The university of life

Andrew Resnick

Andrew Resnick

SVP of operations and marketing

Timothy’s World Coffee, Toronto

Personal lesson learned

I don’t come from a marketing background, I came up through operations and store ownership so my marketing skills are more an outgrowth of my general business experience.

What I’ve learned as a small business owner is the importance of knowing what drives your business, knowing where the real brand equity is, knowing what resources you have and, perhaps more importantly, what resources you don’t have.

I think brand management is a very overused term. Unless you’re a $20-million-a-year company, you probably don’t have to worry about brand management, you have to worry about people management.

The same skills that can make you extremely successful as a brand manager at a billion-dollar company could make you a miserable failure as the brand manager at a $10-million company.

Top qualities in new hires

There are probably lots of owners of small- to mid-sized companies who have made the mistake of hiring ‘marketing executives’ – thinking that because they came from some large agency or consumer packaged goods company it will make them an automatic success – and I bet that more often than not, it has backfired on them.

Such executives are used to having resources that smaller companies don’t, they’re used to having staff that smaller companies don’t, they’re used to having access to data that smaller companies don’t.

When I hire, I look more for fit within the organization: Has this person worked for a company whose size and DNA resembles ours?

Marc Stoiber

VP, executive creative director

Grey Worldwide, Toronto

Personal lesson learned

I wasn’t formally trained in advertising. In fact, I did an English degree, and was supposed to study law. But there was an incredible school I attended for eight years – a school that taught me everything I know about advertising psychology.

It was my Dad’s TV store.

Every Saturday and every summer, from the time I was 14 to 22, I sold TVs and stereos at my Dad’s store. I learned how to read customers. I learned how to play up product advantages. I learned how to take small features and relate their usefulness to the customer. I learned to get people to pay more money for what were essentially non-rational benefits.

Once you can get someone to pay hundreds of dollars for a black box they don’t understand, and feel good about it, you know about advertising.

Top qualities in new hires

I look for the same sort of training I got. I want people who know how to get inside people’s heads.

I look for employees who learned to sell stuff – whether it’s socks at the Bay or cars at a lot. I look for employees who have worked as waiters or bartenders, or who have driven cabs. All these jobs teach psychology. And if you know how to listen to people, convince people, you know more about advertising than any art or copy school can teach.

Rob Young

VP, planning and research

HYPN, Toronto

Personal lesson learned

‘Ladies and gentlemen, honourable judges, worthy opponents: The topic of my speech today is The Sea… A New Frontier.’

There I was… a 12-year-old standing on the shores of Lake Huron, trying to make myself heard above the crashing waves and feeling like a fool. My dad was standing 50 meters uphill on the porch. ‘Louder,’ he shouted. ‘Can’t hear you.’ It was public speaking season and my father invented this particular torture to strengthen my vocal projection. My brothers stood on the bank above, immensely entertained, watching me address the spiraling sea gulls.

Since then, I’ve worked hundreds of difficult rooms but none so difficult as the shores of Lake Huron after a storm. I’ve had many blustering, bullying and demanding clients all of whom were pussycats compared to Dad. I’ve faced snide and snickering audiences but they pall in comparison to brotherly ridicule. And even my most uninterested, yawning audiences seemed positively engrossed when compared to the seagulls that wheeled above my 12-year-old head.

My prepubescent training sessions did more to prepare me for the rigours of media plan presentation than years of university schooling, advertising and media training or senior management courses.

Top qualities in new hires

There are, of course, the obligatory years of work (if experienced people are required) or specific courses taken and diplomas earned (if a more technical, media research-like job position is being filled). But beyond these basic requirements lies the ethereal realm of character, personality, imagination and creative energy.

The trick lies in evaluating candidates according to these measures.

David Harrison, HYPN president, looks for people who are actually interested in the world, intrigued by the media and possessed of some imagination. Gumption is a quality he prizes but a quality he finds in short supply these days.

Fred Auchterlonie, SVP, director of planning services, wants a candidate to exhibit more interest in the business of media and less interest in simply landing a job. ‘Why do you want to work here?’ is a question Fred always asks but often hears little of value in response.

