Peter Ignazi joins Diamond as CCO

Back in February, many in Canadian advertising were shocked to learn that Peter Ignazi and Cossette were suddenly parting ways. On Tuesday, much of the ad world may be just as shocked to hear Ignazi is joining Diamond as its first chief creative officer, effective Nov. 1.

Long known as one of the top creatives in Canada, Ignazi has worked on a long list of breakthrough campaigns and won top industry accolades both in Canada and around the world. Both Cossette, and BBDO before that, were regarded as top agencies with Ignazi and previous partner Carlos Moreno overseeing the creative product.

Meanwhile, Diamond has grown—perhaps quietly—into a top independent agency in Canada since launching 15 years ago. It’s never had the reputation of a creative hot shop sweeping awards shows, but instead as a solid marketing partner specializing in events and experiences, research and sponsorships.

With just that context, the news of Ignazi joining Diamond might be surprising to a lot of people. But in an interview with The Message prior to the formal announcement, Ignazi and Diamond founder and president David Diamond explained why, even if nobody saw this coming, the move makes a lot of sense for where they are going.

Diamond founder and president David Diamond

David, how did you get Peter to join Diamond? What I will tell you is there is a handful of people that could be put in the position that we are building. It is not a very long list, and Peter had always topped the list. I’ve seen him work in the boardroom many times, and he has always been incredibly impressive.

We sat down and had great conversations, and one thing I took away from that is he’s able to communicate very complex things very simply—and to me that is the job.

So how did I get him? Persistence, patience, and some good luck, which hits all of us. We just need to be smart enough to recognize when it’s knocking.

You referred to building something at Diamond. Is Diamond changing? I think Covid has been a major change force for everybody. Events were a large part of our business and they basically went to zero. And to us it was a matter of asking ourselves, ‘Well okay, who are we, and who do we want to be? And what do we need to do to be those people?’

And so, since that time, we’ve made some big creative hires [including creative directors Jordan Cohen and Mark Holden] that have sort of upped the work… And I think if you look at some of the recent work we did with theScore Bet, I think there has been some really good work that’s been done. And I’m very excited, as well, for the work that we’re going to do.

So in the past you were known a lot for experiences or events. Now you want to be known for your creative product? We’ve always thought of ourselves as a creative company, an ideas company first.

And I think today more than ever, creativity transcends every channel. And having the best creative talent in your shop is what differentiates you. And so that’s ultimately how we’ve been building and what we’re doing.

Peter, did you start looking for a new job right after leaving Cossette? No, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was not considering anything particularly, except taking some time to hang around at home. I was content just driving my family around from one place to another, which is what I’ve been doing for the past eight months.

And so, I was not in a rush to do anything in particular, and when I started talking to these guys, I was very interested. I talked to a number of different people before and after, but the Diamond opportunity seemed like the one that was most interesting. I was very familiar with Diamond, and also very unfamiliar with the kind of things they do. I mean, I knew what they were, but it wasn’t really my area of expertise.

What would you say Diamond’s reputation was? We’ve had so many overlapping clients at different agencies over the years, and Diamond was universally loved and respected by all these people, and that’s really key.

But when I talked to Dave and other members of the team…  I saw the opportunity to take what they did, and what I do, and sort of expand both of our areas of expertise and find new opportunities to be creative.

And I believe that creativity is the backbone of all entrepreneurialism, and I don’t know any group of people that are more entrepreneurial than them. I think that’s what makes it kind of exciting.

This feels like more of an entrepreneurial opportunity to you than previous jobs? These are entrepreneurs. It’s not like it’s a culture of entrepreneurialism or spirit of entrepreneurialism. These are literally entrepreneurs—they put shit together and make things out of it.

And part of what they’re doing right now is another example of that. It’s like, well, we’re really great at this thing. Maybe we can be even better at this other thing.

You’ve won a lot awards for advertising, and Diamond has been known for a lot of work beyond advertising. Is that part of it? You want to stretch your legs beyond advertising? In a way, yeah, I want to do something different. And I’ve spent a lot of this time off learning about myself and trying to grow personally and professionally—this is a great opportunity to not do the same thing again.

I’ve taken traditional agencies and moved them creatively to a certain place, so why not try something that’s a bit different, that makes me a little bit uncomfortable? My knowledge of a lot of the things they do is not amazing—I don’t really know a lot about experiential, just as one example, but they’ve got a great team that knows that. And [SVP and creative director] Dave Stevenson, I used to work with him at BBDO and Proximity, and so I know and trust him, and he’s really good at what he does.

What did you learn about yourself when you were off? I learned a lot more to accept uncertainty and deal with things that aren’t as cut and dry.

And I think going into a sort of a crazy environment, like an entrepreneurial place, will be a great test and a great practice for that—where  they will look at a problem and find a solution that is not the linear solution that most places I’ve been associated with would.

[From the moment Ignazi and Cossette parted ways there was speculation he’d end up at Broken Heart Love Affair, which was founded by former Cossette colleagues Moreno and Jay Chaney, as well as Ignazi’s life partner Denise Rossetto. So we asked…]

You’re probably going to hate this question but… Did you consider going to Broken Heart Love Affair? They are doing really well, and they don’t need me.

Did you talk to them about joining? [Long pause] No, not seriously, no. I don’t think it was ever an option… It’s not really for me. It’s not really what I wanted to do.

David, is Peter a partner at Diamond? Is he a part owner of this business now? First of all, to your first question, absolutely he’s a partner. And he is going to be a huge part of the agency’s growth going forward as an entrepreneurial company. Let’s break that down a bit: You want to make sure that your people are motivated as much as you are. And so what does that look like? It looks like finding creative solutions that do that. So I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, but I think you can read between the lines on it.

You’re at about 120 staff now, up from a Covid low of 90. How did you come back? It was really about understanding what our clients’ needs were. Because, keep in mind, our business changed, but the way our clients engaged with their customers changed too. Just as we needed to be creative about how we were going to recover, our clients needed to be creative about how they were going to reach their customers. And so like most things, if you think about what your client needs, and you’re able to fulfill that need, then growth should be the outcome.

Peter, you must have reflected a lot of where the industry is going, and what marketers want and need these days. At a high level, give me a sense of where the industry is at, and why Diamond can meet the industry’s needs today. There’s no going back to working on, you know, beer back in the 2000s, where it’s like, ‘Okay, we were going to plan for our summer campaign and then we’ll do it in the spring and then we’ll take the summer off and see in the fall.’

The world is uncertain, and messy, and F’d up in general, but in the marketing world, especially.

And the people who are going to win, I think, are the people who know how to deal with uncertainty. And the people who know how to deal with uncertainty are natural entrepreneurial people—that’s what attracted me to Diamond.

Dave said they were a different company three years ago, and they’re going to be a different company three years from now.

What I think Diamond can offer clients is the ability to read things, do stuff, and see if it works, and if it doesn’t work, then we will learn from it and do better next time—anticipating as much as we can, but being able to be nimble. And I think that’s where Diamond comes in. They’re ready for anything.

David Brown