Go Canadians, Go: Leo Burnett’s Leigh Armstrong

"Sometimes I wish [Canadians] would just lose it and start shouting"

As part of our “Go Canadians, Go” project, Marketing asked dozens of Canucks working abroad (or those who’ve returned with a few years of international experience) to give us their impressions of the differences between Canada’s industry and others. Does being Canadian give you a leg up?

I guess my situation may be slightly unique in that both my husband and I worked in the ad industry in the U.K. (that’s how we met), although he’s a CD and I’m in account management, so the move to Canada and indeed to work in the industry over here was a family decision.

We each flew out for a week to meet with agencies and indeed get a feel for the city before relocating our daughter over here too. Thankfully, we both came back with good stuff to say, and so the official move was made in April 2012.

I was fortunate enough to be able to get a company transfer from TBWA in the U.K. to Toronto, which made the paperwork a whole lot easier for all of us, which was a bonus. After a short while there, an amazing opportunity cropped up at Leo’s (where I am now) and I jumped at it – to be the GAD for the Mr. Clean brand in both North America and Western Europe – so a truly global role.

Anyway, enough of the ‘history’ I guess, now for the observations – good and bad!

1. Canadians in the ad industry (and in general) are indeed very polite. But sometimes I wish you would just lose it and start shouting, swearing and displaying some form of anger (passion) about stuff – instead of being nice all the time. The creative industry in the U.K. is far louder and aggressive but I kind of like that. Some of the best work comes from the hardest situations.

2. All agencies look the same across both sides of the Atlantic. They all have the obligatory cool breakout space, snazzy boardroom and bring your dog to work day. Sorry to disappoint.

3. The creative presentation process is a big change for me. In the U.K., the account teams normally present all of the work, including writing the presentation decks that go with it. Here, in my experience, the team’s themselves do this. In the U.K., you’d get laughed out of the creative dept if you suggested they write a PPT deck. Powerpoint? WTF? Nope – will never happen in the U.K.

4. Script pre-clearance is hugely different over here – far more complicated. I never thought I’d say I love Clearcast I the U.K. but I do now. (You send all your scripts to one place for pre-clearance for all stations. Easy).

5. You guys over here have great perspective on work/life balance – well it’s certainly encouraged at Leo’s. Yes, we all work hard and do long days, but I’ve never been made to feel guilty to go and see my daughters Spring Concert.

6. People are the happiest in line-ups (a queue in the U.K.) I’ve ever seen. I think we have a miserable gene in the U.K. that’s hard to shake at times.

7. As a Scot, I’ve taken it upon myself to teach my team some Scottish words. And I also have to translate what I mean on a regular basis. All part of the fun. And now a couple of Scottish words are circulating at Leo’s…

We love being over here though. Glad we made the move. 100%.

Leigh Armstrong is group account director at Leo Burnett Canada

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