Advertising means aligning creativity with business goals - Jean George

For over 15 years Jean has worked on Strategy and Marketing - at agencies (incl BBDO, Cheil, Taxi, VML and most recently at The Hive) and for startups.

In this episode of the StartWell Podcast we hear Jean's career history (which began in fashion) and perspectives informed by her work driving strategic approaches in advertising - including anecdotes from client work; including a recent project to help the Canadian Olympic Committee connect their mission with young Canadians.

Read the full interview transcript

Career paths in marketing and fashion, including social media management and e-commerce.

Jean George 0:29
 So we took a totally different approach in our campaign. I think where Canadian pride used to be, has fragmented a bit. And I do think Canadians overall, and I'm speaking this from like, research that we actually just did for the Olympics, that there is a disempowerment overall for Canadians, especially younger Canadians. So we found that there is this immense desire to achieve. But there's this feeling that I can't do it in this

Qasim Virjee 0:58
country. Founded in 2017, start well, is Toronto's independent hub for innovators to collaborate, our podcasts relate perspectives from the world's most diverse urban population to reflect unique insights into global business, media, and culture.

Qasim Virjee 1:21
George, welcome to the studio.

Jean George 1:23
Thank you for having me. It's

Qasim Virjee 1:24
a pleasure to see you after many years, many

Jean George 1:26
years. And is this the first time you've had siblings on your podcast? You're not my sibling? No, but you had my brother. Ah, absolutely.

Qasim Virjee 1:35
I think this is the first time I've had siblings. Yeah, on the podcast. So yeah. So for our audience that is unfamiliar. You can, you can't watch it because it was just audio only back in the day, but one of the early podcasts for 2017 was long ago. 17 or 18. Wow. Okay. Which feels like decades ago now is jeans brother Shane. Yep. And that was back when he was with a company called on call.

Jean George 1:58
Yeah. And he's moved on since then. Yeah. And

Qasim Virjee 2:02
back then you were helping a fashion startup. So

Jean George 2:07
yeah, that was a long like, that's like a really interesting chapter in my life. Yeah, because I actually my undergrad I did finance. Oh, was I don't know. So when you grew up in the Indian community, that's what you do. It's like medicine or business. Yeah. So I definitely liked business more. And so I took finance never took a marketing course. Alright, so my first job was at Oracle. Wow. Yeah. Cold calling,

Qasim Virjee 2:33
cold calling for Oracle Sales.

Jean George 2:35
But I will say this, it was a good first job because they paid well. So cold calling. And it wasn't a bonus saying like, if you were part of any deal that landed Yeah, you would get a bonus. Wow. It was like a really horrible job at the same time, but it would it paid well.

Qasim Virjee 2:52
But so did you close deals were you? Were you happy with? Yeah, my team.

Jean George 2:56
They were in Atlanta. And so I would have to call in to see co CEOs about various solutions that Oracle had. Wow, yeah. So I remember thinking, I'm like, This is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. But there were some people in my cohort where I could tell this was their thing, right? And I knew I was like, This is not what I want to do. So I actually ended up getting laid off because there was the recession was that 2008? Yes. Okay. And then I decided to go do a marketing certificate at U of T. And I was like, Oh, my God, marketing. First time. First, I'm taking a marketing. So then Joomla came along, and I think I just had this reckoning of gene, just do something that you want to do stop kind of fulfilling all these wishes of like, all this pressure or societal expectations, or community expectations, I should say. And so then I found Joomla. And they were like, Hey, do you want to do like your social media marketing? And I was like, great, because my class I had to do case studies. I had to do projects. Yeah. And I was like, great. I could use Joomla. And I get to work in fashion. So I get access to really cool outfits and stuff. But can I be honest about working in fashion? Yes, please. So I would always go for lunch. Okay, so and I would ask people, Hey, do you wanna go for lunch? And this is what like the other girls that might be working there. And they'd be like, Oh, no, I'm okay. It's like your restaurant you mean? Or like, just to pick up food, go for a walk. And so I just thought everyone was working really hard. Because people just don't

Qasim Virjee 4:33
eat. Oh, my God. They're all anorexic. Yeah, that's why they want to go. You're like, you're so antisocial. You don't want to hang out with me.

Jean George 4:41
I just thought it was really hard working in busy. Yeah. And then I was like, oh, like the girl I was working with. Yeah, she just ate like a tub of yogurt.

Speaker 1 4:52
A day hours ago. Yeah, that was it. Scary. Yeah.

Jean George 4:56
And I found her in general. Yeah, that that industry was like that, but he got X Still cool clothes, I did get some really great successes on social media. And so I did use that for a lot of my projects, I got graded on it. So that was really good feedback. And then I kind of knew I was like, I don't think fashion is for me. And then also, it's contemporary, like I'm wearing black today, but usually I'm like a bright colored person. So I was like, This is not my vibe, like I don't fit in, my personality was different. And so then I interviewed at BBDO. Okay, and I was hired as their first social media manager. Wow. Like first ever, and I definitely wasn't the most experience. But those projects and using Joomla what I done for them from like, a social media perspective. Got me in the door.

Qasim Virjee 5:45
That makes sense. I mean, it's a Joomla connection to but Joomla the fashion like for our audiences a fashion label founded by a brother sister team, who are now based I believe in Shanghai. And their cousin? Khalid Yes. Yeah. Was working at XM company called Mosaic.

Jean George 6:09
Yeah, see, I remember him coming in. Looking that we

Qasim Virjee 6:13
and he invited us to bid for an RFP, my company, my studio at the time I grew. And that connection brought in a relationship with like, like Coca Cola, and do some work for Coca Cola and st and campus activations and XM. And this is a time I don't know if people listening and watching this kind of like, will remember this. Everyone's of different ages. But when like Facebook was new, and likes were everything. Yeah. So we created a whole campaign for NIS t, where like, they had to like, there was like the Amazing Race Across Canada. Yeah. But students were on campus kind of trying to find things and they would get like, if they got likes on social, it would go into this like portal because apparently at that time, there was an API for Facebook likes. Yeah, we had that like a ticker on a website. It was all this like crazy stuff to like, do web and social integrated. Everyone was thinking that there'd be things that stitch together. It wasn't walled garden was crazy

Jean George 7:10
how much alike and our comment was worth. Yeah. Yeah, it was. You know, it also is really funny about that time and the connection I made. Do you know, money Jessel who? She worked at Joomla, as well. And now she's become this really successful Canadian Indian bridal wear an Indian wear. Wow. Like she I met her there. Yeah, designer creator has like her own brand and doing really well. Wow. So I also met her there. And so now watching her business succeed has been really interesting to watch as well. Yeah. We were both interning at the same time. Amazing.

Qasim Virjee 7:43
Yeah. And BBDO. What did you find with this, like beginning of social practice at the agency?

Career pivot from advertising to business after MBA, with a focus on creativity and data analysis.

