We’re in danger of losing our ability to be patient

Rob Young is a founding partner and senior vice-president, planning and research at Toronto-based Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell, one of Canada's largest media management operations. Last month, my father, my daughter and I spent a couple of hours walking...

Rob Young is a founding partner and senior vice-president, planning and research at Toronto-based Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell, one of Canada’s largest media management operations.

Last month, my father, my daughter and I spent a couple of hours walking through the family bush lot – an acreage located in Sombra Township, 50 kilometres south of Sarnia in Lambton County, Ont.

My dad, who’s in his mid-70s, suggested we stop for a moment and ‘listen to the music,’ as he put it. That music was the sound of the countryside, which has a startlingly different quality than the din that assaults us, day in, day out, in our hectic, urban, media-centric environment.

So there we were – three generations of Youngs, standing quietly together in the middle of winter-swept bush. I’m not sure what my dad or my daughter were thinking about, but I was thinking about the very powerful and positive impact that farming once had on Canadians – on their media habits, their lifestyles, and their very souls – and how that impact has diminished to a mere whisper over three short generations.

I was also thinking that the skill-set possessed by good farmers is a skill-set good media managers and brand marketers also possess – the ability to expand one’s decision-making time horizon to include seasons and years, rather than just days and weeks.

My dad assumed full-time farming duties in the late ’30s, when he was only 14 years old. He quit high school to manage that bush lot, selectively cross-cutting ash, buttonwood, oak and maple, sliding the timbers out over hard, frozen ground by horse so as not to damage the property, and then transporting them by horse-drawn sleigh to my grandfather’s mill where they were transformed into usable lumber. So when dad began his full-time farming career, he was younger than my 16-year-old daughter is today. In that year, 24% of Canada’s labour force worked in the agricultural sector. That means that a majority of Canadians were at least familiar with the concept of the family farm and a very significant minority lived the farming lifestyle.

I took my turn working on my grandparents’ farm when I was 14 years old. Many of my peers also took their turn feeding chickens and plowing fields. That was in the early ’60s and, by then, a smaller but still significant 10% of Canada’s labour force worked in the farming business.

Today, only three per cent of Canadians work on the farm. My daughter is the first generation of Youngs not to have some kind of hands-on farming experience.

The family farm, the farming occupation, and the management skill-set that comes with working on a time scale that’s measured in months, seasons and years, rather than weeks, days and hours, is far removed from my daughter and her peers.

It makes me wonder whether perhaps some of the radical differences in media usage between those in the XY segment – people 12-24 years old – and the baby boomer generation might be attributed to the degree of exposure they’ve had to the farming philosophy.

Toronto played host to a farm-aid benefit concert in January of this year. The agri-occupation was portrayed as an endangered species. Tears were shed over plunging commodity prices, lousy returns, bad weather, and the lack of government attention and funding. These are all heart-rending issues – but something more has been lost. We are in danger of losing our ability to be patient and to think in broad time horizons.

Media and marketing professionals take pride in their ability to respond instantaneously and to act on time frames that involve weeks, months and quarters – but few are rewarded for ensuring long-term brand efficacy.

In my view, bush lots and brands have a lot in common. Brands that are tapped out in the short-term have little to offer down the road, but if they’re managed well, brands – like bush lots – replenish each year. Both can be a perpetual, renewable resource if well-managed on a macro timeframe. And they can lose their value if they’re simply clear cut, exploited for short-term gain.

Maybe MBA grads should have to spend a year managing a bush lot before they hit the job market.

Send your comments via e-mail to ryoung@hypn.com.

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

A director of interactive production for Zulubot is among dozens of new faces and roles at the agency, in response to recent wins.
Zulu Alpha Kilo_New Zuligans

Toronto indie shop Zulu Alpha Kilo had made several new hires and promotions on the heels of new business and also organic growth from existing clients.

Zulu could not officially announce the account wins at this time.

However, it can report that Ece Inan, most recently at Toronto design and tech shop Array of Stars, has been named the agency’s new director of interactive production for Zulubot, the agency’s production arm. In the new role, Inan will lead AR, VR, voice and other digital innovation projects.

Also on the production side, James Graham, who has spent the last 17 years with Grip, has joined the agency as its studio director.

Zulu has also made numerous additions on the client services side, led by Michael Brathwaite, also from Grip, as account director.

It’s also announced a spate of new account supervisors, including Hayley Blackmore (from G Adventures), Risa Kastelic (from BT/A), Kara Oddi (also from BT/A), Emily Anzarouth (also from Grip), Chris Rosario (from FCB/Six) and Sarah Shiff (from Rethink).

In addition to the new hires (pictured above), the agency has also announced several promotions: Alyssa Guttman moves from account director to group account director, while Nina Bhayana, Michelle Fournier, Jenn Gaidola-Sobral and Erin McManus have all been promoted to account director, and Haley Holm to account supervisor. On the strategy team, strategists Carly Miller and Spencer MacEachern have both been promoted to strategy director, while Shaunagh Farrelly, who has been with Zulu for two years in a client service role, moves into a new role as a digital strategist.

In December, the shop also announced that Stephanie Yung would be returning to the agency after a stint in New York as its head of design. Recent wins the agency has been able to announce including work as AOR for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a new arrangement with existing client Consonant Skincare, setting up an in-house team to support growth after taking an equity stake in the company.

Zulu president Mike Sutton says it’s wonderful, in a new year, to welcome new faces and energy to the team and says the agency is fortunate to have had so many people across the agency step up to support its clients.

“Simply put, they were rock stars, and the promotions are very well deserved,” Sutton says.