Ten months after his departure from Giants & Gentlemen, the Toronto agency he co-founded with Alanna Nathanson and Natalie Armata in 2012, Gino Cantalini is embarking on a Roadtrip.
The longtime marketing and agency leader has launched a new consultancy called Roadtrip Strategy & Creative, a one-person entity catering to clients that have “lost their mojo” or simply want to get noticed. He said that he will serve as a client partner at a senior level, with a focus on strategic thinking and acting as a facilitator between clients and their agency partner.
“Building brands is exciting. Like going on a road trip,” said Cantalini in a recent LinkedIn post describing the new venture. “And, like the words ‘road trip,’ a well-built brand should elicit a specific emotional reaction.”
Roadtrip will focus on helping clients find their “emotive voice,” he said. “Brands that successfully have an impact in this cluttered market make the consumer feel something. They connect on an emotional level, such as joy, warmth or pride. In fact, truly great brands own a particular emotion that they try to elicit at every touchpoint and ultimately when you simply see the logo.”
Cantalini said that Roadtrip also provides him with an opportunity to once again work closely with client partners, particularly in the strategy stage. He expects to work either with a president or CEO as a fractional CMO, or to work with a freelance team or agency on a broader assignment or AOR role.
Prior to forming G&G, Cantalini spent more than two decades in brand marketing roles with the likes of Telus, Molson Coors, Labatt and Campbell Soup Company. “I’ve been in clients’ shoes, and I’ve also helped run an agency, so I understand both sides and can help navigate that,” he said. “There’s a lot of know, and luckily I’ve been in the industry long enough so I’ve learned a few things.”
But after spending much of the past decade in the comfort of a successful mid-sized agency, Cantalini said it’s thrilling to be back in start-up mode with Roadtrip.
“I knew when I left G&G that I had no intention of [my career] being done,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I had some ideas.” He spent the winter talking about the prospective venture, getting feedback from clients and agency colleagues about how it might work.
Cantalini said that he will be “pretty selective” in who he chooses to work with. “My aspirations aren’t global domination, so there’s not a lot of trepidation and anxiety,” he said. “I did have to reach out to my old IT guy and say ‘Please help me, my email isn’t working,’ but it’s not nearly as scary as when I had two kids going through university and it had to work.”
Consultancies are often regarded as a transitional step towards easing into retirement, but Cantalini insists that’s not the case with Roadtrip. “This is my next adventure,” he says. “I think it does fit better with what I’m trying to do: Being so intimately involved with a client parter is more like a consultancy than a typical full-service agency.
“Personally I intend to put in the hours.”