Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz  16:17

So companies should be salivating over stuff like this. Seriously, it’s so cool. And I should be concerned as a cell phone user, that big brother and big sister basically is tracking me, wherever I go.

Amanda Dorenberg  16:34

We don’t know that it’s you though, we just know that your device one, two, three, four. And you happen to see an Adidas ad on the highway.

Jeremy Weisz  16:42

Yeah, I just want to demystify, I mean, that’s how we talk about demographic data. That’s part of how it’s being collected, right, because it’s kind of that you say like SDK track in the state, you just know, the cell phone of this is an iPhone, it’s an Android are passing by and that’s how it’s kind of one of the ways it’s collecting data.

Amanda Dorenberg  17:04

More specifically how we leverage that data in the out-of-home space for digital and home specifically, because we can serve up dynamic content and digital out-of-home, we would observe the devices that passed by a digital out-of-home face. So we know the date and timestamp that they passed by. But then we further observed the device to its what’s classified as a home origin, which is the device’s persistently static location during a period of time during like six months, 12 months. And then from that we get along and we can reverse geocode that into a postal code and work with Stats Canada on all of the public census data. And that helps us get the demo and the lifestyle stuff.

Jeremy Weisz  17:42

I love it. Yeah, thank you for demystifying that’ll because I think a lot of people that I know, I see a lot of people when I’m driving, I mean, there’s more and more different types of companies, like I only used to see lawyers, and now there’s a lot of different types of companies advertising, and people see it as like this legacy platform, we’re gonna maybe some people perceive it as that. But you can get very specific and do really sophisticated things with it from, like you said, move offline online with offline to offline, through mail and postal, I mean, even the biggest companies in the world, Google, Amazon, web companies are using these methods, right.

Amanda Dorenberg  18:24

You can get super creative with it too. So there’s tech, we can ingest, like a JSON feed or an RSS feed, XML data feeds into the back-end ad servers, and trigger dynamic content. So for example, if there’s a sports game on, you can trigger the score in sort of, on-demand real-time, as a brand, you can literally put a section on your creative, that has a feat of some sort of dynamic content, it could be the weather, it could be it’s raining outside. So play an umbrella ad. We’ve had paint companies that have matched the creative to the color of the sky in the background, you can get very creative with this using technology, which is really cool.

Jeremy Weisz  19:05

We’ll talk about how you got into this. And I’ll venture to say, early in your career, you never thought you would ever be in this industry. But let’s go in reverse for a second. You were tapped on the shoulder. And people want you to come in to come to help. And talk about how you I’ll use the term modernized COMMB because in general, it’s a legacy media even though people may not realize all the capabilities but how did you go in when you basically came in and leadership? What did you do?

Amanda Dorenberg  19:51

It’s a great question. COMMB has been around for 50-plus years, far longer than I’ve been on this earth. And so when I was approached to come in, I honestly turned it down at first, because I’m very much an entrepreneur, I like to move quickly, very agile, I can work well with small amounts of money to be able to achieve great things. And so I wasn’t really comfortable at the time with whether COMMB and the board would be supportive of that. And, to my delight and surprise, they were incredibly supportive, and encouraging on the very different approach that we took both internally as a culture. So when I joined, there were six employees, including myself, and now we’re up to almost 18 full-time employees and probably 30 plus, and contractors and partners. So, in itself a big task to be able to bring in the right team to foster the right culture. And to me, the team is everything. So in order for us to modernize, we needed to ensure that we had a diverse team that represented various different backgrounds, various different cultural diversity, as well as experience. And so bringing in the right team certainly was one of the largest and then really focusing on content and our outwardly facing PR was a large thing. So thought leadership is very important to me, which is one of the large components that I brought to COMMB, which was the ability to speak about the industry holistically, not just in the Canadian marketplace, but on a global scale to be able to travel internationally and speak as a keynote at conferences and whatnot. It garner’s a lot of attention on what we’re doing. While simultaneously, we embarked upon completely revamping the approach to the methodologies and the reporting and the data that was being output as a member, which is really the core reason you become a member, you want access to the data to the tools to the insights to validate that, yes, okay, as a buyer, the impression data that I’m getting from a seller is COMMB certified, it’s COMMB audited. So it was sort of a combination of both having to first and foremost, build the culture, build a team. And then at the same time focus on modernizing the actual output of what we were providing from a product and a service perspective. And then ensuring that while we were doing that we were educating the marketplace on those components. So I think that that would be how I guess we modernized.

