Kerry-Anne MacDougall and Dawn Binns, the local business partners who founded and developed Insight Studio, are handing over the reins to new leadership after 15 years of operation. Taking on the newly established position of CEO is Jeremy Marentette, who possesses over 20 years of experience in integrated marketing. Jeremy’s marketing expertise and leadership skills make him the perfect candidate to take Insight Studio to the next level. Joining him on our senior leadership team is Mark MacLean, who has stepped into Insight’s Creative Director role after nearly 7 years with Insight. Jeremy and Mark took some time to answer some questions about what they’ll bring to their new roles and the future of Insight Studio.
q. tell us about your career before moving to insight studio.
a. My professional career is wide and varied and what some would consider to be an non-traditional path for a CEO. I was a welder, a nightclub owner, and an event promoter all before the age of 24 when I decided to join an ad agency in Toronto. I joined McCann Canada to run their Contest Management department. The role was exciting as I had the opportunity to work on some massive integrated campaigns for some of Canada’s largest and most well-known brands. From there I moved into more traditional account management roles at various agencies, large and small in Canada and the US, before eventually landing an amazing role leading the digital menu board content strategy and physical rollout for McDonald’s Canada. After that I took a consulting role with Xerox (they sell more than copiers!) and met with marketing leaders all over North America and Europe to help them leverage data-driven personalization across physical and digital channels.
q. what led you to PEI, and ultimately to insight studio?
a. When the pandemic hit, my partner and I were living in a condo in downtown Toronto. I was working with Xerox and he was on the management team at a newly-opened restaurant. We had always taken advantage of everything the city had to offer – art galleries, film festivals, restaurants, concerts, co-working spaces, coffee shops, etc. and in what felt like an instant, my partner was out of work and all those amazing things we loved about the city didn’t exist any more. After two years of lockdowns we realized that there had to be more to life than taking stairwells and elevators to our small box in the sky. We made a list of the things that were important to us and began searching. The summer of 2021 I found a posting for Client Services Director at this cool creative and branding shop called Insight Studio in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. It was a company I had never heard of in a place I had never been to. I met virtually with the owners Dawn and Kerry Anne and found an instant connection. I visited them in person the following week to get to know them better and tour the office. It felt like an instant connection, and I accepted their offer that day. The rest is a bit of a whirlwind to be honest!
q. what do you think sets Insight apart from others in the same field?
a. Insight has a very unique mix of specialties all under one roof that leads to some fantastic work that, in my opinion, stands up to any other agency anywhere. Our in-house video, social media, and communications teams allow us to bring brand stories to life in such a unique way. In my previous experience I would have needed to work with several different partners to get what Insight delivers for its clients seamlessly with our own people. It’s pretty amazing, actually! Another thing that sets us apart from others comes from our unique location in Prince Edward Island. Everything here is ‘local’ in a way that I couldn’t have understood while living and working in Ontario. There is a sense of camaraderie, a ‘we’re in this together’ feeling that I often didn’t feel when working on something that I’d never see in my community. Here I often get to see the direct impacts of our work in a way that continually reminds me of the power of what we can do. It all feels much more personal – and it heightens that feeling of responsibility to ‘get it right.’ Plus, our agency gets to work with so many different types of clients on some really impactful projects that truly make a difference in people’s lives. I firmly believe that our unique mix of services, that differentiates us, combined with our Island-based experience, that grounds us, makes us an unassuming force to be reckoned with as we continue to expand our work to more regional and national clients.
q. what accomplishment are you most proud of to date at insight studio?
a. This might sound rather mundane, but I’m most proud of the processes that we’ve put in place over the last 12 months. These changes have made our approach to client work more methodical, efficient, and rooted in strategy. Change can be tough for everyone, and we’ve made a lot of changes in the past year, including some that included rather difficult decisions. We’ve now come out on the other side with a renewed focus on the work we love to do for the clients we love to do it for; storytelling through branding, design, social, video, and the media. I’m proud to see consistency in how we get things done and in the final products we deliver to our clients. And seeing the Insight team bring it all to life every day, building upon their successes and learning and improving with each new project brings me all the joy – it’s truly my ‘why’ of being in this business. I firmly believe that our unique mix of services, that differentiates us, combined with our Island-based experience, that grounds us, makes us an unassuming force to be reckoned with as we continue to expand our work to more regional and national clients.
q. where do you hope to take insight studio, and how will you get there?