Jean George 7:49
So that was interesting. Because when you get a role that no one's ever occupied before, it means there's no blueprint. The job descriptions really vague. Yeah. But then it's cool, because you get to make it your own. So I did, and I had a really great time with it. But the thing was social media, especially at that time, especially with no boundaries was I was working 24/7. Because imagine social media is all the time. If someone's negatively commenting on something like that's my responsibility. And that could be Saturday evening, right? But because there's no blueprint, how do we deal with so my hours were insane. I was young. So it like, it didn't matter. I was just so grateful for that opportunity. But I could say after a year, I was definitely burnt out. But BBDO proximity, which was what I was part of, was such a good first job in advertising, because how big they were and how well they were doing. So I made so many great contacts. I worked on so many cool campaigns. And it just felt really cool to be kind of in the space that I fit into. Because I wouldn't say I'm a creative, like, I'm not an art director or a copywriter. I still am good at numbers. But I definitely thrive in a creative space or an I thrive with working with creative people. So that's actually a very specific space to kind of try to find like, what does that even mean?

Qasim Virjee 9:16
This is a very interesting topic. If you want to go there is Yeah, business of creativity. Yeah, absolutely. So let's but let's come back to it. Let's let's finish this. But

Jean George 9:25
I've had a really hard time even justifying my sweat because I do still really like numbers. They do really like business. So I ended up doing an MBA because I really felt unfulfilled from advertising. And at that point, I was freelancing. I kind of felt like a lot of it was made up. It wasn't challenging enough. And I was like, Maybe I made the wrong decision. So I did an MBA, wanting to expand my freelance practice because I started getting international projects, which was really cool. So and kind of as a byproduct, I was getting more big is no space projects. So it was like one of my clients was like, get your MBA and you will get more work like this and international work. But then I did my MBA and just the people I was with, I was like, Oh, I don't fit in here. Like, I could keep up and do it. But I was like, I don't really fit into this.

Qasim Virjee 10:18
What didn't you fit into? Do you think

Jean George 10:21
there was still this lack of creativity. And just the mindset was very different. It's like an A type alpha, right? type of witch. And listen, I want to say not everyone in the class was like that, but I didn't feel I could fit in. So I knew it was like something amazing that I could do for myself. And where was that program? Where it was like ramen? Okay. Yep. So that's the University of Toronto. Yeah. Yeah. And so and it was like in the executive program, and it was, it was a traveling programs. So we traveled every three months. It was amazing. It was such an amazing experience. But it's funny. I'm in advertising now. So I did this big kind of pivot. Yeah, expecting for, like a change of outcome. But it just kind of reiterated, okay, wait, maybe there is a place for still advertising. But it's, I really have to be mindful of the type of client I'm working with and who my boss is. And so the next job I actually landed after my MBA was an automotive. Okay, client. So it was with Ford automotive, I was with Sid GTB. That was the name of it at the time. And like, that was such a good fit for my skill set. It was creative, but there was a lot of data to sift through. And I loved it. And so I was like, Okay, well, I did my MBA, and I'm just kind of at the same spot, but it helped me understand the type of advertising agency I need to work at.

Qasim Virjee 11:49
And so where did you direct yourself from there?

Marketing industry in Canada, including challenges and opportunities.

Jean George 11:52
So now I'm currently at the hive. Okay, the hive? Tell us about that. Yeah. Is

Qasim Virjee 11:55
a Canadian company is a Toronto.

Jean George 11:58
Yeah. And it's been around for like, I think, almost 25 years used to be down the road, right? Yeah. Used to be on King. Yes. And now they're at DuPont and Ossington. Okay. So they primarily kind of specialize with alcoholic beverages, type clients, and a lot of events. Leadership has changed the last three years. And so now they're really kind of moving into the agency space. Okay. So it's been a very interesting time for me to join. Because you don't always get to have that experience at the beginnings of like an agency coming together. So it's been really great. So what's your focus at the agency now? So I'm strategist, Director of Strategy. And I'm working on a couple of different clients. So my last agency, I worked on one like Ford automotive, and now I'm working on different clients again,

Qasim Virjee 12:44
it's very interesting. I like this idea of like, you know, okay, I'll tell you my take on on kind of the marketing industry, and especially in Canada, especially in Canada. There's a big problem. Okay. massive problem in Canada, many of them. Before we started this podcast, we were talking a little bit about this. Yeah. My take on the marketing or the let's call it the advertising agency world, is that things have evolved in the last 2030 years, right? You've still got a bulk of massive companies. In fact, there's a compounding problem. I think a lot of the creative independent agencies that grew in Canada through the 90s and post, taxi, John Street, all these people were acquired and amalgamated by private equity firms. So you got these amalgamate?

Jean George 13:36
The whole goes? Goes like, agency. Yeah. Yeah. And

Qasim Virjee 13:39
then you've got the independence. Yeah. And in the mix, I think what's happened is, the network agencies are even more double down on winning tentpole business. Yeah, McDonald's Rogers all the monopolists in the country, you know, and the agency world is seen on the street by SMBs as something outside of their realm. And the agency world at least that agency world is very poor at outbound. They don't go and try and win clients, they want clients to come to them. And they don't know because of that they don't have cultural. From what I've learned, they don't have much cultural competency in being able to go and sell their services. Which is interesting, because what does that mean in terms of the efficacy of their creative if it's not necessarily aligned with business goals? And if it's, well, let

Jean George 14:31
me take it one step further. There's also now you have consultancies, like the Big Five getting into creative right, like Deloitte and so on. Yeah, Accenture, you know, like Accenture song like they're getting into the advertising space. And

Qasim Virjee 14:46
it's about doubling down on existing client relationships to offer more value, right? Yeah. So hey, we can do this for you. You already trust us. That's in a way like us, like ya know, our media business which sits on as a way over a built services layer on top of meetings and events can stand alone and as creative production, right end to end. Yeah.

Jean George 15:10
And the hybrid said it's an independent. So it's not like one of the big holes, COEs where it's a global company. So it's been interesting also to have clients that are here, instead of having clients that are in the States or in Asia or Europe, right. So that's been nice, too, because that means like, the campaigns are really interesting, because it's service for here. The budgets are healthy. It's not we're not just ad opting whatever was done in another country, whether

Qasim Virjee 15:38
it's on behalf of the hive or otherwise, what do you think, is the brand of Canada currently?

Jean George 15:44
I think it got, it's changed a lot. Like I think, in combination with the pandemic, the truckers protest, some of the stuff that's happened with the residential schools, I think, where Canadian pride used to be, has fragmented a bit. I think the symbols of the flag itself even means different things. And I do think Canadians overall, and I'm speaking this from like, research that we actually just did for the Olympics. It's there is a disempowerment overall for Canadians, especially younger Canadians. So we found that there is this immense desire to achieve, but there's this feeling that I can't do it in this country. Fascinating. Yeah, this is especially for younger Canadians. So this is kind of what we were talking about in the beginning. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 16:33
absolutely. Yeah. So there's my you know, my anecdotal observations as a business person is always learning from my client interactions.

