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Hall at 20 celebrates bold risk-takers, legendary creatives and those who have given back to their community

TORONTO, May 15, 2024 – Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends just got a lot more legendary.

Celebrating the Hall’s 20th anniversary, the Toronto chapter of the American Marketing Association inducted a new class of Legends with a special gala at the city’s historic Palais Royale.

One of the country’s top industry awards, Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends honours Canadians who have dedicated their lives to pursuing excellence in marketing. A special Marketer-on-the-Rise award also spotlights up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are set to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“Tonight, we recognize noteworthy bodies of work and lifetimes of achievements and leadership, and those who have made our community a better place.,” Santo Ligotti, president of AMA Toronto, said during the event.

The 2024 inductees include a legendary west coast creative director, a world-renowned author and thought leader, a pair of PR trailblazers and the team behind a global toy empire.

Special guest speakers Sharifa Khan, founder and CEO of Balmoral Multicultural Marketing, and Tracy Day, managing director of ad products and innovation at The Globe and Mail, noted the importance of the Hall as a platform to share insights and expertise.

“What defines the spirit of Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends is the knowledge-sharing and mentorship it embraces,” Khan said. “Those celebrated here have inspired us, shared wisdom and ultimately empowered us to advance our careers.”

“This year’s inductees join a long list of excellence and represent the very best in business leadership,” Day added. “They’ve taken marketing to the next level and are committed to giving back to their community and industry.”

Good things happen when you push boundaries

This year’s Marketer-on-the-Rise award went to Tyler and Braden Handley, co-founders of Inkbox, a direct-to-consumer, semi-permanent tattoo brand launched in 2015.

“We created a new category in the tattoo space and it was only possible because we crafted a strong brand that resonated with consumer attitudes,” they said. “Many investors turned their noses up at our bold marketing initiatives, but we always knew it was there and we plowed ahead anyways.”

Those bold initiatives helped the Handleys grow Inkbox to more than 150 employees and resulted in the recent sale of the company for $65 million (USD).

“Good things happen when you push boundaries,” they added. “We hope that we can inspire more young Canadian marketers and entrepreneurs to do the same.”

Get into other people’s business

The first Legend of the evening to be lauded was Ron Woodall, former EVP and creative director at Palmer Jarvis and DDB Canada, who is best known for his work on Vancouver’s Expo 86, the Toronto Blue Jays, The Bay, and the iconic A&W “Root Bear.”

In a pre-recorded message from his home in British Columbia, Woodall offered some humorous reflections on his time in the industry.

“What I really like about this business is the way you get into other people’s business for about 20 minutes at a time and then you’re on to something else,” he said. “One day you’re working on a $100,000 pickup truck and the next day you’re working with a screen door client.”

Woodall also demonstrated why he embodies the definition of both Legend and humility.

“I’ve always gotten too much credit in this business and I think it’s because of that big shot title, creative director,” he said. “What I really do is, I suggest things. I call myself a ‘suggester.’ If something bombs, it was just a suggestion; but if it works, ‘That Ron, he’s brilliant. He’ll be a legend one day!’”

The only limit is your imagination

Next up were new Legends Judy Lewis and Deborah Weinstein, co-founders of Strategic Objectives, who have transformed the PR industry working with brands like The Body Shop and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.

Speaking at the event, the sisters said that what sets them apart is their love of “doing different” and their mindset of “Go big or go home.”

“We’ve always run our business on two important mantras,” Weinstein said. “One is, the only limit is your own imagination, and two is, saying, ‘What if…?’”

Embracing a bold attitude to risk-taking, the pair built one of the most-awarded agencies in Canada by consistently going above-and-beyond what was expected.

“You have to be curious. You must know what’s different and what will make news,” Lewis added. “You also have to be entrepreneurial. Learn everything there is to know about your client, the brand, their agencies and, most importantly, how to keep them all happy.”

Make yourself irresistible to others

The Hall also welcomed Malcolm Gladwell, co-founder of Pushkin Industries and author of best-selling books such as The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers.

Speaking via a pre-recorded message, Gladwell remarked that he is now in “some extraordinary company” among some “enormous names in Canada.”

