30 Under 30: Trevor Byrne

Marketing begins to unveil its 30 Under 30 list with Taxi's superstar account director

Kristin Laird August 21, 2012

The future of Canada’s marketing industry will be shaped by its youngest talent—the super-worldly, plugged-in, brilliant and creative youth who are already making a name for themselves. Marketing put out the call to the industry to find the top 30 standouts under the age of 30 who have already made their mark on the industry.

From PR to advertising to media and beyond, our Top 30 Under 30 showcases the smartest, bravest and most creative ones to watch in the business.

Trevor Byrne, 29

Account director, Taxi Toronto

Most of Trevor Byrne’s academic achievements and career highlights (so far) centre around cars.

He studied at the Canadian Automotive Institute, beat out 150 students for an internship at Volkswagen Canada and held a marketing position at Nissan Canada before moving over to its creative agency TBWA. Now he leads the automotive portion of the Canadian Tire account at Taxi. Byrne is steering a strong career course fueled by ambition, passion and a strong work ethic, and clearly he’s impressed his colleagues; Byrne received multiple nominations for Marketing’s 30 Under 30 search. Jack Neary, former chief creative officer at TBWA\Toronto says, “Without question Trevor has the best creative instincts of any young account person I’ve worked with in 34 years. He makes the work better.”

Aside from extolling Byrne’s strategic thinking, former TBWA\Toronto managing director Philip George says Byrne is “one of the most decent, hardworking and genuinely pleasant people you’ll find.”

Not bad for someone from humble beginings. Byrne grew up in a small rural town in Southern Ontario where despite his fascination with cars, learned more about responsibility and work ethic than he did engines and break fluid. As a kid, he helped with his family’s Rottweiler and Mastiff kennel and in high school he managed a free-range pheasant farm and worked in the tobacco fields around Tillsonburg, Ontario.

When he got his license his interest in cars grew along with his desire for freedom and the open road. He devoured any car magazine and how-to article he could get his hands on.

Byrne ended up in Georgian College’s automotive program and while he was there landed his first paid marketing gig with Desperado Marketing, working on the Nissan account and later landed a full-time position as marketing operations analyst with Nissan Canada. The account team at TBWA (Nissan’s creative AOR) lured him over “to the dark side” in 2007 where he held a senior account executive position for just over a year before joining digital shop Grand. He returned to TBWA in 2010 and focused on moving Nissan’s efforts online, specifically around its Sentra SE-R model, which was a challenge at first.

“The argument I made was this: I understand that TV has a role in marketing and it’s a very valuable medium to have, but the fact of the matter is when you have a very specific vehicle you’re marketing… building something of value for the ones that are actually going to want this car means more than just 30 seconds on a TV spot.”

The strategy was to reach young male car enthusiasts interested in performance cars, a proposition made more difficult by ad regulations that prohibit depictions of driving deemed extreme, unsafe or fast.

The solution? TBWA produced an online video titled “Drift” that showed a Sentra speeding through the streets only to reveal part way through that it was a toy car. Behind-the-scenes footage was also available on the branded YouTube channel. The campaign won Gold at the 2011 Cassies and made the North American Effie shortlist.

Byrne moved to Taxi in 2011 and started working with Canadian Tire, which was “a staple” in his community growing up. “That’s where I bought all my supplies. If I needed something I knew exactly where it was at Canadian Tire,” he says. “Having that very intimate exposure to it on a regular basis I kind of felt like I knew the brand like the back of my hand.”

This, paired with his passion for cars, makes the two a natural fit, he says. As a result, Byrne’s career is racing along in top gear and he feels very good in the driver’s seat.

You can read the full 30 Under 30 list in the Sept. 10 issue of Marketing magazine.

Photo: Mike Ford