation that you primarily speak about it's unknown. So how to eat as a business, how to pay for it? So when we say we want to do this for you and clients don't you know how to use it yet, they don't how to pay for it. Yet so often we do it as a prototyping, which is not a good business model to prototype, and with prototype there's lots of failure. So the cost of prototyping is not a good business model to sell one and every ten things you try to sell. But we have to still keep going because that innovation is what you get one of those to pop, it's everyone in the whole world wants to work with you. So let's I want to get into that. Your actual how do you innovate? So I did some few friends in the in the business, and when I said I was going to sit down and have a conversation with you, they get a lot of interesting things to say. So I'm wanting to one that's well, I'll tell you afterwards. So one on said he's done a ton of amazing work for really long time. Well, firstly, you said he's he's legendary in the industry. So done a ton of I said, what makes the legendary? Ton of amazing work for a very long time? To be consistently that good is a really hard thing to do in advertising. A lot of creatives make their career on one great piece of work. He's been doing it for years and he's always kept a very high bar. So these companies, why I thought you'd be really interesting to talk about innovation, because these companies come to you to help them innovate and there's a lot of pressure like, all right, we're here, we know that you guys do this. Go innovate, help us innovate. So there's a huge expectation because you've done great work in the past. There's the pressure of having to deliver now for this next client. So how do you and your team come up with these innovative ideas? What starts with great people, of course, I would say. The one credit I'll give myself is through the last I'll say ten fifteen years, I feel like I have a good ability to recognize talent and people in it might not be talent, that might be the wrong word, people who have the desire or the will to try to stand out and do something amazing, because you can meet people and just by meeting them, know that they just don't, at least at this stage of their career, have it in them to to do what it takes so much. Your probably mean that first five jobs, if someone looked at me...

...like he's going nowhere, that's a bit harsh. But you know, you meet people, you just did. They had that spark or that that passion where they're not going to settle and they're going to like a lot of this stuff is after hours over the week. It's the have almost like a day job. And then innovation and over and above creativity is the evening job, when when you have to order pizza in and you have to give up the weekend, and it might be weekends, several weekends in a row, and some people just want to be a part of that. They want to be part of something really special. So recognizing those people is the starting point, because last thing you want do is force people to do this stuff and then they're not going to put in the effort that it takes. So once you have the people, I think it's important to create the vision or set the tone for the company that this is something that we believe in and that we will back. A lot of companies talk about innovation or doing something amazing for the world and I've heard of many ad agencies. They have these get together as where everyone throws in ideas as like a brainstorm, and you know there might be three or four really good ideas, but then it just goes in a black hole and dies. For me, whenever I see a great idea, and I hope my company that I met now, but definitely previous companies, know if Brent really likes it, he'll find a way, he'll invest in it, he'll put money behind it, he'll take it to clients and fight to sell it through and it might not get through every time, but they know that I'll give it my all to make it happen. So creating that culture of like yeah, if I put in the time, in the effort and and really work on this, then it has a chance to have life. The same time, you have to work with clients and say, okay, what are we really trying to do here? Are Do you again? Every clients is yeah, we want ambition, we want innovation, and then when you say what if we had this for you, they're like, yeah, we don't have the budget for that, or no, we can't quite do that. which need to have the incremental sale of one percent and just need to get into lob laws on the shelf like you know. So again, similar to recognizing talent, you have to recognize which clients have that ambition, like they really want to make a name for themselves, they really have they'll fight for it internally, because often you're not talking to the CEO, you're talking to a senior marketer who will have to go and fight for it, find the budget, find the funding and also take a risk because it could fail. So these clients that are also kin to your vision of like let's do something that's gonna, I want to say, make your career, but that you can be so proud of that you can look back over that year or two years and say, yeah, we did that, we did that together, and it was probably so hard. I was gonna say inappropriate word there, but I it was so hard. But that's when it's worth it, when others fall down and you were able to keep going. I'm that's why I like the we talked about. Supports Super Bowl or Stanley Cup, like it. It's so hard to win. It's so hot. It's also so hard to do amazing creative, innovative work, like, I'm sure, the people who actually met with google to create Google maps. Not Easy. Not Easy. You have to get every street in the world, you know, like that's not an easy task. Ways Uber like these new inventions, new technologies like not easy. So it goes for everything that we do. It's not easy to do great things, or else it wouldn't be worth it. So if you we were to plant a hidden camera in the office a client comes in, I know there's many other steps, but, says Brent, we've got this problem. We are opportunity. We want you to help with it. They leave. Assuming you've set the right environment. People know that it's a safe place to bring for their ideas. You've got the right people on the bus. What happens behind turns. I mean there's a lot of strategic foundation that has to go into it. Like you have to understand the the audience and the decisionmaking. So let's assume you have all the strategy and the and the the consumer or the the user figured out.

