From Over Here: Don't Call Me an Expert

March 9, 2017 Robin Whalen, President of The Tite Group

Don’t call me an expert. Or a ninja. Or a virtuoso.

I like to think that I know marketing. Probably more than my neighbours. And certainly more than my mom. But I personally loathe the title ‘expert.’ Just feels like there’s nothing left to strive for when you make that claim.  That said, there are certain folks in our industry who know tons on the subject. Like Terry O’Reilly.  Ok, we can perhaps call him an expert.

A recent article in The Globe and Mail shared excerpts from his book – This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence – on things he just knows about our industry.  Let’s dig in.

Don’t whisper a dozen things, say one thing loudly. Hell yes. Keep it simple stupid. The oldest adage in the book and more important today than ever.

Small brands need a big personality. So do small men. I kid I kid! But I agree. You don’t have multi-million dollar budgets? Then you need to charm them with your wit. You’re an underdog? Say something unexpected. Think big. Act bigger.

Radio is still powerful. I’m with you Terry.  In key time slots, you still have a captive audience. How many channels can boast that statistic? TV? Nope. Print newspaper. Does anyone (besides myself) still get a printed paper? Radio is alive and well.

Humour is the WD-40 of advertising.  I like to live by this mantra: you can’t bore people into paying attention. Advertising is a hard gig. Getting through to someone is even harder. Inject humour, play on the spectrum of emotions and BANG – you have a chance. Let your freak flag fly.

Creativity is an amplifier. Terry talks about evoking emotion. And I agree. I think for a message to resonate with our time-strapped, weary consumer of today, we need to either disrupt, engage or entertain. And that means thinking creatively and pulling on an emotional trigger of some sort. Cause you can’t bore people into paying attention!

The advertising industry needs more female creative directors. Well yes. Neil French made this abundantly clear in 2005. Thank you very much Neil.  We need more women in senior positions in advertising. PERIOD. To borrow an overused term, are we STILL talking about this? Bloody hell. And those of us fortunate enough to be in senior positions in this industry need to pay it forward.

People over 45 have the most money and buy the most. As someone dangerously close to 45, I’m getting tired of seeing “millennials” as the priority audience. But maybe I’m biased as I fund the millennial living under my roof. So I’d prefer to be referred to in the brief as the “key decision make” while the millennial is an “influencer”. Geez. I took this one a bit personal, no?

And finally, advertising is an art. It is. It really is. It’s an art, not a science. But now we have the science to provide insights that inspire the art. So let’s keep pushing for conditions that lead to great work in our great industry. Diversity, balance, tolerance for risk, humour, collaboration. You name it.

While we’re on the subject, I have a few thoughts of my own:

There’s no one way to skin a cat. Well that sounds just awful. But you get my point. You want to raise awareness of a brand? TV isn’t your only route.  Reach and frequency is something. But it’s not everything. Look broader.

“The meek shall inherit the earth”. What the hell do I mean? The direct and digital folk used to be the ugly cousins in an agency. We sat in the basement. But integration is now the name of the game (see “There’s no one way to skin a cat”) and we’ve moved up to the first floor. Don’t underestimate the power of social. Of content. Of sponsorship. Of PR.  There’s magic to be had in diversified communication plans.

And the one final truism that I’ll preach until I’m blue in the face…

People work with people they like. Be likeable. Really needs no further explanation.

As I said, I’m no expert but I’d like to think I have an opinion or two on the subject. Just like Terry.


"Contrary to popular belief, I'm not always right. But in all seriousness, I've walked the walk in many different aspects and this is just how I see things from over here." 

With a dash of wit and a full serving of insight, Robin Whalen, president of The Tite Group, shares her insights on the things, topics, conversations and general goings-on that have earned her minutes. 

This is an inside look at how her thoughts power her actions. 

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