Jean George 16:40
So that's like, values we've uncovered from Canadians. And so when we were even thinking of the Olympics, like usually, you would think of an ad where you're like, waving the flag, right? And

Qasim Virjee 16:51
everyone's like, Oh, man, they're like, the best of all of us.

Jean George 16:56
work anymore. Amazing. This is furious. So we took a totally different approach in our campaign. So sorry, what is this campaign this was to so we actually won the business for the Canadian Olympic Committee to do the brand campaign for Team Canada. So it actually just launched it just launched. Yeah, last week. So

Qasim Virjee 17:13
how did you I guess what what were the immediate lessons from this like strategic insight exercise?

Jean George 17:19
Really hard to pitch was so interesting, their pitch, like sometimes clients really want creative specs to get the creative chops. It was such a strategic ask good. They actually did not ask for creative specs at all. They were like, We want to see the thinking the brain right. Now, that's rare in Canada. And it was complicated. It was not an easy ask, which they had in their RFP. And so that

Qasim Virjee 17:43
was in the RFP. Yeah. So you got to do some deep thinking and try and win the business. Yeah.

Jean George 17:51
So Dustin, right out is my boss very brilliant. He kind of entrusted me to take take the lead on it with him overseeing all of it. And it was like we really needed to understand because we had the gut feeling. Pride is splintered. We so to rally Canadians around Team Canada, let alone wanting them to view the Olympics. We had to really go about that in a different way. This

Making Olympic athletes relatable in Canada.

Qasim Virjee 18:17
is the upcoming Paris Olympia. Yeah. This summer. When is

Jean George 18:20
this summer? It's July she's so we took an athlete centric approach. Yeah. You don't see waving flags or anything. And what we've actually done, we've done a series of like little stories, especially within the 62nd video, where we talk about the athletes and like their human stories. So not about training or athletics. It's like, what have they overcome? And so the reason why we took that approach, it's like, how do you make an Olympian relatable, like, if you have a disempowered body of people, they don't want to look at it Olympian and be like, they're famous, like their privilege, they get to train all day, like look at them, like, but really, there's just so much going on, that people don't know about. And so that makes it more relatable, they get maybe more invested. And if anything, we wanted them to be more inspired. And just now they're like, Okay, if so and so athlete can do this. Maybe I can apply that to my life.

Qasim Virjee 19:19
Yeah, you have to make the character of these people relatable.

Jean George 19:24
Yeah. Because as I wasn't going to work alone, like you can't just like have them in like, red and white strutting around like, no one cares. So

Qasim Virjee 19:33
what did you find people do care about?

Jean George 19:37
So what we found this was interesting. Canadians generally want to help each other. That's good. And they believe they can. Yeah, and so I think it is the relatability because there is this understanding, like, whatever my parents were able to achieve, like, I'm not going to be able to

Qasim Virjee 19:54
do that. People believe this. Yeah, there's an apathy.

Jean George 19:57
There is an apathy but they're still this true. Wrong desire for achievement. So I wouldn't say it's all doom and gloom. Yeah. It's just like, how am I going? He is questionable. Yes. And yeah, it's not as straightforward. Like, how do I get to a to be? There used to be like a straight path, like I want

Qasim Virjee 20:14
to get there. But I don't know how.

Jean George 20:17
Yeah. But there is like a, there's still like this feeling of like, I want to help my fellow Canadian. Yeah, I want to help those. I can help those in need.

Qasim Virjee 20:28
This is interesting, because I have this like, kind of meta question, which is about the Canadian media landscape. When we were coming up, right, CBC. Yeah. So

Jean George 20:38
we also part of that we're also part of our clients. So it's like COC ncbc.

Qasim Virjee 20:41
I think these like media networks that are national, or, you know, they've been going through their own dramas, and in many ways last decade, trying to fight for relevance in a crowded media landscape that includes digital now. And staying relevant on digital is a question. And even like fighting for, and this is a big topic in the media landscape, right is geo relevance, and how to maintain geo relevance in your narrative. In a world that, you know, where people are primarily consuming media that may come from our neighbor downstairs. Yeah.

Canadian identity, global influence, and cultural differences.

Jean George 21:15
That's like monoculture. Like you don't I mean, like, think about even, like, when I think of growing up, like we'll watch Friends the same night, right? And you can write

Qasim Virjee 21:25
you can probably bet that like channel the good channel. Yeah.

Jean George 21:28
And you could probably bet that on the subway the next day or at work at least 40% of the people you are with watch the same episode. Yeah. That's not a thing anymore. So you need to cater to a diverse set of desires interests, because the mono culture, it's changed. It's still exist for certain events, like I would say, like Game of Thrones captures that. Sporting events like that still very much everyone kind of congregating at the same time to watch live, what's going to happen. But in terms of like, a lot of TV and content, like the way to succeed, as you know, the diversity of content.

Qasim Virjee 22:09
Yeah, Canada has to compete with the world for its own local audience. Yes. Yeah. And then there's also that question of Canada's brand abroad, and how that gets ratified. Right. In the 90s. We were the peacekeepers. Yes. I was talking to someone about this on Friday. Yeah, I was in this chat. On Friday, and it came up, we were talking about the historics of Canadian global bread and how Canada when I moved from Canada in 91, as an 11 year old to Kenya. Amazing. And was seeing my country from a different continent.

Jean George 22:45
How was that? Oh,

Qasim Virjee 22:47
that's another podcast. Oh, I just say, How was it to move there?

Jean George 22:49
Like, did you when you move to Kenya, then were you like, proud to say you're a Canadian 100%. So that's one thing that has stuck, like, when you're abroad, it's a good thing to be labeled us or to call yourself Canadian? Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 23:01
you put that versus American backpack? Yeah. People are so happy. Yeah. Yeah, we were always seen as like New Zealanders almost right. Okay. There's a similar though, vibe. It's like we're that but we're not that. And we're friendly. And you can trust us. Yeah. And so I think that's still held. But at the same time, we've very much had our brand diluted in the last couple of decades, it seems like abroad, and the world at large doesn't necessarily see Canada, in in a contiguous way. In a harmonious way. But yeah, like in the crisis in Yugoslavia, Bosnia Herzegovina, and stuff in the 90s. You know, we were correct me if I'm wrong, I don't want any of our audience, you know, chime in on this. But like, I believe that Canada sent the largest number of UN Peacekeeper force to that conflict. Okay, out of the whole UN. Yeah. And that was literally, like very symbol symbolic of Canada, or valuable in the world values. We were Switzerland of the North, whatever that meant, you know, and are of, of the Americas. And, but anyway, like, I think, being a Canadian abroad in the 90s and living in a dictatorship. Yeah. Right. It was the second president of the country's history that was ruling. I think the freedoms of speech that I took for granted. Yeah, the flexibility also as a subtle thing, okay. But I remember I was telling my daughter this was six that she was she loves this story. She was laughing about this. I when I moved to Kenya was in an English class, and I got put back a year because my birthday is in September, which makes no sense. No. So a grade six or now finds himself set apart from the world that he knows. And in grade five, which is retrograde and, and they're spelling three letter