And but first, so first, then you're doing your own homework to figure out who's the custom you're doing all that first, doing all that or were whether it's a user experience understanding or a customer purchase journey. So let's just I don't know. Let's take cars. Let's he always an easy one. So if if you they want to market a new car, it's coming out, it's some type of crossover vehicle that had touch back and it's maybe it's electric or a hybrid or something. You have to forgot who's in a buy that car. And that's really interesting to think about because a lot of times the buyer might be different from the marketing target. Minis a good example. Mini you advertise it as a young person's car, you know, twenty five year old having fun, care free lifestyle, but the buyers are and they're like s because it's expensive. But the forty year old that buys it wants to feel like a twenty five year old. So he advertise twenty five year olds in the lifestyle and the four year goes yeah, I still got it, I'm twenty five, I should buy that car. So those are a little small distinctions to figure out. So you have to figure out the audience and also, if it's like a digital if it's an APP that you're creating, how are people going to use it? When are they going to use it? You have to understand the whole competitive space. You have understand the product, of course, really well too, because what's the distinct thing about it that's going to stand out? Is a product fit to be marketed as it is? Does it have to be tweaked? If it's an APP or a technology? It's tough with something like Samsung or an iphone because that's so exclusively confidential you can't affect it. But there are products that we work with clients to go with. This is kind of it. And then we have to help them finish it. You know it's really missing this, or the UX is off on this or and then, if it actually wants the product is right to we have to tweak it for a different audience. That we have to have different versions, different colors. It would be an easy one. Naming is a big one. Naming is a big the product might be perfect, but if you get the wrong name, people just don't want to have it. So those are important things to think about. So there's a lot of a lot of questions we have to answer to know. I think there's an the great expression to have the right answer, you have to know a question to ask. So what are we trying to solve? And those are often the client doesn't drop it on your lap and walkway. It's really worked out together really early on in the Proto Beta stage that we work through it. Also when we get to the final stages, we have a really good understanding of where we need to go with the the product or the the messaging. You have a playbook on that, like these are. This is kind of our way that we go about gathering in or people on your team that are specialist in that. Yeah, again, it depends on what the problem is. If it's a naming. Basically everything starts with our strategic group. So they're labeled. Are Smart people who really understand consumers, and the street group has multiple types of people. Then there's like researchers, there's user experience people, there are people who really understand consumers and their behaviors and they would really take the problem and try to break it down to this is a maybe an overused word, but an insight. What's the real trigger here? From UX it's pretty straightforward in the how are people going to use this product or this APP or or the experience, experimential event or something. But when you really get into someone's psyche about what's really driving them, whether it's something vain, you know, fashion or like, why are people actually buying an iphone versus a Samsung or or something? Why are people buying Nice cars or more practical cars? Why are people going to this hospital versus that hospital? Is it always come down to what's best? Often it isn't. And in research is tricky because if you ask people to always tell you the right answer,...

