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Toronto’s freeways are packed on my Friday night arrival. It’s my first time in the city and I’m here to have my say at a Speakers Corner and attend The One Club’s Creative Leaders seminar; a one-day event for creatives who have recently taken on leadership roles within their agencies. 

From the moment I land in the T-Dot (no one calls it that while I’m there) until the second I leave, everything is new to me. And because of that, I have beginner’s mind. Perfect for absorbing a great deal of useful information . . .

Jon Manning Toronto Blog Post

I was in the same room as giants—people whose work I’ve idolized even before being in advertising. The vibe of the event was incredibly casual—and in a sense that was disarming—but not casual or disarming enough for me to forget about the collective One Pencils, Agency of the Year awards, Cannes Lions and countless other accolades amassed by the event’s speakers. I tried to keep my cool, but underneath it all, I was nerding out.

From my pages of notes, I’ve picked out some of the day’s juiciest knowledge bombs. Here they are speaker by speaker. A lot of great stuff was said. While it seems unfair to distill everything into short takeaways, these are things that really spoke to me, and they might be helpful for you too:

Top Takeaways from The One Club Creative Leader’s Seminar: Toronto

Peter Ignazi, Global Chief Creative Officer – Cossette

One of the key differences between leadership and management is getting people to believe that the impossible is possible. That’s the start. Then you need to expect the impossible. Set big dreams. Then do something about it. Also, hire the best people.

Karen Costello, Chief Creative Officer – The Martin Agency

Karen had a great point, and it’s important for all of us to remember whether in advertising or just in life: don’t be a dick. When people do extra, thank them. Be on time. Employ empathy. And for the love of God, don’t talk over people.

Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin, Founders and Partners – Swim

Keep your phone out of the meeting. One look at your phone screen kills the trust you’re building. Actually, it’s good life advice. Yeah, we’re addicted, but give people your focus. It’ll help you build and maintain trust, and be a better listener. Too much can be missed when your attention is somewhere else.

Zak Mroueh, Chief Creative Officer, Founder & CEO – Zulu Alpha Kilo

Being willing to walk away from something gives you a great deal of power, whether it’s revenue or simply ideas. Of course, if that’s the route you take, do it respectfully and provide reason. In short, don’t be a dick. That last bit is a recurring theme from most speakers.

Icaro Doria, US Chief Creative Officer – Arnold Worldwide

Don’t diminish the importance of what we do in this industry. Too often we say things like, “it isn’t rocket science.” But rocket science has rules. Advertising doesn’t. Advertising asks us to do what hasn’t been done before to create meaningful connections with our audiences.

Judy John, CEO Canada & Chief Creative Officer North America – Leo Burnett

Good is easy. Great is hard. Remember that you are only ever one idea from making a brand famous, dominating the category and even changing the world. So be patient, and wait for the idea. And, even more importantly for creatives and agencies to remember, it’s not your idea, it’s our idea—the team’s, the agency’s and the client’s. When we all have ownership of an idea, we’re all going to go to bat for it.

Thanks to The One Club for a really useful event, and to its speakers and attendees for the inspiration and advice. And big ups to the 6 (no one called it that either) for its warm and welcoming embrace. I did not, however, find a Speakers Corner.

Bonus Book Recommendations

Three books were recommended by different speakers over the course of the event. If you want to know where some of the best minds in advertising are getting their inspiration, these are a start:

  1. How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  2. Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big – Bo Burlingham
  3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

Interested in seeing these creative leadership tips in action? Connect with Jon at

About the author

Jon Manning
Jon believes in using strategic creativity for good. He’s seen its power at work, and he’s been the one to make it work on numerous occasions. A family man at heart, Jon brings a collaborative spirit to every project he’s on, helping to create the type of environment that allows for everyone—clients and coworkers alike—to produce simple, profound solutions to complex challenges.

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