a. Our vision is to become the top Atlantic-Canadian agency in the next 5 years – not in revenue or in size or the number of industry awards – but in impact. We want to be known as the ‘go to’ agency for brands who need to tell their stories and truly connect with people. I recognize that in order to do this, we’re first going to need to focus on our people and our culture. We’ve already begun this work but have only scratched the surface in providing the level of education, mentorship and coaching opportunities, and optimal work life balance that we envision for Insight. I’m also prioritizing the evolution of our compensation model so that it meets the various needs of the team across different facets of their lives. For example, one of my goals is to get a modern employee retirement saving program in place before the end of 2023 so that we can help contribute to employee well-being today and in their futures. We are doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion, to ensure that we have a good base of ideas from many perspectives and lived experiences. We want everyone to feel welcome, respected, and empowered to be their true selves at work. And this will all be reflected in the creative products we put into the world. We’re also going to be putting ourselves out there in a way that is unique to Insight. We’re going to show instead of tell. Our debut initiative, ‘March Ad-ness’ wrapped up at the end of last month. During this campaign the team developed 31 ads, one for every day of the month, each featuring a cause or issue that was important to the team. The team got to flex their creative muscles and say some important things to the world. The impact was palpable as we received powerful feedback from a variety of individuals who were personally affected by some issues that the campaign highlighted. Finally, we’re going to focus on developing and fostering meaningful relationships with our clients. At the end of the day we’re working with human beings and helping them connect with other human beings; their audiences and customers. We need to build trust, work hard, try new things, admit when we’re wrong, and stand in our integrity, while having some fun along the way. If we can do all of the above, we will be unstoppable.
q. why did you decide to join the creative industry and how did you get your start?
a. My path into this creative industry began through graphic design. And while I gained so many skills I continue to lean upon today, it was a shared passion for film making with one of my instructors that lit a fire in me to chase a career in film and television. My time spent between Vancouver and Halifax offered plenty of production and post-production experience between films, series, and commercials, while I developed, wrote and produced independent projects, and honed my craft When I eventually returned to PEI, I was able to make my own opportunities in the commercial space which ultimately led me to Insight Studio as their first in-house Video Producer. The bottom line is that any success I’ve had in the world of marketing can be traced back to my understanding and appreciation of storytelling. Point of view, conflict, stakes, and character all have their place in the world of marketing via brand development, messaging, and connecting with your audience. Marketing is storytelling and telling a story has always been a natural part of my approach.
q. describe how you’ve seen insight studio change over your seven years.
a. In a nutshell, the biggest change I’ve seen over the years has been in our need to let go of what no longer serves us as a company. I’m referring to the tactics, approaches, and even belief systems that at one point helped us on our journey, but are now hindering us as we attempt to reach the next checkpoint. Recognizing that what got us ‘here’ isn’t necessarily going to be what takes us ‘there’ has been the catalyst for a lot of positive change that can be seen in our internal processes, the types of work we are pursuing, the clients we’re looking to work with, and the quality of the new team members we onboard.
q. what kind of work brings you the most joy and satisfaction?
a. The work that brings me the most joy and satisfaction is usually bold, high concept, and engages with audiences in a way that doesn’t spoon-feed them. Making audiences think, challenging them to connect the dots, subverting their expectations, providing them with an ‘aha’ moment, or eliciting an emotional response is the type of work I am most proud of. If the viewer has felt something from the work we produce, then we’ve done our job.
q. what project(s) are you most proud of so far?
a. One of the first things I focused on when becoming Insight’s Creative Director was addressing some holes in our branding process. Our previous approach didn’t allow the time needed upfront to flesh out a cohesive visual system that could then be applied across multiple platforms. Change is never easy, especially in our deadline driven world, but I am most proud of my creative team for embracing this new approach – the effects of which are most present in our Piper’s Punch brand development project, where we earned the opportunity to name, design, and develop our first nationally distributed product for our client Canada’s Island Garden (CIG).
q. how do you approach leadership and team development in the creative studio?
a. My approach to leadership in particular has been to unlearn what I used to think leadership was. I have been guilty of ‘heroing’ which is placing myself as the central point that everything needs to go through all of the time. It’s not only an inefficient way to lead, it’s incredibly exhausting. I’ve turned my focus toward my team and finding ways to challenge them, empower them, and help them excel in their roles, which will in turn lead to the growth of our company.
q. what is your vision for Insight’s creative team and the company itself?
a. The creative team we are continuing to build here at Insight Studio is one that consists of some of the brightest, grittiest, and most curious minds we can attract. This is a group who are invested in one another, and who support and challenge one another in the interest of leveling up and producing emotional, thought provoking, or engaging content. As for the company, we are a creative agency so a goal of mine is to earn opportunities to work with some of the more mainstream brands recognized nationally and internationally. A major goal of mine in the next two-three years is to help our team earn the agency’s first award and be added to the conversation of the best creative agencies Atlantic Canada has to offer.