Jeremy Weisz  22:44

Talk about culture for a second. And we’ll get into, you started in Seoul to previous companies in the space, but what do you do with either COMMB or previous companies to foster good culture. Right now, anyone listening is probably CEO, entrepreneur or leadership, and what else should they be thinking about to foster good culture?

Amanda Dorenberg  23:09

For me, it’s always encouraging my team to take risks, to be curious and to consistently learn. We learn by making mistakes. And as a leader, we have to recognize and realize that our team will make mistakes, and it’s our job to help them learn from those mistakes. Also, I’m not a like a top-down leader, I’m very much I’ll get in there, I’ll get my hands dirty, I will work with the team. So for me to foster an appropriate culture, I have to know everything about what the team is doing in the sense of, I need to know a little bit about data science and be able to speak eloquently about how we’re actually executing this, I’m not the one building the algorithms, but I know exactly how it’s being done. And that builds respect from the technical teams from the actual data scientists marketing perspective, I need to understand and be able to inspire my marketing team by the things that I’m doing, whether it be speaking, or helping them get front and center on stage. So it’s not always just about one face being up there from a marketing perspective, it’s encouraging other people to get out there and to speak, and to grow their personal brands to grow their curiosity. So my perspective is very collaborative. It’s very much a, I’m part of the team, I might have a title and sure I have various other duties that come with that. But at the end of the day, we’re all a team and if somebody needs help, they know they can pick up the phone at two three in the morning and call me and I’ll answer. So, it’s more just, it’s very familial, for me.

Jeremy Weisz  24:48

And then how do you manage kind of the remote culture?

Amanda Dorenberg  24:56

We’re about 95% remote. So we go into the office, just to collaborate sometimes, there’s a core group of us who live relatively close to the offices. So we’ll work on Slack. And we’ll be like, “hey, I’m gonna pop over to the office today.” It’s literally across the street from my condo, coincidentally, but we have a very open, communicative environment. So Slack is our main communication tool. And I can tell you that we are on Slack 24/7. That’s a great, great product, great tool. And interestingly, when I came into the organization, there were no communication tools. People were using WhatsApp groups, and I was like, how do you function? Like, how do you get work done, we need a tool now. So Slack, within my second week, was the first tool I implemented. But yeah, we’re predominantly remote, we are moving our office, we’re downsizing our office, we have a very large 4,000-square foot office that isn’t really being used. So we’re downsizing to a brick-and-beam space, which will also be next year around March, we move into that space. So, we get together, we do social events, we’ll have teen lunches. But for the most part, we’re just always talking to one another, whether it be on Slack, or whether somebody’s texting another person doing little huddles via slack or, you know, Zoom. It’s just communication, frankly. And I think when you build a culture that is very collaborative, the communication just happens organically.

Jeremy Weisz  26:33

Let’s talk about the two companies. So you created and sold two companies in the space. Talk about the first one, and what it did.

