Martin Gauthier on his plans for the future of Sid Lee Canada

Long-time Sid Lee executive Martin Gauthier has been named CEO for Canada, with plans to increase collaboration between its Toronto and Montreal offices, raise the bar on its digital output, and help reinvent the Rogers brand.

Gauthier had been president of the agency’s home office in Montreal for 10 years, but first joined the agency in 1999. He was a key member of the management team that oversaw rapid growth and expansion in the late 2000s and early 2010s, leading to the acquisition of Kyu in 2015.

Gauthier’s appointment comes six months after global CEO Vito Piazza exited the agency, and more recently, Eve Rémillard Larose, who had been overseeing the Toronto office, departed for a CEO role with DDB Canada. Before Piazza, the agency had been led only by co-founder JF Bouchard as CEO, and later Bertrand Cesvet.

“I have big shoes to fill, and it’s a tough business, but I still have the energy and I have the passion,” said Gauthier. “It’s a business of relationships, and I like to meet with people, and I like to understand a bit about how things are moving and evolving [for them]. This is one of my fortés.”

A key reason Sid Lee won Rogers in the spring was because of the relationships several key Sid Lee execs had with Rogers leadership, who had previously worked with the agency when they were at the Quebec telecommunications company Vidéotron, he said.

Gauthier will report to global CEO Philippe Meunier, who co-founded the agency with Bouchard in 1993. “His business acumen and leadership are second to none,” said Meunier in a release. “Our Canadian team and our clients are in excellent hands with him at the helm, and I’m very pleased that he has accepted the challenge.” Andy Bateman oversees Sid Lee’s U.S. operations as CEO, while Johan Delpuech manages Europe.

Being named CEO for both offices reflects a larger effort to have the agency’s more than 600 staff (roughly 550 in Montreal and 100 in Toronto) work more collaboratively, said Gauthier.

Both offices will maintain their focus for market specific clients, but will now operate with one P&L, making it easier and more efficient to service pan-Canadian clients.

“It was complicated when you have two P&Ls,” said Gauthier. In the past, one office would worry about the impact on its operations when asked to share resources with the other. That’s no longer the case, he said. “It’s smarter, faster, nimble, and that is what brands want to see.”

And while each office previously operated its own production studio, they will now operate as one. “They were kind of competing against each other, which was ridiculous,” said Gauthier.

The agency has made about 150 new hires since the start of the year, and while some were replacing people who left during the pandemic, most were net new additions to accommodate new business, he said.

“Most because of Rogers, of course, but other growth. We have signed many other accounts.” Other recent client additions include Unity Technology, Unilever and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, added to a roster of longer-standing clients like Netflix Canada, Maple Leaf Foods, H&R Block, IGA/Sobeys, and TJX Companies.

Gauthier said he will spend Monday to Wednesday in Toronto each week, in part because he sees the most opportunity for growth in that market.He plans to build up the agency there, with a particular emphasis on digital expertise. “I want to double down on digital in Toronto, because I see highly valuable opportunities for growth for the agency in Toronto,” he said.

As for Rogers, Gauthier said things are going “extremely well,” though plans for the brand have been sidetracked by the massive service disruption in early July that saw Rogers go into damage control in the weeks that followed.

“Creatively, we’re going to change this brand and people will say ‘Oh my God, how the hell did they do that.’”

David Brown