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.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.