Jean George 24:54
words. No. Oh, God, you must been so bored. I'm rolling my

Qasim Virjee 24:57
eyes. Yeah. And I'm like, and the Uh, how do you spell mom? Is the question? Yeah. So I said M O M. And the whole classroom would say, Mom, mom, mom, and they're making fun of me. And I was like, What do you guys say? Yeah. And the teacher thought that I was, in her words, taking the Mickey. That was a whole thing I learned unpacking British

Jean George 25:19
is so funny taking the Mickey

Qasim Virjee 25:23
taking the Mickey. And I'm like, you know, I was laughing. But I was really concerned, you know, because this is, I'm used to communicating. And this is what I grew up with Canadians communicate, and have the freedom to communicate. And here I was being chastised in a grade below English class, run by some escapee from England, in East Africa. And I said, in Canada, we can spell things, m u, M, or M O M. Color can be spelt in two ways we do the American and the British. She's like, there is no such thing as the American English, English is from England. So I think that that was an interesting little anecdotal lesson to say that, like, the flexibility that Canadians have always historically tried to manage and global identity, maybe less than ever, today. Yeah.

Jean George 26:16
It's hard, like when I think of some of those insights we uncovered, but like, there's still this desire to help your fellow Canadian like, we do have universal health care, which is very different from the US personally sympathize with one. Yeah, I'm happy about that.

Qasim Virjee 26:34
Oh, yeah. Like, I'm

Jean George 26:36

Qasim Virjee 26:37
that I wish it was better. I want it to be Yeah. But I

Jean George 26:40
know, if you talk to Americans, they don't. They don't feel that same feeling.

Qasim Virjee 26:46
And I think that that's a big feeling about security. Yeah.

Jean George 26:50
Or no, it's like, What's mine is mine.

Unknown Speaker 26:55
Right? In America? Yeah. But

Jean George 26:57
I think that's what's hard was here, it's like, so much of what's mine is kind of taxed and given out. And although I'm happy, but a lot of those programs, it's like getting a point where I was like, okay, but where does this get me as a person, which is like, it's not collectivism, which is like a big part of you caring about everyone that's around you and more individualism. And I think we straddled both because we also are capitalized, like we have a capitalist type structure. You know, capitalism's big here. So how does that now kind of counter socialism? Yeah,

Canadian government, trust, and truckers' protest during pandemic.

Qasim Virjee 27:31
the modern kind of social capitalism of Canada is

Jean George 27:37
that each other conflict each other,

Qasim Virjee 27:40
conflict each other because we haven't seen an evolution in the public sector know, the public sector is big, chunky, Beast, you know, that last I checked, employed about 400,000 people in all its ranks from municipal to federal. Right. So I think fundamentally, it seems to me anyway, that the government hasn't changed that much since we were kids in terms of how it runs. I'm not talking about politics. I'm talking about bureaucracy, right. And I'm talking about the means by which Canadians can help each other and contribute to that common good. Yeah. If that's the government and its role, it should almost have nothing to do with politics, yet politics have become iconic graphic of the government. Right? Yeah. Which also means fundamentally that can new Canadians, young Canadians don't necessarily trust the government, at least in terms of trust, its ability to do anything while

Jean George 28:39
the truckers protests like that was such an obvious Yeah. event of that. So let's

Qasim Virjee 28:43
spell that for our foreign audience. What was the truckers protest

Jean George 28:48
was during the pandemic? So the Canadian government? Well, especially in Ontario, they were very conservative, like there were, I think, in comparison to a lot of other countries, we locked down a lot more. But that was also because of universal health care, like there was only so much our health care system could take on, hence, more lock downs. But there was a group of people that just did not agree and really felt that their freedoms and liberties were kind of being impinged on. And so they took it in their own hands, to say, we need freedom, like I'm I'm against this, but it was like a very particular archetype that showed up at that protest. And I remember watching it being like, oh, that's what they're using the Canadian flag

Qasim Virjee 29:38
for. Right? Yeah. You kind of just lost Yeah, that they lost their freedom. Yeah. And it was just kind of like, you know, Trumpism hits America. Yes. Where instead of like,

Jean George 29:48
you know, not understanding the full start. Like I think there were like truckers led drove from all sorts of parts of the country to Ottawa, and then really, like created like a traffic jam, like where no one could move and like the governor Mine was stuck under buildings like it was a whole thing. What a great. God. I just had to relive that. I was like What else happened? I'm like, oh, yeah, like people were stuck in their buildings. A lot having a lot of I was really stuck. Yeah. And

Qasim Virjee 30:11
literally and it's such an episode of South Park, isn't it? But like, like these truckers literally parked their trucks in downtown Ottawa. And we're also honking nonstop for days. Yeah. So people couldn't sleep people couldn't eat before going. Totally yelling freedom. Yeah. And is that what gave anyone freedom? And it was also, I mean, kudos to all of them. It was very cold when this happened.

Canadian identity, media consumption, and marketing strategies

Jean George 30:40
Yeah, I think it was and I think we were in like a lockdown. Honestly, very comfortable

Qasim Virjee 30:44
situation. No, but I guess this is also very emblematic of, of Canada, where I think there is a growing frustration in, you know, our society, which primarily is densely, you know, kind of urbanized in like four different cities, five different cities along the border, yet, we have this huge, huge natural chunk under us. The landmass is big and wide, yet, so what we have is we have, you know, people that have grown up in the cities in the last, you know, 2030 years, feeling disassociated from nature, or the ownership of nature yet Canada should be that we should all have canoes and, you know, right, a moose just not here.

Jean George 31:25
Like, I feel like if I lived in Calgary or Vancouver, maybe yeah, don't you think? Yeah, we'll definitely transform the east. Yeah, like it's different.

Qasim Virjee 31:33
But what I find is that, like, the emblems of Canadian identity that went well, I agree. Like the beaver and The Tragically Hip, you know, don't exist today. Because yeah, at least in the modern media landscape. Yeah. This might be a stretch, but the iconographic Canadian celebrities, yeah. are competing on a global level. Yes. So they can't be that Canadian. They're people like Drake, right. And like, it's very interesting to look at, like, you know, Toronto Raptors players, who could be traded to a different team in the different country at any moment. And you know, quote, unquote, pop, rap, rap pop. Whatever stars pop stars. This is call it out as a pop star. Yeah. Pop stars. In representing this Canadian identity, this not actually, no, but

Jean George 32:27
like, I've seen, you know, those, like aI generated images where they like, show you what the people from that country look like, Oh, okay. Tell me why. Well, for candidates, it's usually like a white female with blonde hair. And I'm like, Oh, that's so interesting. Because, bro. Probably because, but in my head, that is not what a Canadian would look like, like, but that's my life experience. Right. Yeah. And so but that's, but I understand where that vision or that ideal also comes from?

