David Jowett becomes partner at Epitaph

Veteran media executive David Jowett (left) has joined Toronto-based independent media shop Epitaph Group as a partner, a move that reunites him with former Vision7 International colleague Mike Rumble, who launched the agency in 2018.

The two previously worked together at Vision7, where Rumble was chief strategy officer and SVP at Cossette Media, and Jowett was president of media, responsible for Cossette and sister company Jungle Media.

Jowett says a conversation with Rumble late last year provided the impetus to join the agency. “Mike was describing the journey Epitaph was on, how it was making progress quickly, and… it felt like it would be exciting to get back together again,” he said.

Epitaph Group has grown to 20 people since launch, with a client roster that includes Sysco, Truss Beverage Co., tonic water brand Fever-Tree and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Rumble said it had become apparent in recent months that he needed to add new senior leadership as the agency continued to grow.

“The two things that happen when you grow are that you have to live up to the promises you’ve made to your clients, and you can’t stop growing,” he said. “As a guy who started an agency it’s hard to identify that day when you say ‘It can’t just be me anymore.’ We may have got started as Mike Rumble’s agency, but it’s evolved into something more.”

Jowett characterized Epitaph’s growth trajectory as “a bit hockey stick,” increasing exponentially in the past 12 months. “That’s because [Rumble] put some senior talent in place, invested in the right technology and started talking to the right clients that believed in the same things,” he said.

Epitaph’s recent appointments include Mike de’Oliveira, previously the head of Dentsu Aegis’ programmatic division Amnet Canada, as head of data and digital platforms and former Snap Canada account executive Emily Clarey as head of strategy.

Jowett has spent much of his career working with strong independent agencies, including the past three years as head of media at No Fixed Address, and said that Epitaph Group is perfectly aligned with his desire to grow businesses using the skills amassed during his 20 years working in media in the U.K. and Canada.

“You get to a certain point in your career where you hope that all of the skills you’ve accumulated you can actually use,” said Jowett. “That’s not really possible at an agency with 140,000 people in it. I would never be dismissive of my very good buddies who do an incredible job at these big agencies, but they’re not building things themselves—they’re taking tools developed in London or New York and they’re operating them.

“Building the best media agency you possibly can, and trying to make it the best in Canada, is a lot more fun if you’re built like us.”

So what’s next for Epitaph?

“David Jowett’s probation period,” joked Rumble.

Jowett is unequivocal: turn Epitaph into the best media agency in the country, built around shared values between its principals and clients.

“The clients that share our philosophy will be the right clients for us, whether they spend one dollar or a gazillion dollars,” he said. “There is no point coming to Epitaph if you want the thing the big agencies can give you. You’re looking for the set of skills Epitaph has built around itself, and the philosophy of your company lines up with that.”

Chris Powell