When Christine McNab was invited to join Zulu Alpha Kilo as its first-ever chief marketing officer, the invitation came as news to her.
“I’ve told that story to everyone who asked ‘Why are you going to Zulu?'” said McNab, who officially joined the Toronto independent last week. “I said ‘They presented the job in a press release [complete with quotes from her]. How could I say no to that?'”
McNab’s hire is the culmination of a nearly year-long process to hire a CMO, as the 13-year-old independent agency sought out someone capable of shaping and expanding its capabilities in growth areas such as AR, media innovation and CX, as well as its production arm Zulubot.
CMOs are rare within the agency world, but Zulu founder and chief creative officer Zak Mroueh said that McNab will fill a vital role for the agency as it readies itself for the next chapter.
“Agencies don’t do a great job marketing themselves like the brands they build,” he said. “In this role, she’s helping us market ourselves to prospective clients, to the industry and globally. And yes, even internally. She’s the CMO of our brand.”
Mroueh said that he and president and CEO Mike Sutton have largely assumed responsibility for promoting the Zulu brand. Hiring McNab allows Mroueh to remain more focused on the creative product, and Sutton on bigger picture agency issues. “It’s great to have Christine, with a clear focus and mandate,” he said.
“It was important for us that this is a meaningful role,” added Sutton. “Literally the day that Christine walked into the agency, we got better. We could have called the role something else, but we’re really excited about the title and the job description.”
McNab, who spent the past five years as president of Rain—which grew from a single office in Toronto to include offices in Vancouver and Calgary—and whose career has also included stops at Publicis, FCB and Grey, said she had been following Zulu from afar prior to being approached about the CMO role.
“I’ve always admired the consistency, the creativity, [and] the expansion of its capabilities,” she said. “I really believe in what the agency’s doing, really believe in where they’re taking the work, whether it’s with AR or experience design, and the new hires they’ve brought aboard. I was really excited about the opportunity to package that up.
“I know it sounds trite, but it was dream job to go work with Zak and Mike. I had a feeling in my stomach that this was the right move for me.”
Zulu is looking to expand into the U.S., with Sutton noting that the agency has been working with U.S. clients for many years. “It is part of our plan for this year,” he said, stopping short of revealing what markets the agency might be considering.
“We considered a number of different options: Should it be the west coast or should it be New York? We haven’t made a final decision on that, and a lot of it is going to be driven by talent,” he said. “It’s not really about location for us; it’s about talent first.”
McNab’s arrival comes on the heels of other recent hires and international accolades for Zulu, including a top global ranking at the New York Festival’s AME Agency Report; an annual ranking of the world’s most effective campaigns; Epica Awards Independent Agency of year and, most recently, Campaign US shortlist independent agency of the year.