Qasim Virjee 32:55
Yeah. And I think you know, it's interesting, because I feel like with, I keep harping on about this media thing. Yep. But the way I look at it is back in the day, when we only had a couple channels, yes, you know, in the 90s. And ever had common and more common experiences. There was like common lines of narrative that people could dialogue over. Now. And this is a problem probably globally, right. Where everyone is subjected to this, like hours and hours of social media usage, and like rapid fire messaging, that's all advertising advertising, whether it's, you know, check me out, I'm I'm this I'm that this is my personal brand. Or I'm Cheetos and you need to eat me. Yeah. Everyone's just it's like,

Jean George 33:42
some content. There's a lot of content

Qasim Virjee 33:45
content. Yeah, it's all FOMO based. Yeah, everything is FOMO. Fear, he can't really get bored

Jean George 33:49
now. Like,

Qasim Virjee 33:50
can't get bored. But you're always bored.

Jean George 33:52
Yeah. There's a lot of content, though. A lot of content, a lot of good content.

Qasim Virjee 33:55
Yeah, a lot of bad content. And a we're not here necessarily to debate the where the media world is going. Right. And we're like long form versus short form. But it's really interesting to talk, I guess, about how Canadian companies can pursue strategic paths through that brand that seems ambiguous. And through this kind of apathy, and the client profile or the end customer profile. Yeah, it's

Jean George 34:23
interesting. I'm just wondering, from all the brands, it's like, it's not a one size fits all anymore. Yeah. It's like, you gotta have a diversified content strategy, and I intentionally use content. I feel like if you lead your ideas or even pitch with a big TV concept, that's not what clients want to hear. Because of the way the content scene is working, right, like you just said, you're on your phone, you could be watching TV, you could be watching your streaming site. You could be on your laptop. So that's what you need, like a diversified content plan. Yeah, where there is storytelling in that, but it can live in all sorts of places instead of just a 62nd. spot, right? No, sometimes you still need that. Yeah. But I'm just noticing with a lot of clients, it's like, what's the content plan?

Qasim Virjee 35:14
Yeah. Because I think there's this whole, like, spray and pray approach for like, CPG. You know, like, yeah, like if you're a big brand, which used to be not just CPG, but it could be cigarettes back in the day, or car manufacturers today? Yeah, something that's applicable to most people. Yeah. You can kind of put it out there and hope that they know if nothing else, they know your logo. Yeah. And they'll think of you. And that's about it. But then also this interesting that, like, I think, you know, we've had these two worlds in digital in the last decade, where you've got your kind of false data. Yeah. Which is the quest for ROI, and calculable customer acquisition, performance marketing, digital ads on Google and so on. And then on the other side, you've got this kind of social media stuff, which has felt for a lot of people like the ad space of days old, right? Yeah, put it there. You do some kooky stuff and fun stuff to keep people's attention. Yeah. But it's not going to drive purchases, unless, strategically you're like selling shoes. Right? It's very difficult, I think, to drive, you know, purchase for anything under maybe $200. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And definitely not on a b2b sense.

Jean George 36:30
So if you're, then the goals are different. It's like brand awareness, brand recall consideration, site visits. So now,

Qasim Virjee 36:39
here's another thing. It's very difficult I found in Canada. Funnily enough, though, we have a small population, and we're centered in these few cities. It's very difficult for businesses to advertise to other businesses. Oh, okay. They're also, especially like, I've seen this and heard this from clients that are,

Jean George 36:59
especially in your space. I could see you seeing this a lot more for us, like the physical space at

Surviving the pandemic as a small business owner in Canada, with mentions of debt, government subsidies, and personal struggles.

Qasim Virjee 37:04
start. Well, yeah. Oh, definitely. This is a weird thing. Absolutely. Like marketing struggle has been a nightmare for me. Yeah, I can imagine. Every client loves what we do. Yeah. Whether it's on the media side, or it's on the space side, they have a great experience. Yeah. It's very unique. And it's very Boutique. Okay. And everyone loves it. And we have a high propensity for clients come back. Yep. Which is phenomenal, great. But it's a race against the clock constantly. Because, like with the pandemic, of course, there was no business for two years, then the Rolodex has changed. Because

Jean George 37:36
you ever in those two years be like I should have just filled? Oh,

Qasim Virjee 37:39
I literally had a call with a friend of mine who owns an insurance company. She just sold her insurance company. Do you know Yafa from better plan? No. Cool. You let her know. But we were just talking about this. And I was unpacking the story for her were in 2020. The funny thing was, everyone went, yeah, all customers. Like overnight. Yeah. Right. office's just

Jean George 38:02
like it wasn't like it wasn't six months was two years and something you know,

Qasim Virjee 38:06
people stopped paying rent immediately. Yeah, even if we had a contract. And their response was like, sue me. And I was like, I'm a good guy. I'm not going to sue you. I wish I wish you the best and don't die out there and stay safe. Yeah. And hoping you know that they'll come back. And for all our meeting and event deposits, yeah. Because we charge up front. I give all that money back. Oh, okay. And I was like, hey, because originally we didn't know how long is going to last. And I was like, You know what, just like, come back to us in six months. Yeah. Then went on. I went on. And very quickly, one of the things I did, which is interesting is I doubled down on my business like this is Oh,

Jean George 38:44
that's smart. That's actually what you're supposed to do. Well, it's tough. But I get back and I listen, they say you should double down. Yeah. Because if you go quiet that actually then you never catch up to one things because everything does usually come back.

Qasim Virjee 38:58
Eventually. Yeah. So my take on it was I don't know what that timeline is. No, but I've got to survive what we have, which is the real estate. I didn't want to pack up. Let's say you knew you were like, I'm just gonna hold out. Yeah, yeah. Cuz I'm a little crazy, you know, high pain threshold. Yeah. Personally. So I was

Jean George 39:16
like to be to be an entrepreneur, you know, especially in Canada. Yeah. Because like the brief time I was a freelancer, like, you really need to be okay with ambiguity. Like if you're not don't even bother. Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 39:28
It's all uncertain, especially post pandemic. So for me, it was like I went out. We got we raised a bunch of debt. Yeah, I shouldn't say we I raised a bunch of debt. Yeah. Great. And what was that debt for? To pay rent? Wow. Okay. And add insult to injury. It's unfortunate, but the way that the government rolled out its kind of commercial rent subsidies. Yeah. It wasn't 100% subsidy. It was a partial subsidy. That percentage was changed with whoever was managing the program because first of all, was the Mortgage Corporation, then it was the CRA. I don't know if there was someone else in the mix. But the percentage has changed. Like, hey, we're gonna get we're gonna subsidize 75% of the rent will pay to the landlord. Yeah. And then we'll just get the 25% of the tenant to pay directly to the landlord or whatever. Then it was like, Okay, well, the tenant is going to pay the CRA, then we'll reimburse the tenant and they can pay the landlord. So landlords were very unhappy, right? And then at same time, we're always paying 25 or 35% of their total exposure on the rent, plus 100% of the GST owing, because the government wanted us to collect the tax. Yeah, of course, on what we couldn't. Yeah. So essentially, we were all small businesses were raising debt to pay the government tax to survive their real estate, if they're if they're relying on real estate. So for me, it was very expensive. And then 2022 was not really worth mentioning for transactional volume. 2023

Jean George 41:00
Oh, and you would have had a really small daughter, young daughter at that time. Oh, yeah. Personally, it

Qasim Virjee 41:03
was it was very stressful. Yeah, sorry. I

Jean George 41:05
just did the math. I was like, oh, that's like a time. Yeah.