...that they should tell you, but that isn't always the truth. Someone actually I work with said there's an interesting they're an interesting study to look at your social media profile and your google searches and how different they would be, because your social media profile of course, has like everything you want the world to see, but your google searches are what's actually you're thinking about. So it could be depression, it could be having a fair dating sites, you know, to helping your child who's struggling, but in social media they are a superstar. So it was an interesting thing to think about that. What people say and what people do or think are not aligned. So having great strategists that can uncover those things is a really great ability to give us an advantage when we start talking to consumers or users about how don't experience something. So it's not client leaves door closes behind them. All right, let's get a pizza and red bull and white boards instead of coming up with ideas. So there's there's a whole process, is a whole strategic foundation that has to go into it. I mean there are times when it's really condensed. Like you, you might only have pizza and whiteboard time to get something done because who knows what happened to cause the delays or the urgency to it. There might be another client launches a big news item in the press and your client goes, holy smokes, we need to be in market with this tomorrow. What's our best reaction to this? And that is those are tough situations to you because often it's a reaction and you're already, you know, on your heels. So those things happen to it's also exciting too, because whenever there's a you know, a challenge or a problem or you're under the gun, it often creates, you know, something extra special to because everyone's everyone's willing to take a risk a bit more than right. So let's assume we've done now fast forward a bit. We've got the right team, we have right environment, we've done our background homework. Yeah, now it comes time to start to maybe there's not, but how do you actually start to come up with the ideas? Yeah, for sure. So then then you have, traditionally they be called a creative department, which has expanded so greatly now to what is creative with a lot of different companies, from advertising to just in general, are bringing different types of thinkers that are, you come, problem solvers, you can call them. Just have a have a knack for thinking about things differently, different approaches. So you bringing these people who could be photographers, it could be prototypers, it could be coders, it could be writers, are directors, filmmakers, and bringing them into Kay. How do we we know the audience or the target or the the experience we want to create. We know the insight. Let's say it's it's four year old men want to feel young again. I don't know, is the insight and the x product. Then there's you can do different ways, but we often do is have a sort of kickoff brainstorm that just gets almost the bad ideas out so we can understand what the world we're talking about. Is often the treated group. If they're really good, we'll say here's a bunch of thoughts, starters already. You know, that will give us some material to even start on. Once you have that, often, at least the way we do, we break off into separate groups because group think happens, which sometimes it's great and yeah, and one just gets really excited about something and you spend a lot of time on it and it could really build. So that could be great, but often it's not the best utilization of people. You kind of won't get everyone thinking about what the subject matters are. But then it's best sort of break out or one can go down their own path, and I personally like the competitiveness of it all that people have to come back and...

...say I have these ideas and someone else has these and like oaths, that one's better. And so you don't want to come back with in a group everyone's gets credit and it scraat. But sometimes having that little extra pressure of competition really drive people to give their all. And back to that identifying the right person who really want to make their mark, not in a negative, tearing down others way, but just really want to prove themselves or do something special. They'll just drive it a little extra, extra hard. So there's a whole section where people will work on their own thing. We might come back into a share back, probably a creative leader, potentially client, come back and really sort of narrow like there might be twenty ideas and, like you know, these eight really have some merit and number six and seven actually pretty close. Maybe bucket those together and then we might rebrief, knowing what we see and learn and maybe took the insight and just sort of tweaked it. Say you know what we actually worked on on recently about working to product for the holidays, and we briefed a bit more broadly and we came back and there was these ideas that were much more narrow Si this is actually the idea. So then we rebriefed everyone else on the tighter idea and it said ivery want to only work on that, and then everyone worked on that and came back again. So sometimes it's not efficient, but for big important projects it's worth while to go through the exercise to see where ever and sort of goes, to see if we actually have the right way in. Then everyone work on that and then once you have that, then you might know down to three or so ideas, and it all depends on the challenge. was probably the client comes in and you really talk it through on what's going to be right and what's wrong, and then you have to explore the real viability of it, whether it's in production or in a build, timing, cost, these are all things that come into play as well, and what are the compromises you might have to make with timing or cost or even even on how the consumer might it might take longer to really create the the change that we want to persuade this. One of these might be a bit further out. So it's like we don't have time for that, even though it's better, we don't have time for it. So those are all depends on the KPI to figure out what the right path is. Ford they might even like do two or three, all three of them. It all depends, or pick none of them send you back to the your back. Yeah, and that happens a lot too. So how big of a time period does that? Well, it could be six months, it could be a weekend. I forgot to mention once you get to these days again, it was a bit easier maybe fifteen years ago, but now, once you're think about ideas, you really have to think through execution. So from production, if it's a product, you have to really think about production timelines, if to make it in China or in the US, with a cost star of the differences, quality approvals for legal systems government. So those are all things to consider as well. If it's more of a marketing thing than you have to work with media companies. Let say, have a great idea for cinema. I don't know, and you're like it's perfect to go with the new avengers film or something making it up like you can't. It's already sold out. A lot of good one. We had an idea that we want to sell something in law blaws, a new product for law laws, and the creative team of the work so excited about the new thing. And then went to our shopper team, our retail team, like you've already missed the holidays and shoppers or law blaws have already bought in the whole holiday program in May and it was June. So I oh, well, that ideas out. So again you have to understand where it's going to go in the timing of that, and sometimes you don't know because you don't have the idea yet. We wouldn't have had the idea to sell in lab blaws or sobs or whatever until you actually have the idea, because you couldn't investigate the law blast thing in advance because there was no idea to sell it in law blass. So it's a lot of you don't know until you have it. And then once you have...