Amanda Dorenberg  26:44

Yeah, the first one, I was more a part of that company. It wasn’t my company solely. And so that came to fruition, there was a company called Titan Outdoor. It was a multinational company, had offices and assets in the UK, the US and in Canada, prior to my joining the Titan, they sold the UK assets. And then about six, seven months into my time with Titan Outdoor, they decided to sell off their Canadian assets. And so that became an opportunity for some of us to put in some equity. It was largely owned by a private equity firm called Claire Vest, they have already shared but then a few of us came in because we wanted to venture into that space and have some ownership. And we’ve always thought of the situation at the time I ran all of the marketing and IT, so the infrastructure and my was within the startup company, which is called Seize Luck Media was basically just that, so I had to break all of the IT infrastructure off of the parent company and recreate it here as a standalone entity. So I created all of the and IT infrastructure was built their ERP their CRM, their financial platform. And I also was head of marketing. So I actually designed the logo myself, and built the growth, marketing and go-to-market strategies implant. And then finally was able to sort of build up a team for a very long time during that transition. I was working 24 out of 24 hours a day. And it was fun. We built a first market offering this is back in like 2012 — 2012 to 2014 15-ish. We built the first offering of mobile retargeting within the Canadian Space based on exposure to out-of-home assets. So at the time, we had all of the assets at Yonge, Dundas Square, which is like New York Times were, and we would geofence those assets and then retarget them via mobile, which is like hugely innovative back at that time. And so it caught the eye of media. And we were acquired by Bell Media for a high amount of money in 125 million, approximately. And then I went to another startup company called Dynamic Outdoor, which was predominantly owned by a company called All Vision. And All Vision is one of our members now at COMMB. So kind of full circle with the teams I know a lot of the people have from past experiences, which is great. But it was sort of the same thing. Like with the difference that Dynamic Outdoor was pure, played digital out of home. So we were heavily focused on technology and innovation. We were one of the first companies to integrate programmatic digital out-of-home back in 2015 to 2017 in the Canadian Space. We were a very early adopter. And interestingly enough, I actually at the time, built a product called an audience intelligence platform that was competitive to what COMMB was is offering at the top because I, at the time COMMB wasn’t providing a lot of focus on digital so back then I decided to build it myself and that caught the attention of Outfront Media. So we were acquired by Outfront Media and I stayed out French for about 18 months as their youngest executive, I think I was 33, 34. Something like that. But yeah.

Jeremy Weisz  30:26

That’s an amazing journey. I know a big influence for you and your career has been Michelle, can you talk about Michelle a little bit? And maybe some of the lessons or advice she’s given you?

Amanda Dorenberg  30:38

Yes. So Michelle and I, Michelle Erskine, she’s the CEO of Outfront Canada, and also the chair of the board of directors that COMMB. We’ve known each other for many years. So she kind of mentored me throughout my career. And was always very supportive and inspirational. Particularly as a woman in a senior-level executive role in a very male-dominated industry, it’s hard to find that mentorship and guidance on how to navigate some of these situations. So she’s always been very influential, very inspiring. She gives me great advice, whether it be personally or professionally. And she’s a great mentor.

Jeremy Weisz  31:25

Do you remember any specific advice, or maybe a story that she told you that helped in a situation that you had to deal with?

Amanda Dorenberg  31:36

I would say, to never take it personal was some really great advice. And I’m not somebody that is easily offended by any means. So, that was just like, further confidence to ensure that my sort of non-bias approach to things or when people are in a heated moments, or if you’re in a discussion and negotiation, it’s really nothing personal, like, you can have a debate, but at the end of the day, you can still walk out and go have a coffee. So I think that that was great advice.

Jeremy Weisz  32:10

Yeah, one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, if you’ve heard of that one, but that’s one of TheFour Agreements, which is, don’t take anything personally. It’s much. I think about The Four Agreements every day. And it’s hard to do that. For me, at least, because someone’s talking directly to me. So how long does it take it personally? But yeah, I mean, I even think about on the road, someone like cuts me off. I’m like, okay, they’re probably having a bad day. Not taking it right. It’s sometimes hard to do in the moment. So I love that advice. Yeah, that was great advice. And then another. I don’t know if you call mentor or influence is, Rena.

Amanda Dorenberg  32:54

Yes, Rena Clydesdale, she is head of Kinetic, President of Kinetic Outdoor, which is one of the largest buying agencies in the out-of-home space. And she has been in the industry for, you know, a very long time and always admired how she carries herself with such grace and kindness. She recently won an award at one of the ad club out-of-home day, the merit award, which is like the highest prestige for somebody within our industry to win. And it was really humbling to see I got to introduce her a bit on stage, which was nice. She’s a great friend, once again, also a great mentor. I’ve known her for years. And I think she had similar advice. You know, never take it personal. But also always be curious. And I think that that’s one of the components that I strive to do. I’m constantly learning new things. I’ll take a risk just for the sake of curiosity. And I think when you take big risks, you have large rewards, typically. And of course, you’re gonna fail at times, but you’ll learn a lot from that. So she’s been a great mentor and friend as well.

