Five industry veterans launch Broken Heart Love Affair

Jay Chaney, Carlos Moreno, Denise Rossetto, Todd Mackie and Beverley Hammond are partners in a new agency focused on creativity and speed.


From left: Broken Heart Love Affair’s chief business officer Beverley Hammond, co-chief creative officers Carlos Moreno, Denise Rossetto and Todd Mackie, and chief strategy officer Jason Chaney.

Five well-known members of the Canadian ad industry have banded together to launch a new shop, confirming industry rumours that have swirled since a number of high profile creatives began leaving their posts this year for new undisclosed opportunities.

Jason Chaney, Carlos Moreno, Denise Rossetto, Todd Mackie and Beverley Hammond are the five founding partners of Broken Heart Love Affair, a new creative and strategic agency created to bring greater speed and creativity to the industry, particularly for clients hungry to transform their brands, even as many deal with a pandemic and economic downturn that could result in reduced investment on the short and long term.

Chaney will be chief strategy officer, with Moreno, Rossetto, and Mackie stepping in as co-chief creative officers. Beverley Hammond, former founder and CEO of Toronto agency Republic, will serve as chief business officer. The group says they have been directly working alongside each other on client work, turning around one project for the non-profit Kids Help Phone in just four days, with the work done primarily through text messages due to COVID-19.

Republic has been folded into Broken Heart Love Affair, with four former employees across accounts, finance and operations joining to help kick-start the new venture, says Hammond. “This enables us to essentially skip the start-up phase.”

“Lots of talented strategic and creative partnerships either struggle to get off the ground, or collapse under the weight of their own success,” she says. “We knew we needed to solve for that. We are a healthy business with all of the infrastructure in place to service clients and scale quickly. It’s the perfect plug and play.”

Broken Heart Love Affair’s focus will be giving clients direct access to some of the most senior and decorated talent in the industry. As it grows, it will look to bring in other top talent from across the country and the world to help companies transform their brands, says Chaney, who most recently worked as a consultant, but whose career has included CCO of Koho, and strategy roles at Cossette, Lg2, Tribal DDB, Critical Mass, and Blast Radius. The partners “will always work on that client work, and as we grow, the people that we grow with will become the people that the clients who choose us and choose them ultimately work with.”

In addition to turning around a campaign for Kids Help Phone, the agency has been working with home goods company Kruger, Houston-based Everest Insurance and “a few other” undisclosed clients. It doesn’t charge hourly rates, says Hammond, choosing instead to charge for projects. Broken Heart Love Affair is open to forming AOR relationships, Moreno adds, but in those cases would structure its fees around individual projects.

Moreno announced in February his decision to leave his global CCO position at Cossette for an undisclosed opportunity, leaving behind his creative partner of 22 years, Peter Ignazi, who remains at the agency.

“We’re all just tackling things together, and it’s a lot faster,” says Rossetto, who left BBDO in March, along with co-CCO Mackie. “We’ve handled a lot of rejection. We’ve been doing this a long time, so we can quickly tell each other [when] ideas suck, but we can also play off things really quickly. And it all comes from a greater strategic base. That’s what attracted me so much, not only the creative minds in this group, but the strategic mind in this group.”

The agency doesn’t purport to be a full-service agency, says Rossetto. Although it may one day bring in additional partners to round out the offering, it will not be focusing on disciplines that fall outside creative and strategy. “We might bring in partners to do that, but we will not be a full-service agency in some ways,” she says. It will consider helping match clients with partners in the industry who are specialized in other areas.

With lingering uncertainty around the economic and societal impacts of COVID-19, now may seem an inopportune time to be launching a new agency. But initial talks began months ago, long before the pandemic’s impact was felt in Canada (over the weekend, the partners began teasing news of their imminent launch on LinkedIn, adding heart and broken heart emojis to their profiles in a nod to their agency name).

According to Moreno, the agency’s name represents the tension that exists when creatives pitch their best ideas to clients, only to have them rejected. In the end, that process leads to better work, he says, so successful creatives learn to love that process, even though it can be challenging (or heartbreaking) at times.

Despite the challenges of launching amid a pandemic, the partners have identified an industry shift they believe speaks to growing needs for creativity and brand transformation.

“It feels like the right time to come back and companies to be focused on their brand message first and foremost,” says Mackie. “We all feel that maybe the industry lost its way [in recent years] and got caught up in all the hype around what’s new and what’s happening versus remembering that at the heart of everything, it still has to be the brand story and why people should care.”

“We all fundamentally agreed that the future is going to be in creativity, and the future battleground will be in brand creativity more specifically,” adds Chaney. “For the last whatever years, brands have been overcompensating with short-term, tactical direct marketing.”

Over the last year, a number of announcements have pointed to a return in brand investment, says Chaney. McDonald’s picked Wieden + Kennedy as its lead creative partner in the U.S., and companies from Adidas to P&G to Kraft Heinz have been calling for more creativity and brand investment. “On top of that, we saw the acquisition of Droga 5 by Accenture at close to 15 times revenue – which is insane for an agency – and that told us everything we needed to know about the future.”

The young shop still faces the challenge of ramping up operations in the middle of a pandemic that has shuttered stores and made clients completely rethink their marketing investments for the year ahead.

“Because we’re now a Canadian small business ourselves, we’re really obsessed with trying to help Canadian businesses now that this crisis has hit,” Rossetto says. “We’re so concerned for our own industry and trying to help people if we can… We’re working on an initiative for small businesses right now that we’re hoping to help the small businesses that we love.”

“We’re at an interesting point in history and in time,” adds Moreno. “As we grow and as we start getting better, we see this becoming a beacon for amazing Canadian talent that has left our country because they didn’t have the opportunities to do it here. And maybe we become that place where they can actually come and stretch that creative muscle that they have and that we’ve lost [as an industry] for whatever reason.”