End of an era

It's a regular occurrence at Strategy to publish news of the comings and goings of various marketing industry personnel. Occasionally, such news focuses on staffing changes within Brunico Communications itself, the company that publishes this periodical. This issue, we're sorry to...

It’s a regular occurrence at Strategy to publish news of the comings and goings of various marketing industry personnel. Occasionally, such news focuses on staffing changes within Brunico Communications itself, the company that publishes this periodical. This issue, we’re sorry to say, marks the last in which Strategy’s founding editor, Mark Smyka, will be listed on the masthead as a senior vice-president within the company, as he has made a personal decision to embark on a new direction in his career and his life.

Here, Mark shares his thoughts behind his decision:

I suppose that most people carry around in their heads meaningful phrases and aphorisms that pop up, like guideposts, to help them through difficult moments in life. When I began contemplating what for me was to become the toughest decision in my professional career, the one thought that helped me through was a comment that appeared in a story that ran in KidScreen three years ago.

It was a tribute to Joe Bacal and his partner Tom Griffin, who together built the New York ad agency Griffin Bacal into one of the world’s leading specialists in kids advertising.

I had asked the reporter to make sure to explore, with Joe in particular, how he had found the courage to leave his comfortable agency surroundings (he was at Benton and Bowles at the time) and start something new. His answer appeared in the opening sentence. It read:

‘I met Ray Bradbury at a dinner a couple of years ago and we got to talking about creative courage,’ remembers Joe Bacal. ‘And he said, ‘If you get to the edge of the cliff, don’t be afraid to jump off. Have faith that you’ll grow wings on the way down.”Well, I never met Ray Bradbury, but I did meet Joe Bacal and got to know him well when we launched the Golden Marble Awards almost two years ago. Joe doesn’t even know how he’s influenced me with that wonderful anecdote. But it was that thought – of finding the faith in oneself – that helped me muster up the resolve to leave this company, which I have loved and helped build and will so miss.

In particular I will miss my partnership with Jim Shenkman, a unique individual, who has been my greatest inspiration and the foundation of whatever creative accomplishments I’ve achieved at Brunico.

Mark Smyka

Missed, but not forgotten

Almost 14 years ago, someone suggested to me that a young associate editor at Marketing magazine might be a perfect choice to help launch a newspaper about the film, TV, and radio business in Canada. A few days later, I met Mark Smyka and learned that not only was he eager for a new opportunity, but that he had his own dream of launching a magazine about commercial production in Canada.

Mark and I immediately clicked and within just a few days, he had agreed to leave Maclean Hunter after eight years to join me, someone who knew nothing about either publishing or the film, TV, and commercial production business. We combined our ideas and Mark became an investor and founding shareholder. Together we moved very fast. Within five weeks of meeting, we had named Playback (our first publication), developed a business plan, assembled the investors, commissioned a design, and incorporated the company.

Almost from the day we began working together, Mark wanted to launch a business publication that was really about marketing and not just the advertising and services business. Hence, Strategy was born three years after Brunico began and, under Mark’s editorship, it quickly became one of Canada’s largest trade papers.

In 1995, we decided that it was time to go international and Mark became the founding editor of KidScreen, probably the first truly international trade magazine to be published out of Canada. In 1998, Mark realized another long-held dream, but on a much larger and more successful scale than he had previously imagined. Organizing an advertising award show was something he had long wanted to do. But to put one on in New York City, the centre of the advertising universe, and attract a huge audience right off the bat, was a remarkable accomplishment. And so with Mark as the champion, the first ever Golden Marble Awards were born.

The publication of Boards last Fall was Mark’s fifth product launch. Almost ironically, this launch brought Mark full circle back to when we first met in 1986 and he described his idea for a commercial production magazine for Canada – only with Boards, we are doing it on a global scale.

Mark is now ready for his next challenges, but he is looking for something very different. And so here I am today, almost 14 years and five amazing product launches later and I find myself announcing that Mark is leaving Brunico Communications, the company he very much helped to conceive and build.

Mark will be very much missed. He has been an editorial inspiration, not only in shaping the content we distribute, but also in recognizing and fostering so much talent over the years. His combination of patience, insight, and caring has been invaluable to not only the success of this business, but also to so many careers he has fostered. I know this was a very difficult decision for Mark to make, because he is leaving behind a family that means so much to him. But his legacy shall long remain and ever be appreciated. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and support. I shall miss him as a partner. I shall always value his friendship.

James Shenkman

President, Brunico Communications Inc.

Executive Publisher, Strategy

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group