...it, you got to figure out all the different permutations of actually making it and getting it out there to the world. So when do you introduce those constraints, like would you bring if that idea sell in a major grocery store? Whatever Law Lass? So he's doesn't matter. Before you brought that to the client to see two sides of it. One as you bring it to them and they say yeah, that sounds great. Then you come back and say sorry, actually, we looked at it, we can't do it. We would. We would have some experts in execution, production building. That would give you a sense to say, like, you know, that's really expensive. You know you can't just build that with a three printer. It's a whole manufacturing process, and others would say like yeah, absolutely doable, I know the right guy who does that stuff and there should be no problem. So there's a bit of you have to go in with a bit of an idea. I will say, though, that depends on again with the project is you often it makes sense to have one that's more up the middle, I'll call it. So let's say you have a brief or something. You gotta come in with one that's like pretty biable, pretty doable on budget. Clients like Yep, that the safe one, the safe thay, safe one. You got to have the safe one, and y'all often present the safe one first, like okay, so the client almost relaxes. Okay, I got if push comes to shove, I could put that into market and and I'll meet my numbers and everything be good. My bosses will be happy. And then you might push them like but if you really want to try something, your causha x dollars more, but this could be really great for you. And then maybe there's one that's like, okay, this is a shoe for the moon, one that's going to like change the whole world. So you would hope to have that type of sequencing. It doesn't always happen. You might have two that are the safe one, and again you have to read the client. The client might be a safe guy girl. That says that you like, don't even waste your time on number two and three, just to like three of the first safe areas that are slightly different. And that's a I don't call it a business decision, but it it's an experience that senior people should know right away. If you're working with a company that's just known to be a bit safer, there's no use killing yourself on, you know, a new rocket ship. Okay, do you think the clients. Do you have favorites going in? I mean when you go to those pictures there you can all this you have to do and need. Do you? Do you at all push them on it? You know, look, this is the safe one. We think it accomplishes your goals. This one's the team favorite. Yeah, do you do you ever? For sure it's probably pretty known that clients will ask you what your recommendation is. A good client partner will say which you're recommend because they trust you and and want to hear what you think. I think it's less and less. They might ask you out of courtesy, but they almost don't care what you think. It's because it's their decision. So, but we still do it because we still have our favorites. I think our body language tells you what I fear, even if we said nothing. The way you present it, the the support materials you build around it, it should be pretty obvious. But the same time I've been in presentations for ideas that our internal group is split on which one's people like as well. So those get a little tricky because as the senior person, you don't want to be like well, it's I'm the senior person, so I'm telling what everyone should like. So you can again, depending on the client, the relationship you have, you can say, well, actually, you know, sue, as you relakes this one, but I really like this one, so you can can't go wrong. Or the total cop that, which I've used as well as like, depending on your goals. This one will do a great job of this and this one will do a great job of this, so you can't go wrong either one, depending on what you want. Is your outcome. How do you, as a senior person, WAG in on those? I always hesitant sometimes to way in speak too early, because then people oh well, I mean Brent's been in the business for yeah, so long. He's had a bunch of success. Like I can't now. I can't give my idea of just clearly I think even now I think prince is better. So do you personally get involved in these? I do. I probably can be better at that because...

