Edelman adds senior talent for global creative hub

Global CCO Judy John explains why she looked to Canadian talent to build the latest piece of the agency's global creative plan.


Clockwise from top left: Global creative lead and Canadian CCO Andrew Simon; ECD, Krystle Mullin; ECD Manas Abrol; and ECD Anthony Chelvanathan.

Edelman is continuing to bolster its creative capabilities by building a global creative hub in Canada – and making some major additions to staff it.

The agency has brought on Anthony Chelvanathan, Manas Abrol and Krystle Mullin in newly created executive creative director roles, where they will be responsible for global business and report to Edelman’s global CCO, Judy John. All three will handle their global duties from Toronto.

That they will share a home base with John – meaning Mullin will return to Toronto from Los Angeles – is by design.

“I know the market and what I like about the creatives in this country is they’re open-minded, scrappier and more media agnostic because we have to work with smaller budgets,” says John. “I like the creativity that forces out of creatives, and I’ve known these three for some time and thought they would be a good fit for what we’re building.”

In addition, Edelman has promoted Andrew Simon to global creative lead for an unnamed, “top tier” client. Simon joined Edelman in 2015 and has played a key role in the firm’s creative department both in Canada and internationally. The promotion adds to his responsibilities, as he will remain CCO in Canada and also continue to be based in Toronto.

Chelvanathan is a well-decorated creative who spent the past 18 years working at Leo Burnett, where he was under John’s leadership until she left the agency for Edelman in 2019. He most recently held the role of SVP and creative director as part of the agency’s executive team. During his time with Leo, he has won awards for his work on clients including IKEA, James Ready Beer and TSN.

“We are, of course, incredibly sad to see Anthony leave after 18 years with Leo Burnett Toronto,” said Ben Tarr, president of Leo Burnett Canada, in an email. “He is one of the world’s best creative minds and also one of the kindest people I know. His legacy of ground-breaking, smart, award winning creative will live on here in the many people he helped guide and inspire over the years. We wish him nothing but the best as he ventures into new parts of the industry with Judy and Edelman.”

Abrol joined Leo Burnett in late 2019, after John’s departure, as group creative director, working on accounts including Canadian Tire, AAA, P&G and Campbell’s.

Mullin – who will also be leading creative for an unnamed global client – is returning to Toronto, having spent more than six years at FCB Toronto before leaving for Los Angeles’ RPA. She was most recently VP and creative director, handling clients including La-Z-Boy, Southwest Airlines, Equality California and Amazon Prime Video.

Operating for much of its history as a global PR firm, Edelman has been making an effort in recent years to have a more holistic offering around earned media, which has meant bolstering its creative talent. Those efforts got a big shot in the arm when it hired John, who says Edelman’s background in PR has been an asset as it has branched further into creative work.

“That earned mindset – how do you earn attention – is a great starting point, even when you get into owned and paid channels,” she notes. “You still need to earn people’s attention. From our trust barometer, seven out of 10 people actively avoid advertising. They have a greater choice in what they watch, so it needs to be that much more interesting.”

Though she didn’t give an exact number of new creative staff it is looking to bring on, John says the hiring of creative talent will always be a priority for Edelman, because “the marketing landscape is in such flux,” which has created new opportunities for agencies with the capability to seize upon them.

“People are figuring out how to be more efficient, work and solve problems differently,” she explains. “Platforms are changing all the time, and the move onto digital platforms has really opened the world up to be more like the wild west. I think clients are more open to solutions that come from different places and in different ways.”

In that spirit, John says the “top level talent” Edelman has brought on will use their unique backgrounds to help clients “show up differently through bold and inspiring ideas,” adding that Edelman’s independent nature makes it more able to work collaboratively across geographies.

“We are hiring across the globe right now. We just hired a new executive creative director in Spain and we have a strategist in London who works on our global team,” says John. “We started with Anthony, Krystle and Manas, but we will continue to add from different parts of the world.”