Strategy’s most read of 2018: Agencies

From major people moves to ongoing industry issues, the most popular agency-focused stories of the last year.

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It’s that time of year, when strategy runs down the list of stories our readers were most interested in over the previous year as a way to look back at the trends that shaped the industry. Today, we’re looking at the most read stories from Canada’s agency landscape. Once you’re done, read up on the most read stories from the Strategy TechC-Suite and Shopper Marketing Report newslettersour coverage of the lead-up to cannabis legalization and this year’s Olympic campaigns. Check back in the days ahead to see the rest of the news that turned heads in 2018.

Cossette wins the big one

Cossette has been no stranger to the stage at awards shows over the last few years, but in advertising, there is one award that is undoubtedly more sought-after than all the rest. Its “Follow The Arches” campaign for McDonald’s, which broke down the iconic “golden arches” to serve as directions to nearby restaurants in billboards, was awarded the Grand Prix in the Outdoor category at this year’s Cannes Lions. It was the first time a Canadian agency was awarded a Grand Prix at Cannes since 2007.

Sexual assault in Canadian agencies is brought to the forefront 

Even as the #MeToo movement revealed the pervasiveness of sexual assault across industries, Chelsey Burnside, partner and creative director at production house Studio Sophomore, saw many people within Canada’s ad industry buying into the country’s “nice guy” image and assuming it couldn’t happen here. That was despite the fact that she had heard from numerous people about experiences they have had with powerful people in the industry. So, Studio Sophmore asked those people to anonymously recount their stories. The resulting video showed that sexual assault was an issue that needed to be addressed in Canada as much as anywhere else in the world.

(As a reminder, anyone who has faced harassment, bullying or toxic environments at work can receive free and confidential support by calling the NABS Support Line at 1-888-355-5548. Strategy is also committed to covering the issue, and encourages anyone who wishes to speak about harassment they have experienced to reach out via email to, including those who would prefer to speak confidentially.)

WestJet takes off with a new internal agency

Clients bringing more of their marketing and advertising work in-house has been an ongoing concern for agencies. That’s likely why many readers were so interested in the fact that Oliver – a U.K.-based company that specializes in creating and staffing in-house agencies for clients – would be working with WestJet. The airline told strategy that it had an internal creative services team for years, but working with Oliver would help evolve its approach as it continues with plans to become an international airline, as well as play a complimentary role to recently named AOR Rethink. Oliver has also done work in Canada for Unilever and Manulife.

Rethink hires Christina Yu

image2Canadian independent agency Rethink has had a pretty successful run, recently picking up major assignments with clients such as the aforementioned WestJet, as well as IKEA, Silk, Wonder Bread, the Ontario Science Centre and Kraft Heinz on top of existing work with clients such as Molson Coors, Uniqlo and Scotts. That’s why Aaron Starkman, creative partner in the agency’s Toronto office, was looking for a partner to help lead the creative output of the office. Starkman told strategy that he was “elated” that the new partner ended up being Christina Yu from Red Urban, with the two having broke into the industry at roughly the same time and previously co-chairing awards juries together. For her part, Yu was excited to return to the culture of an independent agency, having spent the most recent parts of her career at holding company-owned shops.

DDB begins 2018 with a shakeup

In January, DDB Canada announced that it was dissolving the national CCO position, and had let go of 22-year veteran Cosmo Campbell. The agency – citing the “ever-evolving business landscape” and the need to “better serve shifting client requirements” – also let go of Andrew McCartney, president of Tribal Worldwide Canada, and Michelle Kitchen, EVP and co-managing director of DDB’s Vancouver office. As the year went on, the agency also bid farewell to DDB Toronto president Melanie Johnston – who was named CEO of newly created Forsman & Bodenfors Canada – and prepared for the departure of chairman and CEO Frank Palmer as he announced that he’d be stepping away from the agency world in April next year. The agency also picked up new work for Emerald Health Therapeutics and Rogers Wireless in 2018.