Marketing challenges in the events industry, including increased competition and reliance on unreliable advertising platforms. 

Qasim Virjee 41:09
And then last year, 2023. It was cool, because we were solidifying alleys in terms of what the, the offering to market was because I had pivoted from co working office now into on demand meeting and event space with studios. Right. And very interesting, because obviously, it's like a product offering that's in demand that people want. But how do you reach them? So coming back to this marketing problem? Where like, yeah, a lot of effort and sweat and money and tears has gone into keep surviving. But the offering is stronger and better than ever before and unique in market? Yeah. Such to the point that we literally have 30% of our sales come now from people converting in a recurring business. Oh, great. That's a really good metric. Yeah, every.

Jean George 41:56
And that's what you want reoccurring one, like instead of you hustling every month, which I know you're still doing, but

Qasim Virjee 42:01
yeah, and so the goal is like that gets to like, inbound, natural inbound should pay for the business. I don't want to be in the business of surviving my business. I want to be in the business of helping people through our product and service offering. Yeah, I just want to be running things. So that's been the biggest struggle is, and that's part of the motivation, and even setting up our media company is

Jean George 42:21
so the in terms of like, the clients that are staying or new clients, like, Don't you find it's referral? Or like just doing the the good work that you've been doing? Like, that's been the biggest inbound?

Qasim Virjee 42:32
It's a great question, because this comes down to what's the current state of calculable marketing? Yes, yeah. I would say this. Okay. So Google ads is broken. And with the, with all the optimization efforts that Google is making, which is sounds like it's good stuff, for SEO event, yes, they're trying to make content for anyone who doesn't have a website or doesn't work on this side of marketing. Google's helpful content update recently, a few months ago, whatever was a big, interesting move, because up until now, for 20 years, people have been gaming the Google algorithm to get indexed in their search, because the higher you are, the more hits you get the more propensity to earn customers through your website you have and then you don't have to spend money on their ad platform to compete against the search results. So two things happened in the pandemic, which is interesting is the cost per click has gone up. In my segment, particularly, we have people who are going bankrupt, but doing it with a big pocket book. So you got people like we were, you got IW G, all these big international corporations competing against us for some trouble, though. They're bankrupt. Yeah, that's right. Okay. They just got they just got saved from bankruptcy. Oh, but how they got saved from bankruptcy. It's just it's I think it's kicking the candidate because they got bought by a company called yardie. Or you already assumed the majority of ownership of the assets for 450 million. But last I checked, that was their burn in three quarters or two. So I don't know what the future of work is going to be. Yeah. But anyway, the point is like, it's funny because not only have I pivoted the company to survive, but advertising on the meta outside of my control has changed. It's become more expensive and more unreliable. Customer buyer profiles are getting really complicated because back in the day, you do a cohort analysis, you know who your client is, and you can competitively position yourself. Now. Competition is frazzling people. Not that there's much more choice, but it seems like there's a lot of choice because it does seem like that. And in our segment for meetings and events. What's happened is we've had heavily heavily financed marketplace startups come in the scene. Oh, interesting. What happens is all of these marketplaces I want to be the Airbnb of meeting space. The Airbnb of office space, the Airbnb of co working, everyone gets some VC to go to market. And what they're doing is they're trying to spend enough that their SEO and their sem strategies outrank the people that list on their platform. Okay, so they push us down to get the customers eyeline above us to bring them into their ecom purchase float and keep 20% from us as the booking commission now. Okay. So what this does is essentially it's anonymizing the independent service providers. There's all these rules on these platforms, like you can't use your own brand. So now, then how do you survive or gain their cannibalistic? Let's call it, it's completely cannibalistic. And the problem or the trauma applies, like, yeah, yeah, the problem is that these are not sustainable businesses. These are not real businesses. These are businesses that they're 20% fee can't pay for the cost of operations, and they're not going to grow enough to be able to raise the next round. A lot of them will die in the next three years. So yet they frazzled the willingness to pay from customer the customer expectation of product relevance. So you have a lot of customers coming through the marketplaces thinking that we belong to that marketplace, right. They also think that there's 20 Other vendors in market like start well, there really isn't. Yeah,

Jean George 46:22
there's perception that there is.

Qasim Virjee 46:23
So take someone's experience to win them over. We hear this a lot. People will book here. Then they'll say, Okay, we're like, okay, when do you next have a meeting? And they're like, well, well, we'll give you a shot. Yeah. 612 months later, we get a message back saying, Oh, we want to book the session. We're like, oh, where have you been all year? Like, oh, we tried 20 different places, they all suck. They were horrible. My CEO was garbled on like zoom call to our like, you know,

Jean George 46:50
that's part of the sales process. Sometimes it's like, okay, you found a cheaper version. Go try it out. Great. Well, we'll be here in

Sales process, referrals, and video production services.

Qasim Virjee 46:56
this stratified market. Yeah, being here is more difficult. So you don't want to rely, I mean, as a vendor, you don't want to rely on the customer that doesn't have faith in your product and services being the best thing for them. Totally. I don't want to feel bad that those people are going somewhere else, and they will have a bad journey. I feel like I want to help them. Yeah, I don't feel negative towards them. It's just that I know that they'll be happy here. So it's like, just come here. It'll be easy. Going to your same place for passing on Thursday. But it's critical infrastructures will provide for collaboration, right? So people can be blase about its relevance on their bottom line. Yeah. So there's that but so Okay, so like advertising has been a bit frazzled, there's it's become a crowded place to try and get attention. You're right. Then referrals now this is this is the thing I've always found that word of mouth is the greatest tool and referrals greatest tool for

Jean George 47:53
an independent agency, like I found like, it's just when you do good work, that's when we get a lot more calls. Yeah. interests.

Qasim Virjee 48:00
So the thing with this business is that so even on the media side, so what I've done, which is crazy is built an end to end model for corporate video production. We're taking literally a Hollywood approach Hollywood studio approach microformat it Yeah. To create any kind of conversation or direct to camera type of content. Okay. With optional in room audience.

Jean George 48:22
Who's your client base for that?

Remote work and office culture.

