By Pema Hegan
I tore myself away from the teat of the advertising business in January 2005 when I left to become the founding editor-in-chief of Dose, a new Canadian media company.
At Dose we hired 70 people in 60 days and over 12 months built our daily readership to more that 330,000. It was fun.
Then I co-founded a social web startup, GigPark, and sold it less than two years after launching. That was fun too.
So, why rejoin Rethink and come back to the ad business after all that? Because in 2010 the ad business is no longer the ad business— and that’s exciting.
Let me explain.
When I left the industry, Facebook was for students at a couple of colleges, Flickr was a Ludicorp side project, and people were generally content to be advertised at by brands.
Our digital culture of participation has changed all that. The experiences and relationships we now have with our friends, celebrities, and the media have trained people to expect a conversation, not a monologue. And that expectation has opened the door for brands to have more meaningful relationships with people— to have ongoing conversations.
In short, people are no longer a target for advertising— they’re our partners. And our success hinges on their participation.
At GigPark we built an entire business around friends having conversations and sharing recommendations online. I’m incredibly excited to use everything I learned at GigPark to help brands start, scale and sustain meaningful conversations that help their bottom line.
A friend in Silicon Valley once told me that, as the founder of a web company, I should be spending 50 percent of my time looking at data because, “What else could possibly be more important?” I took the advice to heart and it paid off in spades. Understanding your customers, critics and fans is one of the single most important things you can do.
When I left the ad business in January 2005 I was looking at yearly segmentation studies. Now we can pore over aggregated Twitter mentions, Foursquare check-ins, analytics and sales data in almost real time.
Data is the fuel for truthful strategy and authentic ideas. With more data available than ever before, there is unprecedented opportunity for agencies and clients to produce great work.
While building and growing GigPark, I not only experienced the world as a client, I experienced it as a business owner. GigPark was entirely funded by my co-founder and me and that meant that every single dollar we spent needed to provide a return on investment. Results weren’t a nice thing to aim for— they were mandatory. I take this experience with me in everything I do.
With the amount of data available now there is no excuse not to measure the impact of all the work an agency creates. This is one of the most exciting changes for me because great work can now be truly celebrated for the impact it has.
Rethink has been committed to results for 10 years via the Rethink Rebate, which ties a portion of client fees to results. I’m proud of this and I feel strongly that other agencies should be following Rethink’s lead.
For these and many other reasons I’m hugely excited to be back at Rethink and opening the Toronto office. I am in the process of putting together my dream team of the most inspired, creative and dedicated people— starting with our creative director Dré Labre (read Dré’s bio here).
Dré and I have been friends for many years and we have been waiting to create great work together since the day we met. Now we’re going to be doing just that every day.
I’m also excited to be working so closely with the creative, strategic and production talent in the Rethink Vancouver office, which is almost 60 strong. They are a truly special bunch of people.
I will be posting regularly on this blog. Please leave your thoughts in the comments but don’t stop there. Feel free to come visit our new office at 110 Spadina Avenue (suite 200) or to email me at pemaheg..@rethinkcanada.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Now, let’s see where this adventure takes us!
Posted on March 9, 2010 by Pema Hegan, partner and managing director of Rethink Toronto.