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Toronto's Ad Industry Put On The Gloves and Get In The Ring For Charity

Jennifer Watts, account director at Brandworks International, left, and Scott Morris, media manager at Mindshare Media MICHELLE SIU PHOTO Ad Agency Wars III is set for Wednesday in Toronto!

A year ago, Scott Morris’s typical Friday wind-down with colleagues would have involved beer, pizza and more beer.

Morris, the media manager at Mindshare Media Canada, still ushers in the weekend with members of Toronto’s advertising community. But for the past three months their fellowship has been devoted to toughening up for a charity boxing event.

Agency Wars III, which takes place at the Arcadian Court this Wednesday, will see 24 men and women from 14 local ad agencies square off to raise money for Ronald McDonald House and the National Advertising Benevolent Society.

The participants, who train with professional coaches, actually become qualified amateur boxers sanctioned by Boxing Ontario for the sold-out event.

One of the final training sessions found a broad range of ad industry employees, from art directors to CFOs and copywriters, drilling down at The Boxing Loft in the Entertainment District.

Morris, 31, had spent last Friday fine-tuning ideas for his Ford Fusion portfolio for next year. But come dusk, he was focused on his upcoming bout with Jason Kan, motion graphics designer at Teehan+Lax.

Even before stepping into the ring for their three two-minute rounds, Morris has already earned bragging rights: he’s shed 35 pounds since training began in September and can now execute at least 40 pushups and an eight-minute mile.

“I’ve never done anything like this in my life,” said Morris as he took a break from light sparring inside the Adelaide St. W. gym. “I feel good. I feel confident. I wake up everyday thinking I’m going to throw up from the nerves, but I just channel past that and stay focused.”

Abs aside, Michael Clancy has seen the long-lasting benefits of exposing his competitive industry’s desk jockeys to the even more cutthroat world of pugilism since he founded Agency Wars three years ago.

“Knowing what to do under fire is really important,” said Clancy, executive creative director for Brandworks. “If you can get into a ring, then you can walk into any boardroom in the world.

“In the ad business, taking care of your stress is really important. And boxing is a spectacular way to do that because you’re not in your head. You have to be very much aware of your body. And hitting a bag, doing that kind of strenuous work, the footwork involved, takes you out of the office and puts you into a very physical place where you do what you’re told. You don’t have to think, and you’ll be fine.”

Clancy, 62, who took out his opponent in the third round, aided by former junior featherweight champ Steve Molitor in his corner, when he fought in 2010, has been the oldest competitor to date in the event, which is taped by Fight Network for later broadcast.

“It’s kind of like a fantasy camp for boxing,” he said. “You get to walk in with your entourage, you get to pick your music and it’s televised.”

Head coach Chris “Mr. Showtime” Johnson, a 1992 Olympic medallist, finds the ad folks “very dedicated.

“They’re hungry. They want it almost to an obsessive stage,” he said. “They believe in perfection, but perfection in a sport like this does not come in three months. It’s taken me almost a lifetime.”

After a 20-minute skipping warm-up, Johnson led the group through various punch combinations, all the while pumping them up for fight night.

“If you get a chance to hit someone, hit ’em hard, because if they get the chance they’re going to hit you hard,” he exhorted.

From his ringside perch, returning announcer Jeromy Lloyd, Marketing Magazine’s online editor, has seen a fight or two stopped for split eyebrows and swollen eyes. He’ll be decked out as usual in a rented tux, but without a catchy “let’s get ready to rumble”-style tag line.

“I’m so scared of trotting on someone else’s intellectual property and getting the event sued,” he explained.

The creative team at Brandworks came up with the nickname “Da Boss (a.k.a. The Shot-caller)” for one of their fighters, Jennifer Watts, and selected their Christmas party favourite, LMFAO’s “Shots,” as her entrance music.

Now endowed with an eight-pack and the ability to do “at least 20 real pushups,” thanks to the rigorous 12-week training, the 6-foot-2 account director is pumped to face off against Mindshare media manager Christina Mirabelli.

“My strategy,” said the trash-talking Watts, 30, “is to keep her back with these long arms so she does not get near my face — and punch her in the head.”

Via: Ashante Infantry | The Star

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