The Story, So Far

I’ve wanted to do something for as long as I can remember: to step away from the advertising business for a year or so to write a book – a memoir, actually, of my misspent youth.

After 34 years in the business I plucked up the courage to step away from a highly rewarding position as Chief Creative Officer at TBWA\Toronto to do just that, to write, not for clients, but for myself. It’s the best move I’ve ever made.

Now it’s time to think about getting back to the business I grew up in. I like to kid that fear is my alarm clock, but the truth is I’ve loved, and love, every white-knuckled minute I’ve spent in this wonderful business of ideas and imagination and talented people and brands and competition.

Yet for all my experience — an asset that is impossible to replicate or imitate — I remain a sponge. I’m a relentless learner. It’s why my favorite anecdote about creativity is the story of Picasso who, when asked by the leading art collector of the time what his greatest painting was, replied, “My next one.”

What you’ve done is never as important as what you are doing, or about to do.

For all that, and not without a touch of irony, this website strives to share some of the things I and my gifted teammates have accomplished along the way.

I was orphaned twice as a child which forced me to start my professional writing career at a young age, while still a teenager. Importantly, I learned to be self-sufficient, resilient, resourceful, creative and accountable, some of the qualities I look for when hiring others and that have served me well in this business.

For the first six years I plied my trade among the ink-stained galleys of daily newspapers and magazines in Calgary, Vancouver and Los Angeles. My beats were eclectic. Former U.S. President Gerald Ford once yelled at me in a lavatory. I ghost-wrote Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mail-order bodybuilding courses.

In 1980 I fell into advertising copywriting by accident. By decade’s end I rose to creative director at Chiat/Day Toronto, helping them win Canada’s agency-of-the-year competition for two consecutive years. The four years at Chiat proved an invaluable education. I was partnered with talented art director Duncan Milner, who has gone on to be Chief Creative Officer at TBWA’s Media Arts Lab in Los Angeles.

Especially important, I learned about leadership and craft from Lee Clow, Tom McElligott, Marty Cooke and Geoff Roche.

From there I took the top creative post at Cossette and helped guide them through a period of rapid expansion while assembling a first-rate creative team of people that helped the agency really start to make some noise including winning a Gold and Bronze Pencil at The One Show in New York, as well as three golds at the Advertising and Design Club of Canada awards in one night.

After four years I was invited to join BBDO Canada by the stellar Larry Tolpin and the gifted Michael McLaughlin, who was my partner for two rewarding years. For more than 10 years I led one of the most consistently decorated and profitable creative groups in Canada at BBDO. We won plenty of pitches and we had a lot of fun.

In recognition of Canada’s success David Lubars asked me to join BBDO New York where, for a bit more than two years, I led the global network’s holistic work for our P&G brands across all communications disciplines.

I was ranked #5 creative director in Strategy magazine’s 10-year Canadian Creative Report Card, the only large, multinational agency leader working on major brands to be included in this esteemed group of mostly boutique CDs.

And the education continues as never before as I ready myself for the next great challenge.

Dig deeper here to see some of the things I’ve been a part of.

Click here for Jack’s CV