Holistic (business) thinking

When I graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, now Ryerson University, in my early 20’s I thought I knew it all. My teachers had taught me how to spot a problem and solve it and I thought I was ready to solve the world’s worst dilemmas. Especially those cause by poor advertising design and copy.  

I soon found out that I, like most others, could spot a problem but found it daunting to solve it – especially with simple cause – effect solutions.

In my 40’s my Veterinarian introduced me to the concept of Holistic Health for Charlie, my constant companion + creative muse. It changed how I look at life – and business.

Last night I took my client to dinner at a restaurant I really like and that he liked as well. Here are a few reasons why.

  • The menu is unique, carefully + thoughtfully prepared.
  • The food is predictably good.
  • The service is unique and predictably good.
  • Lighting is soft but good enough to read the menu with.
  • The layout enables you to have a good conversation with your tablemates. You don’t hear much ambient noise or the conversations at other tables.
  • Prices are reasonable.
  • Ample street parking!

Can you see where I’m going with this? I give this restaurant my repeat business and refer others to it for a variety of reasons that together conspire to make this a great evening. Not just a great meal.

I now take into account as many direct and oblique variables as possible when I look at what went right – or wrong.

Gatekeepers who believe that they, or their team, did their job, or their share are not seeing the forest, the trees or the eco-system that enabled them to germinate and thrive here. 

This lesson is directly applicable to any other business.

If you don’t believe me, e-me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Master Chef + Master Chef Jr.


For the second season now my wife and I have been watching these three shows. The American adult + Jr. versions of Master Chef with Gordon Ramsey + Christina Tosi as well as the Canadian edition of Master Chef with Alvin Leung, Claudio Aprile & Michael Bonacini.

When I watch the adults cook I’m amazed at who comes out of the closet to compete for the recognition that they believe will enable them to quit their day jobs and make the (financially successful) transition from home chef to Master Chef: firemen, heavy equipment operators, plumbers + pipefitters, insurance brokers – the list goes on and on. But it never includes folks who have regular exposure to the professional side of restaurant life. 

When I watch the kids cook I’m amazed at what they create.

The adults are cooking to win and the kitchen sizzles with the nervous energy that comes from the fear of being back of the pack – and asked to go home.

The Jr. Chef’s kitchen is filled with joy, excitement + collaboration. It would seem that they haven’t been taught to be nasty (yet). Watching them reminds me of the famous Picasso quote: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a life time to paint like a child.” Picasso invites us to open all of our senses, and allow all of our sensory experiences to merge in order to experience the world in far more - and more extraordinary ways. Just like we did when we were young.

Picasso invites us to stay curious.

Stay pure and innocent.

Live a simple and straight forward life.

Say what we think, especially when it's important, making sure we are heard. 

And to stay “forever young”.

As creative project and process managers I would encourage you all to cultivate a physical space and a mental place that protects and nurtures this kind safe, creative, productive and cooperative environment.   




Build content + they will come


A conversation with the head of the world’s largest media buyer on the digital marketing landscape

Published Friday, Apr. 21, 2017  |  The Globe And Mail, Report On Business Weekend  |  Toronto

Irwin Gotlieb is the chairman of the world’s largest media buying and planning firm, GroupM, overseeing more than $100-billion in media billings each year, and has spent 47 years in the business. He spoke with The Globe and Mail during a visit to Toronto this week.

Recently there’s been pressure around YouTube ads showing up next to questionable content. Facebook and Google are not companies from which you buy media space – they’re also your clients in some cases and also your competitors. How do you manage that?

Look, the supply chain will never be 100-per-cent clean. It’s just not going to happen. Ten years ago we became aware that significant chunks of our clients’ money were going to sites with pirated content. We created a piracy blacklist. Then we began to blacklist other sites based on clients’ criteria. An enormous amount of work has been done. The general problem of course, is that Google and Facebook ingest so much content, there is no way to monitor all of it. We believe it’s our obligation to work with them to ensure that they do more. Media owners invest millions in content. What do you think Google invested in content last year? Facebook? A lot less. If they’re not investing in content, and they’re getting a free ride on other people’s content, I think we can put a bit of pressure on them to spend the money to build the technology – if Google can build a driverless car, they can do better than they’re doing. Is it going to be perfect? No. We want it to be as good as possible. Walking away from the media opportunity of a Google or a Facebook, for our clients, isn’t the answer either.

