Creative Report Card: Head of the class

This year’s most awarded creatives share what they’ve learned since school, plus their future-proofing strategies.

Share in lessons learned from the top of the Creative Report Card class, who sent us photos from their youth.

TOP CDS: Judy John and Lisa Greenberg - Rank last year: #3 and #4, respectively

Big wins: Silver and Bronze Lions; five Communication Arts awards; Gold and Silver LIA; three Clios; three One Show merits.


Judy John

Agency: Leo Burnett

Education: Brock University (Film), Centennial College (Advertising), University of Toronto (English Literature). Yes, I spent some time figuring out what I wanted to do.

One memorable lesson advertising has taught you: It’s all about people. It’s harder to do anything alone. Surround yourself with good people, at work and in life. Be good to them and they will be good to you.

Sage advice for creatives: There is no substitute for hard work. Consistently great creative people have incredible work ethics. Oh, and don’t be a jerk. Karma’s a bitch and will get you in the end.

Future-proofing strategy: I love technology. I want the latest thing before it’s even out. You have to stay curious and try new things. Also, I ask people of all ages what they’re using and why. I ask “why” a lot. It’s more important than “what.”

In high school, I would have been most likely to… Not be the CEO of a company.

In university and college, I would have been most likely to… Be arrested for public mischief.


Lisa Greenberg_young

Lisa Greenberg

Agency: Leo Burnett Education: University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

First job: Ogilvy & Mather.

One memorable lesson advertising has taught you: The more you put in the more you get out.

Sage advice for creatives: Don’t be entitled – you are not born gods of advertising. The harder you work the luckier you get. And reference is extremely important. Pull references for everything and anything you work on.

Future-proofing strategy: I hang around Judy. She has the latest technology.

Looking back, you would have been mostly likely to… Marry rich. Or study Entomology. I am fascinated with insects
– a result of having grown up in South Africa.

Something most don’t know about you: I don’t like big mobs. And I like my answers short.


TOP CW: Ian Mackenzie; and AD: Derek Blais - Rank last year: Didn’t place, #74, respectively

Big wins: 10 D&AD Gold awards; AToMiC Grand Prix;Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions; CMA Best of the Best.


Ian Mackenzie_younger1Ian Mackenzie

Agency: Tribal DDB

Education: Honours B.A. in Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Toronto.

Sage advice for creatives: Avoid adverbs and qualifiers. That’s a grammarian’s way of saying choose substance over style.

Future-proofing strategy: I’ll take whatever I can get. Structured training, industry talks, festivals. Day-to-day, there’s no substitute for asking people who I admire direct questions. About a year ago, I became involved with the Rotman Commerce Marketing Association as a corporate representative, where I show up at student events and answer questions or speak about advertising. The students are excited about marketing but haven’t had a lot of exposure to the agency world. Their enthusiasm is contagious and makes me thankful. Also, Botox.

Something most don’t know about you: My grandmother and great grandmother were both born in India. They were part of the British Raj, otherwise known as colonizers. Not saying the British had any business being in India, but in another reality, I could have been born there.


Processed with VSCOcamDerek Blais

Agency: BBDO (formerly DDB)

Education: Marshall McLuhan C.S.S.

First job: Started my own company when I was in Grade 10 building websites for small businesses. I did it to improve my business, design and coding skills while getting paid. It was good timing as the internet was just becoming mainstream and most small businesses didn’t have websites.

One memorable lesson advertising has taught you: Make failure part of your process. Failure is a good indication that you’re pushing the envelope.
Sage advice for creatives: Try to get up really, really, really early for a brainstorm. Magical things happen when you’re separated from the rest of the world.

Future-proofing strategy: Besides attending conferences every year, I read 10 to 20 articles per day about science, technology and innovation. Most of the articles have nothing to do with advertising.

Looking back, you would have been most likely to… Become an astronaut.

Something most don’t know about you: I dropped out of university after six months.