Written by Colin Withers on May 13, 2015
in Creative, Events

On Thursday May 7th, some members of the Ariad team had the pleasure of attending the 2015 CMACreative Conference. Co-chaired by Ariad SVP Baron Manett, the day was jam-packed with talks and breakout sessions from some of North America’s leading creative thinkers from the agency, industry, film, and music fields. While there was far too much content to cover in a single post, here are a few highlights from this year’s conference.


Jay Shuster, Production Designer, PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS – “Secrets to Creative Success”

The opening keynote came from Jay Shuster of Pixar, who shared some behind-the-scenes insights from one of the world’s most creative companies.

  • “Every pixel is designed.” – After opening with a stunning visual reel of Pixar’s incredible catalogue, Shuster began by reinforcing the need for a creative process when making films where every aspect is designed and created from the imagination of Pixar employees.
  • “Everything begins with a sketch.” – Pixar’s films are merely the finished products of rough sketches. Main character designs can take up to a year and a half alone, and each film takes between three and a half and five years to make. When starting any creative project, it’s vital to take the process one step at a time.
  • “Art and story must evolve closely together.” – Pixar enters every film without a set script, and allows for the art and story to evolve together, as Pixar’s organizational leaders believe that they are inseparable.
  • “Hire people smarter than yourself.” – Shuster used this quote from Pixar President Ed Catmull to describe the company’s hiring philosophy. Pixar employs people from a wide range of backgrounds, from comic book artists to physicists to pastry chefs. Hiring talented people from diverse backgrounds helps to spark creativity.
  • “Keep it loose.” – Pixar encourages its employees to present work in any form to allow for creative inspiration. Shuster gave anecdotes of successful design pitches he made to senior management based on sketches on napkins or receipts. By keeping the creative process loose, Pixar maximizes the inquisitive nature of its employees.
  • Shuster explained that every Pixar story is approached the same way a customer journey is approached. What are the characters wants? Needs? Desires? Obstacles? What are their best case endings, and worst case endings?
  • “The cycle always happens again.” – Due to the cyclical nature of the film industry, Pixar encourages its employees to move past mistakes and errors and to keep focused on producing the best work they can. There is no time to get hung up, because there is always another movie in the pipeline.
  • “Pain is temporary, suck is forever. Always make it great.” – Shuster ended by explaining that although Pixar’s creative process can be difficult, every employee accepts criticism because they are all focused on the end goal – making a great film. It’s better to endure temporary pain and go back to the drawing board than to let subpar work slide. At the end of the day, all that matters is the end product.


Marie Wiese, President, Marketing Copilot – “Building your B2B or B2C Content Marketing Plan in the Age of Changed Buyer Behaviour”

In this breakout session, Marie Wiese outlined the challenges that many B2B and B2C marketers face in adapting to the new age of consumer-centric marketing.

  • B2B marketing in the “old days” positioned Salespeople as walking “About Us” webpages
  • The traditional sales funnel dates back to 1989. It’s time to rethink the way we do business.
  • 60% of the sales funnel is taking place in the digital space, without any direct contact to businesses. It’s vital to have the right kind of targeted content that’s easily available in order to influence your customer in this stage of their journey.
  • Content marketing is not intrusive. It adds value and invites you to engage.
  • The sales loop is never ending. Your existing customers can be your most successful lead generators – ensure that your content plan does not stop after purchase.
  • Wiese outlined her 7 steps to content marketing:

1) Agreement

2) Audience Definition

3) Differentiation

4) Content Development

5) Content Publishing

6) Consumption

7) Measurement



Mark Michaud, SVP, Ariad Communications – “Are You Suffering from Premachurn? How to Improve Onboarding, Keep Customers, and Get More from your Marketing Dollars”

In this presentation, Ariad’s own Mark Michaud gave a synopsis of our latest white paper Suffering from premachurn? which focuses on the lost opportunities during the onboarding process, and how creative solutions can fix them.

  • Marketers are often focused on acquisition only, yet Ariad have received multiple briefs from large organizations that outline customer loss during onboarding (what we call premachurn) as one of their most pressing problems.
  • The root cause of premachurn comes from the increased silo-ization of brand experience, customer experience, and user experience.
  • In complex organizations, these functions have been handed out to different departments – marketing for brand experience, sales and account management for customer experience, and digital for user experience.
  • What companies fail to recognize is that all of these experiences are the same thing. A customer who is frustrated with the user experience is also having a negative brand experience – the separation is organizational, but for the customer, it is one experience.
  • Often, premachurn rates can go as high as 50%. In these cases, marketing has succeeded in eliciting a response from consumers, only to have those consumers never fully convert because of poorly designed onboarding.
  • Why are marketers the ones to fix it? Because they have the skills, insights and tools needed, namely: 1) A singular view of brand, customer and user experience. 2) The ability to create compelling experiences and interactions throughout a customer journey. 3) The knowledge of what it takes to not only acquire but keep customers and ultimately turn them into brand advocates.
  • Where creativity comes into play is in discovering ways to ease customers through the onboarding process. Whether it’s innovative packaging, better designed web forms, email reminder campaigns for abandoned sign-ups – marketers are able to use content to fix identified pain points during the customer journey.