I can hide things I like or don't like. So you want to be respectful list and I I'm creative at heart, so I understand how hard it is to present ideas to not shoot it down so hard that people feel demoralized from it. Recently, my new work. People have have given a coin to phrase. It's called resting Brent face and apparently it's what my face does when I'm clear, just clearly disappointed, and which was. It's very funny. It's sad for me to hear that a little bit because I really do get excited about work too, but my bar is high. So I'll there's acceptable stuff like yeah, okay, and my face may not show great enthusiasm and their stuff. That's not good enough. Most stuff is not good enough and that's what your team wants from me to say that's not good enough. I think they don't want me to say that's good enough when they even know it's not good enough. And then the stuff that I love, which which they'll feel from me and they probably feel it too as are presenting it. So yeah, I weigh in. There's definitely senior people who might be, you know, I don't want to use word wrong, but less senier than me that I want to make sure that they have their credibility and their authority unquestioned as well, because I'm not in every meeting. I don't want them to think, well, their opinion doesn't matter, it's only brands that matters. So I don't get involved with everything. You know you'll pick my spots whether to disagree with someone, because it's the end goal or the the war, not the battle. So Ok, yeah, I don't love this one, but you know Joe does, so I'll support Joe's idea here, even though I prefer the other idea. So you gotta be smart of a when and where you might speak. Obviously, if it's a big deal, a big moment, big revenue, you know I gotta speak up. And really also, one of the things I've been working with one of my leaders now on is like don't when you know something's off, don't give it time, because it makes people spin. So if you have like three areas that you're pursuing and you just know one's not there, even though you want to be nice to the person who really loves it, if you give them time with that and think, yeah, they could be something there, I'm not sure, then they're and spend another two days on that idea, even though you know these other two ideas are where the the future is. So as a leader you also have to make hard decisions just to save them from themselves, and that's that's something that is important too. That's good. I found there was an old article written about you and you said there's paraphrasing, but sort of the team will come up with an idea. But then you talked about the process of crafting an idea until it becomes a great idea. Hmm, what is that process? How do you turn good in the great? It's obviously iterative in this a lot of people get involved with it, but I think with anything, I think it was a again I'm dropping names about a google conversation I had. Is someone comes up with, because I asked the Google guys, like how do you know who came up with Google maps, like it's such a great idea or one of these like these amazing things that Google does? Gmail. Who came up with g like, because who carries? Who came up with it? We all know that. Eight people who sat in the room for the next two years it built it. And I was like that's really interesting, because an advertising the person that came up with the ideas the hero, and for googles like no, the eight people who built it are you know, we want to go to the moon. Great, is that the great idea? No, there's people who actually have to make the rocket ship to get there. So that was a real new way for me to think about that. But it's I think the tech industry is really helped our advertising industry to become more iterative and just keep making it better, whereas before, again, it was mostly in film situation or print. You like you spend so much time crafting it solds perfect and you put it out there say there it is our perfect masterpiece film. But nowadays, like here, it is mostly what do people think? Okay, let's okay.

