Dustin Rideout was supposed to start in his new role as chief strategy officer of Juniper Park\TBWA early next month. Instead, he was already wrapping up his first week when he spoke with The Message about his new role.
“I’m a keener [and] my wife doesn’t want me around the house anymore,” jokes Rideout, who was officially introduced as the agency’s new CSO on Friday. “Jill [Nykoliation, the agency’s CEO] and I were texting over the holidays and I was like ‘Let’s just get going.’
“It’s the beginning of the year, so let’s get to it.”
His appointment is the result of a five-month global search that ultimately came down to a shortlist of Rideout and a candidate from Brazil. “We took our time with the search because CSO is such a pivotal role,” says Nykoliation. “Great work is only as strong as the strategy that underpins it.”
Rideout has more than 15 years of experience across both the client and agency side of the business, most recently as chief strategy officer of McCann Canada’s Toronto office. He was previously head of brand and fan experience at MLSE, and has also held strategy roles with Sid Lee and Leo Burnett Toronto.
Reporting directly to Nykoliation, Rideout will lead the agency’s growing strategy and planning team, a 13-person department comprised of brand and communications planners, data scientists, analysts, digital strategists and communications managers.
He also joins Nykoliation, chief creative officer Graham Lang, president David Toto and chief financial officer Laura White as part of the agency’s executive team.
Rideout is regarded as one of Canada’s premiere strategists, having previously led the strategy for the Toronto Raptors’ famous “We the North” campaign, as well as internationally awarded campaigns for brands including The North Face, Stella Artois, Samsung and IKEA.
Nykoliation said the CSO search ultimately came down to two key factors: talent and fit. “Dustin is incredibly talented, and his prior work demonstrates that,” she said. “He’s also wonderfully collaborative and has no ego. We all need to show up with your worth, but you don’t need to lead with your ego.”
Rideout has quickly established a rapport with colleagues and demonstrated a level of comfort with the agency’s internal processes, including reaching out to strategy leads across the global TBWA network. “It’s as though he’s been working here for several months,” she says.
Rideout says the network’s philosophy about disruption was a big factor in his decision to join. “The network has done a really good job of helping brands navigate through change and seeing it not as something to be feared, but a business necessity,” he says. “That spoke to what I fundamentally believe as a strategist, a business person and a creative.”
“No marketer says ‘Gosh, I hope I blend in,'” adds Nykoliation. “We have a promise that we’re not going to fall into a world of convention, and we have a way of getting there. It’s a business requirement to pivot into the future very bravely but comfortably.”
Rideout also becomes one of more than 200 so-called “spotters” in the TBWA network tasked with identifying what the agency describes as “cultural triggers, edges and stories” that are delivered to the network’s employees via its video editorial arm, Backslash.
His appointment is among a series of senior hires and promotions for the agency in recent months, including Steve Emmens as managing director of integrated production in December; Helen Androlia as director of digital strategy; and T.J. Arch’s promotion to creative director.
Rideout replaces the agency’s former CSO Mark Tomblin, who resigned last year and has subsequently launched a Toronto-based planning consultancy called Thinking Unstuck.