1. What do you do?
I make connections between people, places and ideas at Bookmark. I’m also co-CEO with Simon Hobbs.
2. Have you learned something at your job that completely surprised you?
I’m constantly surprised by how well we work across borders! Everyone thinks cross-border and cross-cultural collaboration depends on how you use technology like Skype and Google Hangouts. Those tools obviously help but frankly, they’re useless if you haven’t got the right leadership, team culture and attitude. The Bookmark / Spafax APEX Experience publishing team illustrate that alchemy beautifully: a family of digital and analog media products created for a global association by two divisions of our company with a team that works in 4 languages across 5 offices and in 4 countries.
3. What is the one thing your colleagues probably don’t know about you?
I have a few crossed wires when it comes to sensory perception. It’s a condition called synaesthesia and in my case, I “hear” light. Every color of light has its own audible frequency. White light produces a distracting high pitch (which is why you’ll often see me sitting in a dark room) and warmer lights produce a pleasant hum. So to my colleagues in Chile: mystery solved! You now know why the view out the Santiago office of the sun setting over the Andes stops me dead in my tracks without fail. It’s a “sound and light” show unlike any other.
4. What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on since you started here?
There are too many and I feel like a parent being forced to pick favorites. But it would have to be the launch of LAN Airlines’ (now LATAM) Revista in. It was a crazy three-week undertaking for a client who trusted our ability to “read” their needs and understand their customers’ aspirations… despite not yet having a local office and not speaking the language. But in true Spafax and Bookmark fashion, our ability to adapt culturally, and our chutzpah, paid off and Revista in was, for 12 years, a phenomenally successful “Pan American” media brand. And by the way, that client was Ignacio Arriagada, who now heads up Bookmark’s South American operation!
5. In your opinion, what makes for good content?
Alchemy. So many things have to come together for good content to happen (and that’s why there’s so little truly good content out there). Words, pictures, PR and experiential. A deep understanding of the culture of the client and the consumer. An ability to think and adapt on the spot. Having effective infrastructure – from finance to operations and support. A strong, personal connection with your client is essential. And let’s not forget the importance of knowing what to do with the reams of data and analytics we’re being served up from countless sources.
Oh, and coffee, lots of coffee.
That alchemy is beautifully illustrated at an annual event that we produce for Air Canada’s enRoute magazine: Canada’s Best New Restaurants. Better yet, our Revenue & Partnerships team also secures the sponsors that fund the program and our PR & Experiential teams amplify its effect far and wide.
6. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Play. With Lego. It started as occupational therapy in the evenings during an intensely stressful period at work and took on a life of its own. I create abstract cityscapes that are a statement on urbanity, architecture and “the branding of place”. When you think of cities like Hong Kong, what do you imagine? Clusters of colorful, impossibly thin towers – and that’s what I try to convey. I’m really proud of the 8m long version I created for the permanent art collection of an Ontario children’s hospital.
7. What’s the last thing you read/saw that inspired you?
The Chanel Spring Summer 2016 Haute Couture show at Grand Palais in Paris. I wasn’t there (darn!) but I’ve watched the video about 20 times and it never fails to give me goose bumps. It’s the perfect fusion of art, fashion, technology, music and space. They literally built a temporary three-story building in Paris’ Grand Palais! It’s a phenomenal example of storytelling and some day, I really hope we create experiences of this magnitude.
8. What are your top 5 must-see destinations?
– Chile’s Casablanca Valley at sunset
– Venice, also at sunset
– Paris anytime of the year but mostly on dark gloomy winter days
– The horizon, anywhere
– And the view of anywhere from a plane window
9. What’s the best-kept secret in the neighborhood?
The Toronto Metro Reference Library next door to the office. It’s a gargantuan treasure trove of inspiration. When I get stuck on a project, browsing the stacks (especially the maps section! I’m a total #mapgeek) never fails to get my creative juices flowing.
10. What is the one piece of advice that has helped you the most since you started working in this industry?
Spafax CEO Niall McBain gave me a nugget years ago that I’ve gone back to again and again: Hire for attitude over experience. It’s great when you can find a candidate with both qualities but when you can’t, remember that can teach someone with the right attitude almost anything. I think that must be why (way back when!) Spafax hired someone with a degree in Interior Design to lead a media and marketing business!