You don't like the ending, let's change any okay, you don't like this, let's fix this. People are dropping off because our data shows that are not experiencing. They don't get the stage to the APP. Okay, let's change that. So it's a lot of data that helps us get better. Just user experience helps us get better. But I would say I think we all look and it's just human chie you look at stuff and says is not quite good enough. So it's if you have the time, you have the resources of money, you just keep pushing it till till he reaches a standard that you think is great if the product calls for that. So on some specific ideas that have turned into great ideas. I mean you've won your team and your work. You want a ton of wars. It a lot of recognition. The another person I spoke to in the industry. This is a friend, Spencer Dingle, I'd say a rising star in the creative space. I asked what was what was some of his favorite work that you've done, and the pain squad campaign for sick kids was one of his favorite campaigns to ever come out of Canada. So I know that one specifically. You were talked about. The creative is not a department, so it's not like, okay, bring in the creative people, now we need to come up with ideas. So how did you how did that come together? How did you source different ideas from different people in the organization? I'm really proud of the team on that one. It was so unorthodox. I'll say how that created. Our it person was married to a nurse at the sick kids hospital and they're talking about how there's these papered paper journals the kids with sicknesses have to fill out about how they feel pain and they wanted to just move it all into a palm upot like a pomp pilot kind of thing and the guy came. So the it guy said, oh, yeah, they want us to move it all onto a palm pilot kind of thing, and are like well, that's that's really doesn't seem to make any sense. So we went presented to sick kids, the K we think there's a different way to do this. So this is okay, will sure. Like what can we do that? Very little money. So a creative team started the project and said, and they had two ideas, let's make a let's make it an iphone that has some interactivity to it that can be like a game, because gaming was growing and kids like games and it might get them because the challenge of people weren't filling out their data and the data is important for helping them manage their sickness, like where the pain was, how much pain it is, pain after certain medications. So these are all important things for doctors to know, but kids are sick and they don't want to do the journals to keep track of it all. So it's a real need. So the two games that they came up with is a game show and then one was a detective idea. So, you know, we talked about in trying said it was got to be the detective one. So we went presented this whole detective idea and this kid's release is great. Can See how kids we get involved. There be like levels from, you know, like private, sergeant, captain too, full detective and those of those the so there's like achievements. So it all made sense. And then we started to build it out and we thought it great if we had these, this is back to execution, these little videos that had someone come on say hey, great job, billy, like you filled out your thing for two days in a row, like you got promoted to, you know, captain and are one of our people's staffs that hey found out about his say hey, I'm friends with some of the cast. This is now, like almost ten years ago, but rookie blue, the TV show, Canadian cop, Teth show. I could maybe talk to them and see if some of them would be the people in it. It's for sick kids, it's for good cause. She told the idea to them. They thought that was great. But they're also friends with the casts a flash point, which is another TV show, cop show, and they said they would do it too. So some we had all these actors, wellknown Canadian actors, one was actually a well known international actor from flashpoint and they did all this videos for free, no cost, in full uniform. So...

...the whole wardrobe team for Ricky Blues and flashpoint all volunteer to get them all their gear ready to be dressed. Our It guy also filmed at all. We filmed it on our agency rooftop. For some of them, I know some of them, we actually shot it on their set. I member scenes where some of our crave teams and our staff are holding lighting gear because there's no money, so there's no production team. Is literally are people holding lighting gear and those, you know, those big white boards to make sure there's no reflection. Or we did that. Our own guys built the APP ourselves and then we of course did user testing with with the children, and they loved it and they gave us feedback on how to make it better. So it was, you know, creative people, our it Guy Staff. The person who knew the flashpoint people were was our communications experts or she had the connections. There are CEO which invest time into this. So he was also a big part of by saying yeah, I don't mind US spending all this time on this way without really getting paid much for it. So it was as a full agency effort to get it all together. Obviously a great cause and we help kids manage their pain better, so it was great. So do you think it's your you have an interesting role. I think it's unique in the agency world where you were the dual hats or your sal yea. Yeah, you current role responsible for both the business and the creative yes. So do you think that getting to also run the business side of things, do you get to shape the culture, have a bigger hand and hiring and have like a broader picture and that is what helps you put resources or the right people towards the creative side? Like to these two Hel up one another in theorious. Or would you be better off, would a creative person be better off spending a hundred percent of the time of the creative? I think it depends and I know it's a bit of a couple answer, but the hope is in the plan and the Path is the dual role is helping us to be more creative with our product, because I can have final say on where funding goes and time goes and what our culture is. I would say the creative person often is the lead in the culture for the agency anyway. But the challenge for me has been I'm not spending enough time on the things that I want to. I think that's everyone like you just don't, but for sure more so for me now, because creative in some ways can someone else can do it. So the the next in command people con sider drive the creative but big business decisions, financials, you know. The CEO has to be in those meetings and has to be in those big client meetings that are talking about, you know, fee and revenue, and we're looking at dealing with New York or the CFOs. They're like those are I can't send someone on my behalf, so I have to do those and then whatever time is laughed I can spend on the creative part. I wish she was more balanced, especially in an industry, in a time where the creative is so important. So that is but I'm only seven months into my new role. I think maybe the first seven months I have to spend it on the things that are the most transformational for our agency and how we work. I'm hoping that the percentage can skew more towards creative over in the next year. That's the hope, and I think it's so. There's a woman named Judy John who is arguably the most successful creative leader Canada's ever had. She was at a place called Lui Bernette and she was the CEO, CCEO as well.