As stewards of marketers’ money, do media agencies have any obligation to spend money with companies that are actually paying to create content?

Absolutely. Media fundamentally works by creating content that is sufficiently compelling to attract an audience. You have to reward people who invest in content – not just steer audiences to different places and monetize someone else’s content. [If] the media owners create less content, we start chasing our own tail down the toilet. That’s not a good outcome. Everything we do is based around the premise that a healthy media ecosystem is better for our clients, and that’s defined as one where audiences are growing. Audiences only grow when content is compelling, and people who create content are rewarded.

But if that were true, then the current media landscape wouldn’t look like this.

It is going to change. Google has people now who are charged with developing a content strategy. Facebook has just hired their first content development people. It has to change. They can’t get a free ride indefinitely.

The TV industry is working toward “addressable,” or targeted, TV ads as opposed to the same commercial playing for everyone watching the same show. How will that change TV?

For years, the role of television has been purely about awareness. Its targeting capability has evolved slowly. Television owners have been too focused on their competition as the station across the street. They allowed [digital] to creep up on them. There are ways for television to capture dramatically larger chunks of money. The uptick in the value of addressable advertising could lead to somewhat lower commercial loads over time, and I think that will be terrific for the medium: You can charge so much more in an addressable context, and I think it would be wise for some media owners to take that incremental revenue and reinvest it in improving the engagement with the medium by decreasing commercials.

Privacy rules in Canada may mean you could only target at the postal code level, not based on data gleaned from people’s set-top boxes.

Even that would be spectacular relative to what we can do now.

Do you think privacy regulations as they stand are appropriately strict?

I personally do. I ask the question: Do we know anyone who’s been harmed by having ads delivered to them that are more relevant? There are a lot of politicians that, when you go to the public and say we’re here to protect your privacy, how can anyone argue with that? But it’s not like we’re sharing your email passwords and your bank account records. We’re using marketing data to make commercials more relevant for you. Privacy regulations are critically important for society, but their application to marketing data – how that marketing data is deployed – is probably much much less harmful, and probably helpful to the consumer.

You now have access to multitudes more data about people than ever before. In light of that, how do you manage your relationship with consumers?

If the first time you heard about a Mercedes was when you were 40 years old and finally had enough money to buy one, is there any chance you would buy the car? Unless I began to create aspiration in you when you were 12 years old, you’re not going to buy the car when you can finally afford it. Would you put a toothpaste you’d never heard of in your mouth? Would you take a Brand X diaper and put it on your newborn baby? People need to have knowledge of the brand and some level of trust. With the availability of granular data, a number of agencies began to push ROI [return on investment as the measure of success of an ad campaign]. But the truth is, every time we have seen a client focused on return on investment, you shrink market share. It just doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. Because what you’re doing is using data to identify the lowest-hanging fruit. If I take all my money and use it to reach people who we know are within 30 to 60 days of a new car purchase decision – because their lease is expiring or they’ve paid off their financing on their existing vehicle – I’ll do extremely well, because I’m capturing the low-hanging fruit. But nobody’s watering the tree any more. It’s not going to bear any more fruit, and you’re out of business. Short-termism is a real problem.

Amazon has had a huge impact on the retail landscape. What does that mean for media?

