Giants & Gentlemen makes leadership changes with departure of co-founder

Toronto agency Giants & Gentlemen has made changes to its senior leadership team, with founding partner and chief operating officer Gino Cantalini departing and Sally McConnell joining as general manager.

McConnell (below) has been handed a broad mandate with G&G that includes operations, account-side support, guidance and mentorship, as well as increasing staff productivity, improving service and supporting the agency’s efforts around diversity and inclusion, while also meeting the agency’s growth targets.

“She is incredibly smart, detail oriented and client-focused,” said G&G co-founder and chief creative officer Natalie Armata, who worked with McConnell on the Telus business at Taxi. “She makes things happen, and all while being a truly good human.”

Co-founder and chief creative officer Alanna Nathanson said that G&G had been making preparations for Cantalini’s departure for “some time,” although the decision to hire McConnell happened quickly.

“The stars aligned,” she said. “Having been in leadership roles agency-side for 26 years, guiding account teams, strengthening relationships both internally and externally, and increasing profitability, all while being a down-to-earth, ego-free, funny and kind human, made Sally the perfect fit for this role. Sally is a rock.”

McConnell’s agency experience includes stops at shops including Zig, Taxi (Toronto and New York), Publicis and Cossette. She has worked on numerous high-profile assignments, including Bell, Canada Post, Canadian Tire, CIBC and, in the U.S., Capital One and Verizon Wireless.

G&G’s leadership team is rounded out by VP and business lead Mary Ruf, and VP, head of strategy Doug Potwin.

“We are incredibly invigorated about this next chapter of G&G,” said Nathanson. “Natalie and I have a strong partnership, which allows us to make decisions quickly and be very nimble. We like to try new things and innovate, and we’re not afraid to fail. There is so much opportunity ahead with our amazing team, incredible clients and Sally’s expertise and fresh perspective.”

Responding via email after spending the morning cycling with friends on what he dubbed the “Tour de Muskoka,” Cantalini said the time felt right for him to sell his stake in the agency he launched with Armata and Nathanson in 2012.

“Nat, Alanna and I set out to build something special [and] I feel we achieved that—a tier one agency, with an unsurpassed reputation for great work and a culture of integrity that permeates everything,” he said. “This past year has been our best year ever. As such, the timing was right for me to take some money off the table and dream about what could be next for me.”

Cantalini, who prior to launching G&G worked client-side at high-profile brands including Campbell’s, Labatt, Molson Coors and Telus, said he’s still contemplating his next move, but suggested it would likely be in marketing.

“I have some options for my next adventure, but promised myself that I would take the fall to chill out (something I’m typically not good at) and meet with all the people I admire but haven’t been able to physically have a beer, coffee or lunch with,” he said. “I love marketing, so as much as I had been toying with doing something entirely different, I suspect I will continue to focus on building brands.”

He said he will look back fondly on his time with the agency. “When I think of G&G, I get a warm feeling,” he said. “The team is very special. They are talented and truly care. I am so proud of them and wish them all the best.”

Chris Powell