Qasim Virjee 48:24
Okay to be I'll just say a bunch of names. Yeah. VaynerMedia. Oh, yeah. Gary Vaynerchuk. Media Company. Yeah. Because they're gonna come back every day. No, but so it's good. We've got like, lack Tallis. They're here upstairs today. Oh, nice. Milk Company, right. dairy company. Yeah. They're corporate executives or sales team. They use us. We've got occasional use from like, Mercedes Benz Canada. Well, Linda and sprinkly. Like, the list goes on and on. Okay, interesting. Okay. So what's really cool is these are all companies that, at least internally have the conviction of a need to gather in person. And the truth of the matter is, especially because the bulk of them are executive teams, or leadership involved teams, they understand that critical infrastructure is critical infrastructure. Right. And it's expensive to outsource that. So yeah, we're finding this a lot where if if a team has a company has downsized or across size, their office holdings, and even is battling against this distributed workforce question, teams may not come together in person even if they have the real estate dedicated to the purchase. Yeah, so incenting them to do that in a fun way once in a while, which is like an off site a star? Well, yeah. is encouraging to culture. Yeah. Allows them also to animate the experience by going out to a restaurant or go play ping pong or go to an escape room afterwards. It's fun. I was resistant

Jean George 49:53
to going back to the office like the office they mandated like two to three days a week. But when I go, it's great. Yeah. Like I do enjoy it. And it does help foster relationships. And it's fun. And I

Qasim Virjee 50:08
think also it's like the thing that sometimes

Jean George 50:11
it seems like you're taking so much for my life, and I just work from home right now isn't there's personal demands, but then it actually works out.

Qasim Virjee 50:19
But see, there's a fallacy in that, in that realization. And this is now a kind of a, what do you call this? This is an idealist perspective. Because, look, we live in Canada, and we've already painted some of the picture, which statistically backed up by your recent It is, yeah, we are in a situation where unfortunate disempowerment that's the word. And yet in a utopia, you know, everyone in an organization would have buy in to the shared culture, they would have a voice at the table. And they would have not only that voice manifest in the environment of work, becoming more furtive to how they want to work, yeah. But a shared mission. If everyone at a company had a shared mission, and they felt empowered through contributing, they would want to do that together, because it would be fun. And unfortunately, I think we're in this like, post industrialist kind of workforce mentality in white collar in Canada, and definitely in Toronto, look, I mean, ever since I moved here in 2005, have seen this where the honeycomb of the financial corps, you know, has worked for this kind of beehive mentality. But now I think we do have an opportunity. I've talked to a lot of people in cultural leaders and all sorts of industries that have said, You know what? We're hip to this. Yeah, no, we're hip to like, making it cool for people to be together. Yep. There's offsets and stuff. But also, I've talked to some people that are like, we got a lot of budget from leadership to turn our office into a rec center. Oh, cool. So it's like, Don't come here to work if you don't want to. Yeah, right. Come here to socialize. Come here to hang out. Come here to like noodle on a problem with your colleagues. Yeah. Go back. Do your laptop stuff in your basement if you want. Yeah, but which

Jean George 52:08
I am grateful for. There are things that I do find more productive at my home? Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 52:14
Yeah, that's cool, right? Yeah, wherever you're comfortable, and you can do your thing.

Jean George 52:18
But I do find a lot of value working with my colleagues in an office, or just like getting to the office and seeing people getting out of my house. Like it's a good thing.

Qasim Virjee 52:26
Because ultimately, look, I I'll say this, from 2005, when I moved to Toronto, till 2014, I think I worked for one of the with one of the largest distributed teams in the world. That was the open source community around various different software packages. We were all distributed. Yeah, whether we had our own companies, whether we work for companies, whether we were just solo developers, let's talk about Drupal as one particular open source content management system. 10s of 1000s of contributors to the same codebase working together, but apart. There were community led initiatives to have meetups in local cities, and, you know, have global conferences and stuff like that, which was fun. But we were a distributed workforce. And I'll say that you can definitely get done work, right? Can you get all functions of an organization done remotely? Maybe not necessarily. It's fun, I still kept a studio or an office, even though I was working on the stuff with people remote. Because I felt the need to socialize as the way that I did business. Right. You know, because I was doing everything. I mean, sales, marketing, partnership formation, meeting clients, in person, all this stuff.

Jean George 53:48
But I just I started to realize, like, I had my son. And I think, for me, it was just so much more load. Like, there was this in my head. I was like, if I'm just home, I can get things done easier than working all hours of the day. But then I realized, like, there's a lot of people who, like, don't live with anyone, and they need to get to an office. Like they actually need to see people. And I was like, Oh, that is really important. Like I didn't think of it from that way.

Qasim Virjee 54:16
Yeah. No, it's very interesting, because I think I think there's a couple issues here, but they're definitely not as frontal lobe as we'd want them to. Right. Yeah. Like something shocking and for anyone who's listening or watching that has not been here to this campus in downtown Toronto, start well is in a heritage building. I don't know what it is. I don't know. I don't have literally designated that. But it's always like

Jean George 54:42
you can't really do a lot if it's a heritage building like structural. Toronto,

Qasim Virjee 54:46
you can do anything. Oh, interesting. Yeah, nothing's protected. You literally put up steel scaffolding to hold the facade of the building together. Everything else

Jean George 54:54
is good game or you take it apart,

The impact of remote work on urban density and office spaces.

Qasim Virjee 54:56
put it back together again. I say okay. We're rebuilding with a Looks like it used to. There's a lot of flexibility. Yeah, Knuckles. Yeah. Okay. Polls. Yeah. But the point is this building is a brick and beam building that's been here for at least 100 years. Yeah. And, but we're on the other side of the street facing and looking into our Windows is a row of condos. Right. And the the urban density in this neighborhood is one of the dentists in the whole city. Yeah. Yet this is so fascinating to me. Coming out of the pandemic, I had been now for two years. Let's call that 2020 2021 Ooh, and 2022. Let's call that three years, looking at all these people in their homes, and thinking, wow, these fellows will enjoy coming across the street. Let's keep coworking is one of our SKUs we were going to kill it. And I kept it alive because I was like, people need to get out of the house. Yeah. That's literally why Shiva Kondo Yeah. And that's why we have coworking still great. We've limited our square footage allotment to make sense, we only have maybe 20 members, we've never been able to post pandemic grow beyond them. And this is fascinating to me. Partly it's about creature comforts, fear paradigms. employee employer unwillingness to subsidize, office match is a big topic not many people are talking about. But in Canada, I've in my survey of talking to let's call it I would say soft survey, right? But like 100 plus companies of different industries. There is this, if we have an office, you should go there mentality. And there's if there's coworking, we'll give you 150 bucks a month, which doesn't pay for real estate, no, pre pandemic, everyone was spending 1000 bucks plus per head on fixed infrastructure. And that budgets been slashed so far. Yeah. So I find that very fascinating that like, there, it takes this kind of corporate will to subsidize workplaces. And yet that is now going on to the shoulders of the employees who are already overburdened by rising cost. Yeah. So part of this is this indentured labor field where like, people don't feel like they have the freedom to socialize, work, and to do work outside of being at home. And if they can control their productivity at home, they're seeing that is the thing that's going to keep them from getting fired. Oh, okay. This is a big thing that people Yeah. So if everyone's like, I can push out what I need to push out. And I can control it, because no one's like looking over my shoulder, then at least they'll keep me around. Yeah. And that's not healthy. No, no. So even looking at it as a marketing thing. It's really interesting, because b2b marketing is gotten more difficult than ever, because the word of mouth engine that no downtime for should be, yeah, is broken. Yeah. And this is fascinating to me is that the way companies are working now is even more digitized, in a sense. But the spoils have primarily gone to platform plays. Right? Not, especially on the software side for productivity software, and whatever software like Microsoft and Google, you choose your thing. You buy more stuff from them. So I don't know where that goes. Yeah, I do think that it's not possible for us to sustain empty downtown's?