So she really and I had I was pretty good friends with her, and she would tell me, yeah, like I knew that some of the key decisions I was making is really going to help affect our product to be better. And in my previous organizations when I was the creative leader, I had a great CEO too, so we're pretty in tune with some of the decisions we made. But I knew at the end of the day it was her call. My CEOS of female her call on that final decision outside of the creative realm, and I didn't always agree right. So now it's it's my call, right or wrong, and through my filter of creative product I'm making the decisions. So I think clients recognize when they're working with DDB the chief creative is also the chief exact sends a message for everyone that comes works at our organization they know that's the case too. So it starts to create the culture of and this our global positioning to we are doubling down on creativity. Our founders got named Bill Burnbach, who was really the gifts credit to our he's given credit as who brought the whole revolution of creativity in advertising. I think advertising before was, you know, like basically announcements of what is new and product, but bill burn Bach in the s really brought in creativity as part of what advertising could be. So that's what our founder created and our leaders globally are saying we're in this whole world of data and analytics and all these other things that are, you know, ai or whatever. Creativity still the thing that's going to move us forward and we're a clients really need from us. So I think it was a good decision for me, obviously, to take on this role in within this company. So how do you figure out how to split your time then? The O there any hacks? Is I don't even hacks this around word, but do you have any habits that you out to used to plan your weeks or days or lk at your time or decide what to focus on? I think the people I surround myself with really have to help me. The creative leaders have to like bring me in in those key moments where they really think it's an important moment. I think the business side leaders also have to respect I might not be there all the time for them because I'm focusing on something else, because they again know that end result of our product is most important. So they might forgive me not being part of a final angial call or I'm in a big create a presentation, so I'm not in an operations meeting. So they might do a bit more as well. Everyone's taken on a bit more. So I can do, you know, not a good job on both. So and what do you do to keep things are changing so quickly in that space. What do you do to keep learning and stay relevant? Or you travel a lot? Are you reading a lot? What do you just stay relevant? I think this goes again go back to my being fired out of my first four to my first five job. I absolutely believe that if you don't stay relevant and you can't contribute a lot constantly, that you're going to be left behind and be if you have to be indispensable. So I, out of insecurity or fear, partly unhealthy, try to keep up as much as I can because if I don't like I'll be irrelevant. So in our industry, like I'm always reading about the latest thing. It's partly out of fascination because it's so exciting our industry and innovation and all the new things that are happening, but it's also because I know I have to and clients are looking for that from me. I have to have conversations with clients all the time and I they look to me to be the one pushing them. I kind of clients tell me about a new technology that's coming out or marketing idea, because then I then what good am I to them? They're looking for me for that. At the same time, like I I really enjoy as an agency positioning everywhere...