Naeem Lakhani, Co-Founder & Head of Data Science, Gallop Labs – “Optimizing for the Customer’s Journey”

Naeem Lakhani’s talk focused on the relationship between creativity and data, and how one can inform the other.

  • Why is data important? Speed – new technology has allowed us to gain insights from data faster than ever before. Scale – data allows us to gain customer insight on an incredibly macro scale. Validation – we are now able to validate the success of our campaigns quicker than ever before.
  • Data vs. creativity – why does it need to be a battle? The traditional right brain vs. left brain debate is unnecessary; as they both need to work together in order to produce great work.
  • In order to best use data, we need to: 1) Know what you are trying to accomplish. 2) Map the customer journey. 3) Identify the data (both what we have and what we are missing) at every point. 4) Achieve digital serendipity through storytelling.


Alexander Peh, Head of Market Development and Mobile, Paypal and Kerry Reynolds, Head of Consumer Marketing, Paypal – “Creative Mobile Commerce: Innovation and Function”

In an interactive presentation, Alexander Peh and Kerry Reynolds outlined how creativity is shaping the incoming (and already happening) mobile boom.

  • There is 1 active mobile phone for every human in the world.
  • 40% of Millennials only access the internet through their mobile device.
  • The average North American spends 3 full hours of heavy use on their mobile device.
  • It’s no longer “mobile-first”; it’s simply “mobile”. We need to stop thinking of mobile as a new area and start thinking of it as one of the key ways consumers want to interact with brands.
  • Over 50% of all traffic on Shopify merchants now comes from mobile.
  • Despite huge mobile usage numbers, only 20% of all purchases are made on mobile devices. How much will that go up based on what we know of mobile penetration and usage?
  • Manual credit card entry has a 60% lower conversion rate than desktop. While mobile best practices still apply, simply porting your desktop payment solution to mobile is not enough. You need to design creatively for the device.
  • Create frictionless experiences. Peh and Reynolds provided some excellent examples: Spring – a swipe-to-pay app that takes advantage of existing user behaviour. Giftagram – a curated gift-buying app that allows users to buy and send gifts knowing only the recipient’s phone number and email address.
  • These are both examples of “step-less”, “friction-less” purchase journeys
  • Mobile has the power to simplify daily interactions. Peh and Reynolds provided some excellent examples: HonkMobile – an easy-to-use parking payment app. Grabb – an app that allows you to pre-order and pre-pay for food pick-up. Keep – a shopping app that aggregates multiple stores into a single shopping cart. Payso – a simplified P2P payment app.
  • All of these apps target simple, daily tasks and make them easier.
  • Mobile can build on personalized expectations. Peh and Reynolds provided an excellent example: HeartThis – a shopping app that serves you items from various stores based on your previous shopping history.
  • Mobile can use your behavioural data to contextualize your content through transparent personalization.
  • Think beyond the device. Peh and Reynolds provided some excellent examples: Lunchbox – a food delivery service that operates solely through SMS. Wearables – non-contact payment systems through wearables make use of devices with limited functionality.
  • Solutions do not always have to be complex. By leveraging connections to other mediums, companies can use mobile in creative ways.



David Usher, Juno-Award Winning Musician & Creativity Expert, Author of Let the Elephants Run – “Core Creativity – How to Bring Creativity, Innovation, and Inspiration to the Work that You Do”

The event’s closing keynote saw David Usher take the stage to deliver an interactive talk on creativity that was filled with musical performances, multi-media interludes, and audience participation.

  • “Creativity isn’t a science, but it isn’t magic either. It’s learnable” – Usher stressed that while some people might be more inclined to creativity than others, it’s not an inherent skill – it can be learned, honed, and practiced.
  • “Creativity is 95% work and 5% inspiration.” – When people view the end product of the creative process, it’s easy to assume that it’s based on pure talent. What people don’t see is the hard work, failure, and preparation that went into it.
  • While the real world needs rules to operate, creativity is all about stepping outside of those rules. When you break a rule such as the 4th wall, you change everything.
  • “Structure a creative process that produces unexpected outcomes.”
  • In any creative process, you have to anticipate hesitancy and fear and overcome it. Chances are, the more scared you are to do something, the more you should do it.
  • The perfect conditions for creativity never exist. You need to find time to do it anyway. There is always an excuse, and if you use it, you’ll never create anything.
  • Creative inspiration can often come from a collision of existing ideas. 1+1 can equal 3.
  • Ideas are important, but it’s the execution that delivers them – freedom and structure are needed to make big ideas a reality.


The event wrapped up with a few words from Co-Chairs Baron Manett and Aldo Cundari, followed by every conference attendee’s favourite part of the agenda – the cocktails. Here at Ariad, we’re proud to continue our close involvement with the Canadian Marketing Association, and engage with Canadian marketers and global thought leaders at every opportunity.

Colin Withers is the Brand & Communications Manager at Ariad Communications.

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