Kerry Bezzanno

A new approach for chasing the coveted idea

There may not be an industry that worships and chases the coveted ‘idea’ more than us in advertising. Although creativity flows through every facet of our lives, we in the biz rely on it to shape and inform every aspect of what we produce as an agency. Naturally, then, the process of fostering this creativity and generating ideas — the timeless brainstorm — is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, we were recently inspired by an article from the Harvard Business Review, which talked about research findings for how to improve the quality of brainstorming sessions.

First off, the science shows that brainstorming groups tasked with focusing on quantity (as opposed to quality) achieved better results on both fronts. So don’t overthink it — just say it!

Moreover, studies have found that when members in a brainstorming group share an embarrassing story, results, again, are materially improved. It’s hypothesized that these preliminary expressions of vulnerability and candor lower inhibitions and help open the floodgates for creativity. It also means that, by the time you get down to work, everyone will have had a good laugh (or two, or three).

Armed with this knowledge, we set about creating the ‘Idea Time’ card to share with members of our team, clients and collaborators. These cards serve to remind everyone how to work together during a successful idea generation session by listing some of the proven best practices. Additionally, we wanted to make something tangible, as real objects can sometimes carry more weight than virtual ones, like emails or wikis. Lastly, the smooth glossy finish means they can reflect light and act as a signal of sorts, in case we ever all get trapped in the office and require rescuing.

In fact, through this process, we’ve been inspired, and are now envisioning a whole of deck of cards with guidelines, suggestions and helpful information that we could build out over time and share with our team.

Without further ado, here are the nine points on each Idea Time card:

  • Start by having everyone share an embarrassing story
  • Share every idea that comes to mind
  • Aim for quantity, not quality
  • Don’t just say it, explain it
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Avoid criticism
  • Stay focused
  • Ask everyone to contribute
  • And if you get stuck, restate the problem and try again

And of course, since we’re in the middle of a rebrand, we added only a hint of the Starburst logo.

Our new Idea Time cards.

Angelina Cho

Now Hiring: Digital Media Coordinator

Starburst is seeking a full-time, on-site Digital Media Coordinator to work directly with one of our national clients, a well-known and established Canadian retailer. Reporting to the Digital Media Manager, the successful candidate will manage and optimize local digital media campaigns for our client’s retail stores across Canada.

This position presents significant potential for career development and growth. Starburst provides team members with competitive compensation and health benefits plus opportunities for professional development and networking.

Duties & Responsibilities:

  • Manage local retail campaigns on self serve advertising platforms, such as Google and Facebook
  • Monitor and optimize ad performance
  • Prepare monthly reporting
  • Liaise with client marketing team, along with individual retail store owners

Candidates should possess:

  • Strong familiarity with Google AdWords (including SEM, display and YouTube), Facebook ads (including Instagram) and the Google Analytics platform
  • Experience managing multiple projects and clients
  • The ability to analyze data to improve performance of campaigns
  • Strong understanding of conversion tracking and the concept of micro-conversions
  • Experience reporting and measuring the success of digital media campaigns
  • A passion for finding innovative and creative digital media solutions for client problems
  • Two or more years of experience and a related post-secondary degree or diploma


Interested candidates are asked to submit a cover letter and resume with “Digital Media Coordinator” in the subject line to by November 3, 2017.

Kayla Baretta

So what do we mean by real time?

We are obsessed with optimization.

We optimize ad structure, copy, creative, tactics, strategy, landing pages and brands based on results. We iterate on our work and take the learnings and make it better.

At least, this is what we do for our clients.

Our need to rebrand came out of a realization that our brand didn’t quite fit who we were as an organization anymore. We had spent time reiterating processes for honing our clients’ brands but we missed fully maximizing the opportunity to optimize our own company as well.

As a result, we started to discuss what Starburst should look like versus who we had become. This led to not only discussions about our brand and internal culture but also about our own processes.

As we reflected on all of this, one concept was apparent and continual—that we optimize and iterate while also encouraging our clients to do the same.

In many ways, Starburst was already becoming an agile organization—we’ve just chosen to accelerate this process.

What does agile mean?

Agile is a way of thinking about project and team management that comes from software development. It’s broken into many different ways of practice but at its core are four main values:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Response to change over following a plan

So what does that mean for an ad agency?

We interpret those agile values as follows:

  • We understand that people drive success. Tools and processes are what we use but they won’t determine the success of a project.
  • It’s better to show a client that something works by delivering relevant solutions that meet their needs than to write about it, discuss theories and create documentation.
  • We involve our customers throughout the process. Not just at the beginning and end. We consult with them and treat them as part of our team. And we expect to be treated as part of their team. Customer insight and feedback is valued.
  • We understand that things will change in the course of any project. We work with our teams and clients to incorporate change versus fighting against it.