“I just hope that some of the things that I’ve written about have been a source of inspiration for other Canadians who are trying to transform their world,” Gladwell said. “If I’ve helped them, even in a small way, then I’m very proud.”

In a preview from an upcoming episode of “Legends Journey: Lessons in Leadership” (part of our Legends programming), Gladwell said the key to achieving authenticity and credibility is to know what you are interested in and be good at it.

“Find something that you can build your own expertise around and for which you have enthusiasm and love and you will be irresistible to others,” Gladwell said.

Lead with an open heart

Ronnen Harary, Anton Rabie and Ben Varadi, co-founders of Spin Master, also joined this year’s class of honourees. Their out-of-the-box thinking and recipe for win-win partnerships built a powerhouse in children’s entertainment with brands such as Hatchimals, PAW Patrol and Bakugan.

Rabie and Varadi shared advice for future marketing leaders on stage during a lively ‘hot seat’ discussion with CTV news anchor Todd van der Heyden.

“Really get to know yourself. Front load as young as you can and do whatever you need to in order to get to know yourself,” Rabie said. “If you invest early on in your career as much as you can, that will help you later on.”

They emphasized that, if you are open and transparent with others, they will want to help you out and see that you succeed.

“Don’t just do what you love; have the self-awareness to know that you’re good at it and seek partners to fill in the gaps,” Varadi added. “And come with an open heart. Humour is so important on the journey. You need to be laughing and having fun along the way.”

AMA Toronto introduces new Luminary Award

In honour of Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends 20th anniversary, the Toronto chapter of the American Marketing Association also announced the creation of the AMA Toronto Luminary Award, recognizing a marketing Legend who not only advocates for the AMA, but also empower leadership potential among its membership through mentoring and other initiatives.

The inaugural award was presented to 2005 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends inductee Dr. Alan Middleton. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on this exciting award!

Special thanks

AMA Toronto wishes to thank our presenting sponsor Balmoral Multicultural Marketing, as well as our key partners and sponsors, Globe Media Group, Stonehenge Digital Studios, ACCES Employment, Baskits Inc., Bell Media, Nida Design Studio, Partake Brewing, Score Promotions, TikTok and Taken Digital.

We would also like to thank our table sponsors, the Canadian Marketing Association, Gowling WLG, Hyphen Inc., IAB Canada, Lapse Productions, Lulu, MTI, Seneca Polytechnic, Silver Leaf Solutions, Spin Master, Strategic Objectives and Walmart Connect.

In addition, we would like to acknowledge the hard work put in by the 2024 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends jury members, as well as the support of all of the past Legends and Marketers-on-the-Rise in attendance at our gala event, including Alan Middleton, Arthur Fleischmann, Sharifa Khan, Kathleen Taylor, Nancy Marcus, Sandra Sanderson, Janet Kestin, Edie Weiss, Nancy Vonk, Noel O’Dea, Paul Rowan, David Kincaid, Marlene Hore, Tony Chapman, and Marie Chevrier Schwartz.

Finally, the success of this year’s gala would not have been possible without the support and dedication of our many volunteers. We thank everyone who contributed to making this event such a remarkable celebration.

About Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends

Founded in 2004, Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends honours inspiring Canadian leaders who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of excellence in the field of marketing. The award, created to spotlight the stories, people and brands behind Canada’s greatest marketing successes, recognizes a noteworthy body of work and a life-time of achievements and leadership, including contributions that have made our community a better place.

About AMA Toronto

The Toronto Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Toronto) is a community of volunteer marketers who have been empowering leadership and business growth for more than 70 years in Canada. With more than 30,000 members and 70 chapters across North America, the AMAM is the largest not-for-profit marketing association in the world serving organizations and individuals who practice, teach and study marketing.

About the author

Michael Thede is a PR manager and senior writer with AMA Toronto. He recently moved to Toronto after 20 years in Asia where he led international communications for a business school in Shanghai. He has also worked for brands such as Education First, Disney and Porsche. Michael studied film and philosophy at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the Writing for Film & TV program at Vancouver Film School. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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