[Consumer packaged-goods companies] need the end-aisle displays in supermarkets, and you have to pay more for those. The value of brick-and-mortar shelf space is very, very high. Clients pay dearly for that physical shelf space. If you believe that you’re still going to be going to the store for your toothpaste or your can of Coke or Pepsi five years from now, then don’t change anything. But the disposable diaper category in the U.S. went from 100 per cent brick and mortar to 25 per cent brick and mortar in a six-year span. Everything else is going to go that way. If physical shelf space ceases to be the moment of truth [in a purchasing decision], then media becomes virtual shelf space: The last opportunity for the client to convert an impression into a sale. I believe it’s going to happen through the interaction of a television and a second-screen device like this [phone] that will be synchronized. We’re playing with a technology where there’s one generic TV ad for a product, and on this device [points to his phone] there are offers for whatever you’re interested in. We’re playing with a luxury SUV client of ours, where there’s a general ad, and the young mom gets [a message about] interior comfort and child safety, and the guy gets engine performance specifications. There are lots of ways to do this.

When you’ve got the world’s biggest ad spender, Procter & Gamble Co., whose head of marketing has publicly called out the “crappy media supply chain,” other marketers are going to pay attention. Where do you fit in, fixing that supply chain?

I am quite frankly shocked that it has taken this long to surface this particular issue. We are in the business of determining how to allocate money across multiple media options – digital, print, television, and so on. You need to compare them on some sort of apples-to-apples basis. If a commercial is clipped by three or four seconds on TV, you get a make-good. So how come two seconds out of 30 seconds is adequate in digital? Are you kidding me? We created a set of criteria: [An ad] has got to be 100-per-cent viewable. It has to play for 50 per cent of the duration. The audio needs to be on. This is just common sense.

Edited + condensed by Susan Krashinsky.



How good is your strategic plan?

For those of you who believe that your SWOT™ and SoWOT™ research recaps, leading into your annual planning meeting represent a solid overview of your future business terrain, check this out + then start over with a few new and more insightful questions.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide.  All medical X-rays used Kodak film. Camera's, both commercial and industrial,  security camera's- imaging of all sorts. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years - and most people won't see it coming.  Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again? Digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore's law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs.

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

Uber is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.

Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence:

Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world; 10 years earlier than expected.

In the US, young lawyers already don't get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.


Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars:

In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don't want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver's license and will never own a car.

It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 mi (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million mi (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year.

This will increase world over growth and populations.

Most car companies will probably become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can't last.

Technology will take care of that strategy.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter (@ 0.25 cents). We don't have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.


The Tricorder X prize will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the "Tricorder" from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it.

Over time it will be able to analyze a broad spectrum of  bio-markers that will identify the most common diseases. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free.  Goodbye, medical establishment and their absurd medical fees.

3D printing:

The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster.

Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past.

By 2027, 10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed.

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: "in the future, do you think we will have that?" and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner?

If it doesn't work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.


70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.


There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields.


This type of agriculture will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal, is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal by 2020. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don't need that space anymore.

There are several startups bringing insect protein to the market right now. It contains more protein than meat.


There is an app called "moodies" which can already tell in which mood you're in.  By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions, if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it's being displayed when they're telling the truth and when they're not.


Bitcoin could become the default reserve currency. Of the world.


Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it's 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more that one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100. But over population will create severe food problems.


The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to instant world class education.

Every child can use The Khan Learning Academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries. Khan Academy reaches all corners of the globe. While 70% of our students are from the United States, the rest hail from countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and beyond. Their resources are being translated into more than 36 languages including SpanishFrenchBrazilian PortugueseHindiPolishGerman and Turkish versions of our site, too. Since 2008 they have delivered more than 580 million lessons and learners have completed more than six billion exercise problems. 



Trademark Infringement


Oscar Wilde thinks “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

I think it’s bullshit.

In the corporate world it’s trademark infringement. T.I. cases are challenging to say the least – which is why companies like this skirt the law, because leveraging an existing brand builds awareness faster and helps sustain their brand’s memorability.

Can I make a logical + strategic case for trademark infringement? Yes.

Should I? No. It’s unethical. 

If this happened to you personally – you’d sue me for identity theft.

If your agency or design shop comes to you with a trademark infringement strategy or tactic, think very long and very hard. What does that (behavior) say about you personally, about you as a brand manager or about the brands you manage?  

What you put out in slices will come back to you in loaves.

Be careful what you “put out”.