ICA adds a little ‘Canada’ to its name

The country’s 117-year-old agency association seems to agree with the sentiment that the world needs more Canada, announcing a name change this week to the Institute of Canadian Agencies.

The ICA, (formerly Institute of Communication Agencies) also announced several new personnel appointments, including new chair Ira Baptiste (pictured), currently SVP managing director at Evolve Agency Group; and head of content Rachel CrowSpreadingWings.

Richard Newman, a U.K. transplant who is a former founder of Contagious and spent two years as SVP of growth and network development with Dentsu Canada, has also joined as associate vice-president, agency growth, a new role within the organization with the goal of driving international business into Canadian agencies.

Baptiste, who succeeds Andy Krupski as chair, becomes the ICA’s first Black female chair and is not only well-known and respected among people on both the holding company and independent side of the business, but shares a trait with ICA president and CEO Scott Knox of being forthright.

“She absolutely doesn’t hold back in what in she believes,” said Knox. “She brings a sense of reality and purpose to the table, and she’s so switched on and totally direct. I adore her.” Baptiste is also chairing a board that is now equally divided between men and women, as well as independent and global holding companies.

The name change to the Institute of Canadian Agencies was first proposed last year, said Knox. It is a reflection of Canada’s continued emergence across sectors like music and gaming, as well as its increased profile in marketing-communications.

Canadian agencies occupy seven spots in the top 25 in the most recent Effie Index of most effective agencies in North America, led by Ogilvy Canada at number four, accompanied by other agencies including Cossette, Mindshare, Rethink, Anomaly, John St. and Sid Lee. Ogilvy is also the first Canadian agency to crack the top 50 in the global rankings, (at #47). “From all angles, our creativity and capabilities are really working,” said Knox.

It was during a summer lunch meeting that Newman asked Knox why, if he believes that the world needs more Canada, it wasn’t in the name. “I said ‘You’re totally right… It was a eureka moment,” said Knox. “Two Brits, in an Italian restaurant, getting very excited about Canadian creativity. It all just came together in a flash of a moment.”

Knox said that the name change is designed to spotlight Canadian marketing capabilities on the radar of international clients who are already seeing the country’s emergence in sectors like music, where artists like Drake, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd are established global stars, as well as gaming and TV, with shows like Schitt’s Creek sweeping international awards shows.

The name change was announced during the ICA’s annual general meeting this week, which featured a guest appearance by Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO Arthur Sadoun. “He was saying that he’s got some of [the holding company’s] biggest accounts being run out of its agencies in Canada,” said Knox. “Canada has a great and growing reputation, and we’re harvesting that.”

The goal, he said, is to have clients seek out Canadian talent to deliver their marketing communications. “It’s about seeing growth in international work for our members; seeing more holding company accounts being ran out of Canada; more Canadian personnel on global accounts; and attracting talent from other countries.

“I firmly believe that if you want to run great communications work in North America, you’re better bringing it to a Canadian agency than you are a U.S. agency. I really believe that,” he said. “I don’t think Canadian agency people need to be as arrogant as us Brits, but we could do with being a bit more sure of ourselves as we go out and talk to the world.”

Knox said that the ICA has lost 10 agencies and gained 36 over the past five years, and is planning its first-ever membership drive next month. The effort will rely on Newman’s prior experience driving new business for agencies.

“Putting that into selling a non-profit ideology is a bit of a departure for him and me,” said Knox. “We’re still ironing out what we’re going to be selling and how we’re going to be selling it, but that’s the plan.”

Chris Powell