Industry Profile: TAXI Head of Planning Jason Lonsdale In His Own Words

TAXI's new Head of Planning, Jason Lonsdale, barely had time to set his bags down and catch his breath before I darkened his door, asking for his insights and perspective on the industry.

He more-than-graciously obliged to a chat about his worldly experience, though it was only his third day in the office and his get-acquainted to-do list was growing by the minute. Jason's early days were spent in the music industry, but his advertising career began at Colenso BBDO in Auckland, New Zealand. He then headed to London where he graced Leo Burnett, Rainey Kelly Y&R and then Saatchi & Saatchi London with his strategic insights and planning brainpower.

But TAXI had been on his radar, and vice versa, since the early days. TAXI and Colenso worked on respective pieces of the MINI business which facilitated the introduction, though it would be many years before Jason was wooed to bring his talent (and his family) to Toronto.

Aside from being a very cool guy, Jason is also incredibly smart and easy to talk with. We agreed that the best planners often take the most round-about and unconventional paths into the business, and also discussed how bizarre it is to separate media planning from creative planning.  I could have continued to ask Jason questions all day. However, Jason truly has only been in Canada for just over a week, so I emailed him a few follow up questions instead.

Without further ado, I present Jason's perspective in his own words.

The Saturn Return Project: Has anything from your early days in the music scene stayed with you throughout the years, resonated, helped or come back to haunt in your career since?
Jason Lonsdale: The golden rule from A&R is equally applicable in advertising-- always work with brilliant, talented people!

TSRP: Your career has brought you full circle from more intimately-sized shops, through some of the industry giants and now to TAXI. Does the size of the shop matter?
JL: I think it does, especially as we move forward into a more fragmented world... Smaller shops tend to be more nimble and less bound by process, and therefore more innovative. (That being said, there are some great big shops, and some pretty anodyne small ones!)

TSRP: What was it about now that felt right to get in the cab in Toronto after being courted by TAXI for so many years?
JL: To be honest, a lot of it was down to personal reasons (we had a little boy last year). But I was also feeling a certain level of frustration with agencies struggling to bridge the advertising – digital divide. TAXI is incredibly well positioned to make sense of this by offering a creatively brilliant, well-thought-out and cohesive integrated solution.

TSRP: You've lived and worked in three major advertising hubs around the world. Granted you are still fresh on the Toronto scene, how do the industries in these cities/countries compare?
JL: New Zealand, in my not-entirely-unbiased opinion, is absolutely world-class when it comes to creativity. The ad budgets aren’t huge, so people have to think a bit harder. Plus there is this great ‘anything is possible’ sensibility that is such an intrinsic part of the national character (i.e. it's what led Hillary to scale Everest and Peter Jackson to triumph with the “unfilmable” live-action LOTR).

London is full of extremely brilliant people, but all too often they toil under the yoke of short-term-focused clients who are over-reliant on market research telling them what to do.

As for Toronto, I think Canadians share a certain creative and practical spirit with Kiwis, so I’m deeply optimistic.

TSRP: We chatted about the irony of deliberating over "the future of advertising." As such, I still ask everyone the same question: what do you see in the future of the industry?
JL: I’m not going to attempt any big predictions, but right now I’m very interested in the possibilities afforded by the  ‘second screen,’ i.e. the iPad or laptop, that knows what you’re watching on TV...

TSRP: Your biggest inspiration?
JL: Eavesdropping on strangers' conversations.

TSRP: Who is/was your biggest mentor?
JL: Roger MacDonnell, the founder and CEO of Colenso BBDO, the first agency I worked at. I can only ever hope to accumulate a fraction of his wisdom.

TSRP: Your most treasured industry experience?
JL: Being awarded two gold Effies for our work on Air New Zealand.

TSRP: Your greatest achievement?
JL: My son Leo.

TSRP: The thing that makes you go hmmm?
JL: Why media planning doesn't sit inside the creative agency.

Thanks to Jason for sharing his thoughts and perspective. Learn more from and about Jason on his Twitter feed at @JasonLonsdale.

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