Barb Huggett of Captivate Canada on Capturing Attention through Innovation

By Kathy Newberger WomenAdvancing Archives

In the office that Captivate’s Toronto team moved into earlier this month, the employees never leave.  Or, at least their 3-D printed replicas don’t.  Barb Huggett, head of sales for Captivate in Canada, had the statuettes created for display in their reception area, instead of hanging more traditional staff photos (see photo below).  As Senior Vice President, Advertising Sales and General Manager of Canada for the location-based digital video network, best known for its in-elevator screens, Huggett manages both the real estate and advertising sides of the business.  Opting for innovation has become something of a trademark throughout Huggett’s career, which became clear during our recent interview.

Kathy Newberger:  What drew you to Captivate?

Barb Huggett:  About seven years ago digital out-of-home was just emerging and it was very exciting -- certainly an opportunity to do more with customization and creativity than with traditional out-of-home, which was pretty much selling to agencies.  I was drawn by the opportunity to create unique solutions for advertisers.

Kathy:  Tell us about your current role.

Barb:  I’m still passionate about the product, but my current role heading up Canada is really about the team.  We’re growing quite a bit, and breaking into the Ottawa market this fall.  There's a real appetite for expansion, and the people here are great.  I have a wonderful team, I have to say.

Kathy:  You manage the team that works with property owners to place Captivate screens in their office buildings, and you are also in charge of the advertising sales organization.  How does that work?

Barb:  Seeing it holistically is an advantage.  We're better able to understand what property managers need to enhance their properties and what the tenant experience should be.  In turn, we can develop relevant products that are impactful for our advertising partners.

Kathy:  Your website lets users look at screens live, and it’s clear that you have a good mix of categories and some really prestige brands and events.

Barb:  The categories are evolving.  During my initial meetings with ad agencies, they assumed Captivate worked best for just business-to-business clients.  This year, though, one of our largest advertising categories in Canada is consumer packaged goods.  Captivate is more about following an audience throughout the day and reaching the right person in a place where an advertiser can make an impact. We’re also looking at new technologies and are becoming part of the programmatic marketplace, too.

Kathy:  How did you get into advertising in the first place?

Barb:  I was always interested in communications and PR.  My dad worked for Hiram Walker, the liquor company, and I remember as a child trying to write slogans for him.  When I was exploring my career path, I went to the University of Windsor to study communications part-time and worked full-time to put myself through.  I then attended St. Clair College to study the practical part of advertising and media.  Upon completion, I came up to Toronto and started at Y&R as a media estimator, a planner.

Kathy:  How did your career take shape?

Barb:  It’s about the people you meet along the way.  I had bosses who taught me the ropes in terms of what clients needed to see.  Some were very forward thinking and encouraged pushing outside the box to show what unique value I could offer.  And later I worked on some cutting-edge products.  It’s the innovation and innovative thinking that attracts me to the positions I’ve gone to, frankly, now that I’m looking at it.

Kathy:  Are there any particular campaigns that exemplify that kind of innovative thinking?

Barb:  One example would be EY (Ernst and Young) in Toronto.  They began advertising with us through a very small campaign.  As they were rebranding the company, we began working with them to better understand what kind of content they had and put together a first-to-market, thought leadership program on our screens.  That was a fun, interesting way of delivering something they needed.

Kathy:  What do you look for in employees?

Barb:  On the sales side, I look for people with good business sense, who can be collaborative and have a customer focused approach. I’m not trying to find the same person for every role, it’s about people who complement the rest of the team. For example we brought someone in who was particularly experienced in the finance category, and it’s helping the whole team get stronger in that area. 

Kathy:  Can you tell us about your life outside of work?

Barb:  Captivate’s tagline is “Bring Life to Work” and I appreciate that they promote work-life balance. My younger daughter, who is 15, is a second-degree black belt in competitive Taekwondo and trains six days a week, so there’s a lot of carting her around.  My husband takes on most of that, I have to admit. He’s very supportive, and that has been important in my life and to my career.  Our oldest is 16 and wants to be an automotive engineer.  She’s the only girl in auto class this year, and being in that position can be intimidating, I know.  I encourage her to keep going, to speak up and ask the questions she needs, because it’s what she loves and she should keep doing it.

Kathy:  What’s different about Captivate in Canada versus the U.S.?

Barb:  The same goals apply, but there are some differences.  For example, Ottawa will have both English and French running on the screen.  It’s something the rest of the company can look at for markets that are bilingual.  We also have Montreal which is predominately French.  My colleagues in the states always seem to think that Canada has more holidays, but it’s just because our holidays don’t fall at the same time.  There’s only one extra.  I did the math.

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