So how does this affect our rebrand?

There are lots of things we need to get done—from logo development and website changes to our business cards and all the things in between.

And honestly, we’ve been talking about doing these things for almost a year!

Now we need to start doing—prioritizing action. So we’ve begun taking the steps to iterate on our brand, collateral and website. Doing chunks of work each week.

And the key is that we don’t think it should stop once things seems to be okay or “ready for a launch.”

In many ways, this goes against traditional marketing where we do everything and launch a big campaign all at once.

But this isn’t really the way marketing works anymore. We need to be flexible and adjust in response to the changing digital and marketing landscapes.

We are going to be working on our brand and website each week from now until our official “launch” and then continually after that—iterating and optimizing ourselves.

This means that you will see changes to our website each week. We expect that it might look a little mis-mashed at times. We will also be working on our collateral and will show you sneak peeks for that as well!

We will keep you informed of our progress along the way. In fact, you can watch it on our Trello boards here.

Additionally, we will be documenting our progress in blog posts on this site so you can see a bit about what we are doing and how we are doing it. This will include design, copy, development and process related posts. 

We’ll be posting weekly on what’s going on, what we’ve accomplished and what we are learning. Stay tuned!

Rob Jennings

“Hey Jeff–I need a link for today’s #mustreadbeforespeed. Got any ideas?”

Rob Jennings

Excuse the mess–we’re rebranding.

The name of our agency is a bit of an inside joke. Serious creatives in the advertising business hate starbursts. I don’t like starbursts either. And I thought that was pretty funny in 2008.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Starburst would grow from a one-person consultancy to one of the largest independent agencies in our market with 29 employees (and counting), national clients and a second office in Toronto. Sometime in the past nine years I realized that we had outgrown the name. About four years ago, I started to take seriously the idea of changing it. I consulted with some of my team members. I even registered various domains when ideas came to me or others on the team.

And then nothing happened. Well, a lot happened. We expanded our services, took on new clients and started growing at an impressive rate. (Our compound annual growth rate for the past five years is 38.2%.) I told myself we didn’t have time to work on our own rebrand and the project was shelved before it had a chance to take off.

When we moved into our new office in early 2016, I told our interior designer that I didn’t want to install any signage at reception or elsewhere in the space. “Let’s wait until we have a new logo,” I said. I was certain that moving was the catalyst we needed to roll up our sleeves and actually get to work on a new brand.

And still nothing happened. Until September of 2016, when I boldly declared that we would start work immediately on a new brand and launch it to the world in just eight weeks. We’d become our own worst client: “Start. Stop. Start again. Stop again. Wait… okay now rush.”

In the first week, everyone in the agency was engaged to identify the attributes that defined us collectively: ambitious, most of all, but also knowledgeable and fun.

In the second week, we explored our positioning: we take an agile, always-on, constantly updated and continuously optimized approach to marketing that prioritizes doing and learning over researching and planning. Act, analyze and adapt—then repeat for best results. It’s an approach we’ve honed by working closely with fast-paced retailers that demand a quantifiable return on their marketing but it’s bigger and broader than that—the principles are sound and it can be applied to any organization.

Then, in the third and fourth weeks, we started to working on names. From there, we short-listed two names: Charter and FKA.

This is Charter.

Meet FKA.

We were getting somewhere, right? But then something totally awesome happened. We were approached by two different companies to develop two new national brands.

One was a rebrand for Canadian Direct Financial, an entirely online bank and a division of Canadian Western Bank, one of our amazing clients. The other was a new brand for a company taking on disrupters like Casper and Endy in the highly competitive online mattress category.

Both projects were bigger than anything we had taken on before. Both brands needed new names, visual identities, websites, collateral and big budget advertising campaigns. More importantly, both needed to launch in the first half of 2017. Something had to give. Our rebrand was put on hold again.

Olive is Canada’s better-made bed-in-a-box.

Motive is the national online bank for serious savers.

It’s been an outstanding year. We’ve all been very fulfilled by the work and we’re proud of the results. Our brains have been steeped in branding—which brings us more or less to today.

We’re kicking off our rebrand project again. But this time, we’re doing it differently. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is by taking an agile and iterative approach. We’ll edit and optimize along the way. We’re not going to hide our process or our work then reveal it when we think it’s ready. Instead, we’re going to open it all up to the world by sharing it in real-time along the way. It’s ambitious—but that’s who we are.

BTW, we’re going with FKA.