Hall of Legends 2012: Paula Gignac

IAB Canada President, Mentor

Chosen by a jury of their peers, the four 2012 Marketing Hall of Legends inductees come from four different corners of the industry. But all four share extraordinary records of professional accomplishment built upon personal foundations of insight and intelligence, passion, determination and vision.

Paula Gignac – Former President, IAB Canada

Marketing Hall of Legends Inductee 2012 – Mentor

Despite holding a bachelor of science in wildlife biology from the University of Guelph, Paula Gignac built a stellar career in a much different ecosystem: the world wide web.

Gignac got her start at the Art Gallery of Ontario as a web editor for its first digital art exhibition called The OH! Canada Project and later as tech support at Interlog before moving to Rogers.

As vice-president of Rogers Women’s Group of websites, Gignac launched the first pre-roll online video campaign in Canada and the first viral e-mail marketing campaign called “Throw Like A Girl.”

Over the last eight years, as head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Canada, Gignac gained an impeccable reputation across the industry as a champion of the interactive and digital arena, helping shape the way the industry measures, approaches and even learns about this ever-changing space.

Earlier this year, Gignac announced she was stepping down from the IAB, and moving to Guelph, Ont. while her partner pursues a Masters Degree. “It’s difficult to imagine the IAB without her,” says TC Media’s Kori Kobzina, MHOL chair. “Her passion for all things digital, innovative thinking and strong opinions are legendary.”

The mistake that made me a better person/professional was…
Daring to challenge the authority of the old boy network within digital. The stress involved in some of the head-to-head battles that I fought, and the subsequent “heart incident” that it caused me, almost cost me my life. It helped me to learn what’s meant by the phrase “care but not care.” It’s a tough skill to master, but in life and in business, it’s a very powerful one.

What’s the biggest gamble you’ve made in your career?
Throwing myself head-long into digital, without a doubt. It really was a “Hail Mary” moment for me, as there were no jobs in either wildlife biology or photography (both fields that I had originally trained in). An HR friend of mine told me that to get to the top of most fields, it takes at least seven years. I’m a surfer, so I remember thinking, “Okay, first I catch this digital wave, ride it for about 60,000 hours, and I get a jump on pretty much everybody else? Sounds doable. Sign me up.”

Patience is a virtue, but in this business so is…
Speed to market. I’ve seen countless organizations and initiatives crash and burn while people try to get it to “perfect” when “you get the idea, let’s hone it later” would have done just fine.

How will the industry change in the next five years?
It’ll have to change right down to its very DNA to develop new ways of driving growth as we approach peak levels of consumer apathy and skepticism regarding marketing and advertising.

What advice would you offer anyone starting their career today?
Despite all the reports to the contrary, critical thinkers—even those with degrees in wildlife biology, photography, architecture and English literature—will still be fought over as important contributors to digital teams. So have faith that there are oodles of transferrable skills from that science or liberal arts degree, and head over to digital to start your own seven-year, 24/7, 60,000-hour path to success. It all goes by in the blink of an eye, so don’t worry, just dive in.

Marketing Hall of Legends 2012 Inductees
• Allan Gregg

The Marketing Hall of Legends gala takes place Oct. 18 in Toronto. Tickets are still available.

Photo: John Hryniuk

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