Industry Profile: TAXI ECD Jason McCann on Advertising in Canada

Reflecting on the industry in Canada, TAXI VP and Executive Creative Director Jason McCann embodies the wisdom of a man who knows his industry inside and out with an understated confidence.

Having worked in both Toronto and NYC, Jason’s unique perspective on the two markets provided a helpful frame of reference as he summarized the current state of the communications industry in Canada’s advertising hub.

“It’s in flux,” he explained, “it’s a healthy and good, but tumultuous time in the industry here and some very good work is going to come out of Toronto as a result.” The churn, change and attrition of both personnel and clients happens naturally within the industry every ten years or so.

Along the spectrum of adaptation to the new landscape in Canada, Jason surmised that the agency is ahead of the clients, but the consumers are ahead of the agency.

Clients understand what’s going on, but most aren’t savvy enough to articulate what they need to do for their brand in the digital space. Not for a lack of intelligence or marketing sense, but instead for a lack of precedence and reference in the new normal. The career life span of a CMO in Canada is longer than most (at seven or eight years), so most marketing leadership has been stewarding their brand long before the digital space played an important role.

The agency is there to help bridge the gap to the consumer.

Established agencies and start-ups alike are expanding their capabilities and evolving their skill sets to compete in a small Canadian market. The entire population of Canada (around 34.5 million) is less than the population than the state of California (around 37 million).

Because there are a limited number of eyes, ears and attention to engage, most advertising is trying to reach and appease the majority of Canadians simultaneously, rather than shooting a sniper into a particular niche. Being the polite culture that Canada is, the tone of the advertising produced across the country more often than not errs on the side of neutral and less aggressive, so as not to offend any potential segment of the market.

TAXI, however, is known for pushing the creative envelope.

In the digital space, TAXI has worked to build its in-house infrastructure considerably over the past two years. Which is not to say it was not successful before. TAXI won many awards for its digital work for MINI Canada all the way back in 2008, but it has still come a long way to deliver creative that does not feel like stretch to force fit.

TAXI’s holistic approach to integrating digital into the business only works when the right players are in place. I asked Jason how he knows the right players are there and he said you just feel it in the collaboration.

There’s no need for meetings to get the right people on board, he explained. It is evident when someone is missing who could or should contribute to the development of the idea. While there are more moving parts to the process now and less of a “ta da!” reveal-the-big-idea moment for creative teams, the appropriate expertise is brought in exactly when it’s needed to get the job done well. He also acknowledged a low level of ego and desire for credit among TAXI’s creatives.

Jason seems to demonstrate humility by example, despite having developed global award-winning campaigns for client MINI Canada and leading much of the interactive growth TAXI has seen in past years.

Why TAXI for Jason? The right fit at the right time, he said. As a writer self-steeped in design know-how, Jason has provided leadership at TAXI as CD in NYC, and ACD of Design, ECD of Digital and co-ECD at TAXI Toronto. Jason’s eye for creative that not only tells a good story but also answers the question “why does this piece exist?” has led to his success, and TAXI's as well, over the past seven years.

If the agency is ahead of the client, but the consumer is still ahead of the agency in this new landscape, where does the consumer in Canada sit?

Stay tuned as I share thoughts on the consumer from the perspective of TAXI’s strategists and planners in the coming weeks.

Thanks to Jason for his insight and wisdom.

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