Rain announces new leadership, adopts remote work model

With a new senior leadership team in place, independent agency Rain is also joining a growing number of companies that have adopted a fully remote work model.

The 12-year-old agency with clients in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver has installed a new leadership team following the departure of president Christine McNab, who took a new role as chief marketing officer with Zulu Alpha Kilo at the beginning of the year.

Erin Wilbur (third from left in photo) joined as managing director in January, responsible for the agency’s day-to-day operations, while Marta Hooper (left) took over as chief creative officer last month. The agency’s leadership team is rounded out by CEO John Yorke (right) and chief strategy officer Laura Davis-Saville (second from left).

Hooper has spent much of her career in independent agencies, most recently as executive creative director at doug&partners, which closed in June after 20 years. Prior to that, she spent more than seven years at Toronto’s trevor//peter.

“She’s definitely done her share of growth development at smaller agencies, so I think she understands the landscape really well,” said Wilbur. “She really understands that the flash and sizzle you can do in creative advertising has an immediate burst impact, but the true resonance of a brand can be in how you build it from the ground up, thinking about not just what’s going to get attention right now, but building foundations that are going to be long-lasting.”

One of the first hires to reflect Rain’s new commitment to remote work is account director Lindsay Mertiri, who is working from Thunder Bay as she prepares for the arrival of her third child this summer. Mertiri will take what the agency describes as a “non-traditional maternity leave” that will see her continue in a leadership role after giving birth.

Many of Rain’s 22 staffers had already grown accustomed to working remotely during the pandemic, said Wilbur. “We knew from our earliest conversations that placing any kind of demand on return was going to pose a challenge in terms of talent retention,” she said. “We knew that to keep people happy we couldn’t force anything specific.”

At the same time, the remote model was also working—although the leaders do expect some occasional hiccups as they navigate issues like time differences. “This is our first crack at this, and it’s going to need constant optimization, feedback and opportunities to shift and adjust as we encounter occasional pitfalls,” said Wilbur.

She said that the agency’s leadership team is also mindful of the impact of staff seldom being together in the same room, and how it might potentially influence things such as thought leadership and culture. “We’ll see how it goes, but things have been hard enough for people, and it feels like now is not the time to put another stressful thing on their plate,” she said.

Rain has let the leases expire on its former offices in both Calgary and Vancouver, although it continues to work with clients in each market, including Suncor and the non-profit Carya in Calgary, and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It also has relationships with agency partners in those markets that enables them to use their space if necessary.

Rain’s lease on its office in Toronto’s east end expires in March, and some staff are still using the space throughout the week, said Wilbur. “We’re constantly evaluating if we still need the space,” she said. “Or do we move into something smaller or maybe even a WeWork situation.”

Chris Powell