Fred Forster, SVP, managing director, looks for clues that help define breadth and depth of personality – participation in committees, clubs, associations and sports. According to Fred, how candidates spend their free time is a good predictor of the level of energy and enthusiasm they’ll spend on the job. He looks for people who exude self-confidence. And he’s still interested in the overall manner in which the candidates present themselves. So shine those shoes.

Paul Brennan

Director of marketing

Sleeman Breweries, Guelph, Ont.

Personal lesson learned

One of the things that I learned very early on in my career is that when traditional packaged goods marketers diagram out what they do, they tend to put marketing at the centre of the hub. You have all these functions that support marketing: the finance group does all the numbers for marketing, the sales group sells what marketing creates, etc.

The most important thing I learned, when I was at Campbell’s Soup, is that the model is actually the other way around. All those functions are out there, providing value, and the role of marketing is to try to harness them to reach a common goal. This is important to learn because it changes the way you interact with the people you work with.

Top qualities in new hires

In terms of things that we look for at Sleeman Breweries, my personal philosophy is that we should seek candidates who excel at the four ‘I’s of marketing.

First there’s Intelligence, which is ‘What should we do?’; then Integrity, which is ‘How should we do it?’; then Interpersonal skills, which is ‘Who do I need to enroll to get it done?’; and finally Intensity, which is really about ‘How fast can we get this finished?’ Good marketers are the ones that have the four ‘I’s down in spades.

Alvin Wasserman

President and creative director

Wasserman & Partners, Vancouver

Personal lesson learned

Funny how the first time you get ripped off as a young, naïve hitchhiker making your way across Europe tends to give you an unforgettable life lesson.

The scene is Venice – just outside of the city on a long bridge where cars park to make way for canals and piazzas. My gear is stowed out of sight in a Mini (the original) while my ride and I explore the amazing sinking city. Flash cut to return two days later and close-up of car now completely stripped.

An unexpected realization: Without the standard bulkomatic knapsack and sleeping bag what you have left is – pure freedom. A lightness to step and soul. Perfect for Southern Italy and the universe at large.

The lesson learned was simply to simplify. If anyone has seen an earnest but overweight brief, a weighty interpretation of research, one brand map too far, they know the power of simplification. The most successful work I have written or creative directed over the years has left behind the baggage and gone great distances with a very light load.

Top qualities in new hires

When looking for new creatives I find some old tricks come in handy as a rough guide.

I find myself looking first at the book as everyone does. Then at character traits. Quirky is good. Do they have circus skills as a solid foundation? How about writers who paint (we have one). Art directors who are musicians (hired two of them). Designers who started as architects (looking at one of them now). I find passionate snowboarders make good junior team partners. Former stockbrokers add a touch of corporate zeal (have one of them too).

Point is, talent comes from the most unexpected quarters. Ultimately there is no substitute for a huge appetite for life. One of the most unpredictable but satisfying things you can do as a creative director is hire creatively. Seen any talented singing waiter’s books lately?

Scott Neslund

Managing director

Starcom Worldwide, Toronto

Personal lesson learned

Looking back on my training experiences, I think my internship at local radio station WBBM-AM in Chicago proved to be very valuable later in my career.

It allowed me to understand some of the dynamics of media sales, programming and audience measurement. It truly gave me a foundation for the media business while I was still in college and thinking of career choices. At WBBM-AM I learned about media negotiations and what a seller is looking for from agency buyers. That helped me to see the importance of win-win partnerships in media deals.

I think internships in general are critical for helping people develop skills in our business.

Top qualities in new hires

At Starcom we look for recruits who are able to develop brand solutions through media. Therefore, we look for people who not only demonstrate strong analytical skills but also creative thinking abilities. Media professionals do more than simply add up GRPs and calculate CPMs. They are stewards of the brand who have the power to increase business with the right media ideas.

We see leadership as a critical skill. Media people are being called on more often to be an influential part of the marketing process. Leadership skills guarantee that media has a voice in an advertiser’s communication plan and that voice can lead to superior work and breakthrough advertising.

We look for people who have these base skills and can grow within the company. To help people grow their skills, we have developed a training program called Starcom MediaVest Group University. This is a structured learning program for people at all levels (from entry to director levels). We teach everything from media basics to how to manage a media agency’s P&L.