Jean George 58:27
No. It seems just from my view, it seems like the chatter

Qasim Virjee 58:33
is, things are back. Yeah. And I think look, I mean, they also were sitting in the in the beginning of, or beginning of summer, almost 2024. Yeah. It's been 2020 2021 2020 2023. It's been four solid years of flux. Yeah. So any right now any movement towards feeling like people are gathering is is it feels like a revolution, right? It's nowhere near 50% of 2020 2019. Now, for us, of course, like, look, we're a place where people come together. Yeah. So whether people want an office or not, you know, we're here and we fulfill a business function. So that's good. Yeah. But yeah, I think I think the city less is another living in a city that's becoming more expensive. That feels like it's giving you less. Yeah, is very difficult

Jean George 59:31
to swallow. I know. And even like, if people were moving out like the gardener, it was a one lane right now.

Unknown Speaker 59:37
Oh, is it? Yeah.

Jean George 59:40
You don't I mean, and then it's like, Okay, how's our public transportation system and,

Qasim Virjee 59:44
yeah, Eglinton Crosstown is not done yet. No.

Jean George 59:48
So you don't I mean, it's like, okay, you can't live in the city. You want the desire to own it kind of need to go far out, driving into the cities very difficult. We're

Qasim Virjee 1:00:00
at a point, aren't we at a point now where the highest number of homes is are available for purchase? In the last like in the last than in the last decade or something? Is it? I don't know about that? Yeah. Because the house prices are now like everything's over a million bucks. Yeah, house and no one can afford them because of the interest rates and because of, you know, being over leveraged, especially in Toronto, where we have the highest household debt in the country. Yeah, it's problematic. So people aren't turning over how the housing market is not turning over. And yet we have a housing crisis. Yeah. So there's all these problems. But yeah, so I'm hopeful for because he, I'll tell you something that we see here, which is really interesting. As corporate teams come together, to collaborate and do their thing. They are like, the teams themselves are happier than ever being together for half day or full day. They love it, or multi day. Yeah, offsites are awesome. Everyone loves them. And what they love, especially, is intermingling with other people while they're here. Yeah. So it's so cool. And you know, like

Marketing strategies for B2B and B2C audiences.

Jean George 1:01:09
other businesses, Oh, interesting. Like brand new people, like instead of their employees are like peers, like their co workers. Okay.

Qasim Virjee 1:01:16
Okay. Interesting. And this is a fascinating thing, where, like, don't

Jean George 1:01:19
you think that's also a function of like, the type of businesses that work here? Like there's some similar like, personality? Similar archetype? No. Oh, okay.

Qasim Virjee 1:01:29
Outside of the one to come together in person we have because we might have teams that are like sales teams meeting with a coding team building a blockchain gaming platform. That's different with banking executives with with vice presidents from asset management company. Yeah. Okay. So it's really everyone. But what I'm finding is a want for pedestrian downtown experience. That is urban and street level, right? That isn't skyscraper level. Right? And that isn't just blocked up by traffic and construction. True. Okay. So people really love coming down here for the off site, they meet each other, they feel like that, like, we're kind of meeting new people. We're talking like, Oh, are you trapped at home? excluded from the potentiality of socializing in a daytime? Con? Some people like it? Yeah, I don't blame them. But like you were saying, you know, going back to that early days of your career and talking about going for lunch?

Unknown Speaker 1:02:23
Yeah. Yeah. Like,

Qasim Virjee 1:02:25
that's fun. Oh,

Jean George 1:02:26
my God. Of course, no. Also just like talking about what you're watching on the TV or what podcast you're listening to or like, hearing about your co workers evening. It's just nice. So

Qasim Virjee 1:02:38
what's your take on? If if there is a take on if the b2b market is a little bit like? Or let's say reaching reaching audiences is difficult, right? It's becoming more difficult. From a marketing strategy standpoint. What are some of the top level observations you have, from a b2b or anything, let's say even b2c, whatever your lens is, but like how advertisers can employ strategy to ensure their message is met with a receptive audience.

Jean George 1:03:12
So I'll speak to this answer from a perspective of a strategist working at an agency. Yeah. So we get a brief and the client will outline a problem. How do we sell X amount of

Qasim Virjee 1:03:26
potatoes? Yes.

Jean George 1:03:30
But then I feel like it's our job as strategist to really uncover is that the only barrier? And like, go a little bit deeper. So we always look at like, what's the tension? And I think the tensions are really rich place to live in because it means there's a force maybe within your target that wants to buy, but there's something stopping them. And what's that? And that should be the focus of the problem you're trying to solve? Because it's not just about getting them to buy, why aren't they buy? So I think once you understand that, like, what's the problem within the problem? I think that's where you get really rich territory. And then I think of the agencies I've worked in the last two, like they've really tried to invest and understand the values and mental postures of the client. There's a bunch of desk research you can do. Yeah. And it's good. Like Google exists, it's you can get some surface level stuff. But like, some of the anecdotes I was telling you about Canadians and their values of like feeling disempowered, but wanting to achieve without understanding that how do you motivate them? Like how can we how can I give a brief to the creative team to come up with an idea that would resonate with the target we're trying to talk to? So in that instance, like we are investing with partner consultancies to really understand Canadian Mental postures and attitudes, but I think without understanding that like, you You don't know. And so going back to my days at Oracle, like, you're, I mean, I'm cold calling people, but I'm researching them on LinkedIn, like trying to find, okay, where do they go to school? Like, who are they also connected with? And so just trying to again be very intentional with the conversation I'm gonna have with them because I only got one chance. So a phone call to like digital, it's still the same. You got to know who you're talking to. Yeah. So I just think like, it's like, that's my god, like over probably 10 years difference, but it's the same strategy. Yeah, I think so. I think that's it. And there's a lot of information out there. So I think it might give people this like idea that oh, it's just find it. It's on the internet. But it's like it's so vast, it's too broad

Qasim Virjee 1:05:43
you're looking for you need to know how to synthesize it and how to distill it. What's the actual

Jean George 1:05:48
problem? Yeah. What is what is the real problem? And then who is it that you're trying to convince and what do they believe about the world and those around them? Right. But that's what I think a really good brief is about and I that's when I think you get into really interesting creative ideas. Nice

Qasim Virjee 1:06:07
Geno's, a pleasure.

Jean George 1:06:08
Oh, thank you. This was great.

Meeting room rentals at StartWell in Toronto

Book any of our meeting rooms or venues on-demand for small or large company gatherings. We include presentation technology with complimentary barista service and a great vibe that your team will love.

1 of 12