New leadership sees years of planning explode in a renaissance
By Chris Powell of Marketing Mag
When it comes to revitalizing a heritage agency like JWT Canada, with its codified processes and legacy costs, chief creative and integration officer Brent Choi likens it not just to turning a ship around, but taking it out of the water and putting it in a different ocean.
With a history dating back to the late 1800s, JWT is the very embodiment of a legacy agency. However, its turnaround under a revamped senior leadership team, including Choi and president and CEO Susan Kim-Kirkland, has been nothing short of remarkable.
The past 12 months have seen JWT check all the boxes for success: key new business wins (Air Canada, Grand Marnier, Yokohama); awards show success (88 and counting); and noteworthy hires — nine in total, including former Taxi and Innocean CD Gary Westgate as vice-president, creative director; multiple Cannes Lions winner Matt Syberg-Olsen (also as VP, CD); and Andrew Schulze, creator of a ton of work spanning TV, radio, web and mobile, as VP, integrated broadcast.
After some less-than-stellar years, 2014 was when JWT regained its swagger. Choi had three key objectives upon arriving at JWT from Cundari in early 2013: improving the agency’s creative product, diversifying what had long been a TV-centric approach to marketing (the longstanding joke in the industry was that the agency should be called JW-TV), and successfully integrating those efforts.
He tells a story that underscores JWT’s progress: when the agency pitched Air Canada last year, it did so with nothing more than a TV reel; 14 months later, that reel includes its innovative “pyjama flyer” for Walmart; the “blacked-out” Tim Hortons store promoting the coffee chain’s new dark blend, and a mobile cinema experience for Mazda.
“We’ve gone all over the place in a great way, just finding new ways to connect with consumers,” says Choi. “Not that TV isn’t critically important to many of clients in brand-building, but it has to be more than that.”
Rudderless only a short while ago, JWT is sailing on a new course to success.