Karine Courtemanche on her plans as CMDC chair

Karine Courtemanche, one of Canada’s most successful and well-known media agency executives, is taking on extra work for the next two years, with her recent appointment as chair for the Canadian Media Directors’ Council.

Courtemanche, CEO of PHD and Touché media, has won multiple individual accolades during her career, while Touché has emerged as one of the country’s top media agencies since she was named president in 2010. She was promoted to CEO of PHD and Touché Canada networks in early 2020.

“Karine’s long history of industry leadership and her extensive experience advising clients, talent, and partnerships make her the ideal person for this role,” said CMDC president Shannon Lewis. “She will be invaluable in supporting our mission of building a healthy and responsible Canadian media ecosystem, as set out in our recent Canadian Media Manifesto.”

Speaking with The Message, Courtemanche said the Manifesto will be a priority during her time as chair. Introduced early last fall, the manifesto is aimed at protecting and growing the country’s local media through the “intentional spend” of clients’ ad dollars. This was a priority for the previous board, and will remain so going forward, she said.

It’s important for Canadian advertisers to support Canadian media at a time when the global media platforms are taking in more and more of the available ad dollars, she said. “We want to make sure there is education around the fact that [local media outlets] are a very critical and important component of our media ecosystem in Canada,” she said. “The more players we have on the ecosystem, the better it is for all advertisers.”

A media ecosystem dominated by a handful of global platforms would have a number of negative implications, not only for Canadian marketers but for the country itself. “For consumers, that would be the end of Canadian news and Canadian entertainment as we know it,” she said.

Aside from helping protect and support Canadian media, Courtemanche said she has two other priorities during her time as chair.

First, she wants the CMDC to continue to focus on attracting more young talent to the media industry. “Each agency can try to steal from one another, but we’re never going to increase the pool of new talent if we don’t come together to work on the perception of what our industry is, and how we can attract more and better talent to the pool,” she said.

The other priority—“Which is even more complex,” she said—is working toward fixing media measurement. “To get to a place where there is one common measure in the marketplace so we can all negotiate with one attention currency, requires a lot of negotiations between different parties,” she said. “And that is a great example of how we need to come together as an industry, as opposed to try to make it happen, each of us on our own.”

Courtemanche fills a post previously held by Stuart Garvie, who abruptly parted ways with GroupM last year. “I was extremely supportive of his work in the past, and I want to carry on what he began,” she said. “This would be the worst time to let it drop.”

She said she’s optimistic about the possibility of making real progress, in part because so many of her peers and colleagues share a similar vision and desire to solve some of the big issues facing the industry. “We’re going to be way better, way stronger, if we get together,” she said.

David Brown