I've been to be the as much as we can be, the industry leader in the cutting edge. So all I'm always pushing my teams like let's what's the latest thing? Let's keep pushing on that again, trying to track the right people that think about those things. So it's something that I want people to teach me. I keep learning. I do it for both good reasons and maybe a bit of an insecurity reasons. You've won ton of awards, including twenty five can lion awards top ads of the year, bunch of recognitions from Fast Company for top ads and innovation. Is there one campaign or award that stands out? Is doesn't have to be your proudest, but a really, really proud accomplishment. I think the sick kids one that you mentioned is important because it really changed, at least in Canada. Would an add agency could do solving real user problems. It's tough because it has a bit of a that that thing. It's been ten years or so since it. So what's the frequency bias or something? So sometimes, as much as I love innovation and technology, our team did a New York did a role x campaign for the Oscars that is so beautiful and just amazing and engaging that I love that what they did there. We, I mentioned that prostatic leg that we built, came up with. It's an amphibious prosthetic leg. It was a first one for a veteran. Typically, when you go swimming you have tick off your procestic lect to go swimming. I'm or put on another prosthetic leg that swims and one that walks. So again I met Ne no one thought that that's even important, but our team had this idea because you can't. So people would and with prosthetic legs can't do a trathlon because they have to put on different legs for swimming, for cycling, for running. So the first idea was, can we come up with the first trathlon prosthetic leg? Now there's a lot of rules in the Olympics and parallel games that don't a light to do certain things. So we okay, well, there's still a need here for people to come up with prosthetic legs. We work with this hospital, hospital systems to invent the first amphibious prosthetic leg. So there's like dozens of people in the USA now that have these legs that allow them to walk on the beach with their kid and then go run in the water and swim, which is amazing. It's amazing. Yeah, I want to ask you quickly about celebrating with the team. So conversations, especially in the startup world that I've been a part of, you're moving so quick and trying to grow so quickly that we often fail to stop and celebrate. Yeah, is there something anything that you do as with your team's when? I guess the award shows are a great reason to stop and pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate with everybody. But what do you do to recognize when you to you as a team do something well? Well, but currently, for sure there's there's monumental moments that happen that you can't help it celebrate. So a big award or a big client win as well, or big campaign gets released. Those are obvious ones, I would say. And of course there's times of year like end of the year celebration, holiday party, or it's usually a summer event as well that people come together for. Our coming is a good job. Every month we have it's called hot dog Friday and everyone comes together and we celebrate people, we celebrate successes, we celebrate new hires, say goodbye to people that are leaving and it's a great moment forever to just come together and look everyone in the eye once usually got their head down, so this is a moment where we can all see each other. It's called hot dog Friday, but it's not hot dogs. It's like a pretty good meal that we spend pretty good money on for people have a it's gotta be good enough food people come to it. So people come and they have a conversation.

Might have a guest speaker that does it. So it's a great way. It may not be a celebration like raw rob but it's a celebration of US coming together, which I think is important in our industry, because I was you going to use or collaboration, but I actually sort of vetoed the word collaboration in our office to change it to interdependence. Collaboration is helping interdependence as we depend on each other and we need each other to be successful, which is, I think, a stronger word to create that desired result. But yeah, I don't I would say overall, though, I don't think we do enough. To answer your question, I think our industries and in a difficult time too, because the revenue isn't what it used to be. So sometimes celebrations cost money. If you're a big, great start up making lots of money, you might you might be aild to have that big party and fly round to Disney world, but if we have a good summer party, then we'll take that. That's good. I like hot dog Friday. I had envisioned like barbecue hot dogs, but you you go a little bit of yeah, but it's a good started. Our founder went to a client lunch barbecue or something, same as Frank Palmer and the plant, this whole barbecue event, but then actually no one was working the barbecue. So he said I'll do it. So he cooked out dogs for everyone at this event as a very senior person as client events. So he became famous like Oh yeah, he's the guy that ran the hot dog barbecue thing, because he said basically like if no one's gonna do it, I'll do it. So became hot dog Friday. We have the whole room dedicate to him called the frank room, and it's got all these catchup tops that designed his face basically. So yeah, he was a pretty remarkable person. That's awesome. Yeah, last one. Is there any advice you'd give your, call it twenty five year old self, if you could rewind the tape back to twenty five? I mean my my experiences were quite different. So I would say like don't don't give up, keep at it, knowing the where and netted out. Stay the course, don't get too down in yourself. You don't have to have it all figured out. And of course I would say maybe you want to learn a bit quicker, to work a bit harder, but I think life is pretty hard and probably harder today for the twenty five year old. So I don't know the status by people change their jobs. I'm a five times in their career or something like. Not even just companies, like the actual care that they're doing. So I think it's pretty there to say like, don't put too much pressure on yourself. The world's the world's hard enough. So you know, that's joy. Yeah, that's good, good advice. This has been great. Thank you so much for I know you've got a lot of demands on your time, so I really appreciate you absolutely down and is great sharing some of your life lessons and hopefully listeners might quite value thank you again. Thank you. You've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV dot ce a forwards lash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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