Jeremy Weisz  34:06

We’re kind of Amanda kind of going in reverse order a little bit. But from COMMB to the sale of two companies to I want to go back to the beginning, which is when you first discovered the power of out-of-home, specifically billboards. Take me back to that for a second.

Amanda Dorenberg  34:32

The fun story, are you ready? So I was in fashion for 15 years. I was a fashion model. I was scattergram sport team, by Elite. And then I was subsequently signed with IMG worldwide so I got to do a lot of traveling from a fashion perspective as a model. And so I first discovered out-of-home and billboards when I was on My first billboard as a model at Yonge, Dundas Square. And it was a campaign for a company called Gene Machine, which was a denim retailer in Canada. And I remember, I had this bench, zip up jacket on and it was like, the back of me with my head kind of like tilted. And then I had these, like, short-shorts on that were bright pink. And the funny part about this story is that they put a 3D extension on the actual billboard, which was to captivate the consumer’s eye and I never even knew what this was until I ended up actually in the out-of-home space. But I go down to Yonge, Dundas Square with my old school SLR camera. And I’m wanting to take photos of the billboard. And then I realized that there was a skirt affixed to the billboard. And so it was an actual piece of fabric that they had attached to the billboard. So when the wind blew, it blew the skirt up, and you could see like, these bright pink booty shorts. And so it was the first time where I was like, wow, this is actually really creative and very captivating. And then from that day on, I kind of started noticing out of home pretty regularly, but I didn’t think I would end up in the space. It was over 10 years. You know, after that, that I ended up embarking on an out-of-home career.

Jeremy Weisz  36:21

But even back then you were entrepreneurial. And you started helping models talk about some of the things you were doing with that?

Amanda Dorenberg  36:28

Yeah, so when I was 21, I opened a model placement agency, which I would scout young, new models, and I would help train them and place them with the right agencies, because in the fashion industry, there’s a lot of agencies that claim to be legitimate, and they basically just take money from young aspiring talent that don’t know any better. So I would educate them and help place them with legit agencies. And then when I was 23, I opened a second agency that was an artist representation agency. So I represented photographers, videographers. DOPs director of photography, filmmakers all around the world. So that both were sort of on a global scale. I would place models internationally nationally, and the photographer’s I wrapped were Shanghai, LA, Milan, Paris, Madrid, New York, all of the major sort of fashion markets, we had photographers and my role there was to ensure that their deals were negotiated correctly. So we would work with the Conde Nast brands, or the Penske media brands and titles, all of the big publications to ensure that their work was being published or featured, independent magazines, international magazines, etc.

Jeremy Weisz  37:52

So, I mentioned the front of the interview, things took a crazy turn. Crazy is even an understatement. Okay, talk about what happened.

Amanda Dorenberg  38:05

Yes, when I was 27, I was onsets at a photo shoot modeling. And I had two shoots back to back that day. So I wrapped the first one. And we were just, finishing things up. The hairstylist had put this like purple stuff in my hair. So I was at the sink, and he was watching it out. And I started to get this like, insane headache. Absolutely insane. I’ve never felt this pain before. And then the talent from the next two calls me on my cell phone. And I’m like, kind of in and out because I’m in so much pain. I didn’t really realize what was going on at this time. Or at this moment anyways. And I hang up on my hairstylist for the next shoot. And I was like, I’m in so much pain right now. I’m just like holding my head. I walk outside of the studio, I go to a window, because these photo studios are notorious for not having proper air circulation or fresh air. So there was an open window. This was June 17th of 2009. And my makeup artists on set that day followed me out and started asking me questions. She was like, what type of pain is it? Is it throbbing? Is it stabbing and I was like, I don’t know. It’s just the most pain I’ve ever felt. And then the next thing I know I am on the floor, I think I had fell. And I tried to like pick up my phone and I’m like, lost mobility in my right side and I blacked out. Last thing I remember was call my emergency contact. So I had a hemorrhagic stroke caused by two areas of bleed. So two aneurysms that had burst simultaneously, caused by something very rare, called arteriovenous malformation or brain AVM. So was that genetic then. It’s actually so rare that doctors don’t really know how it occurs, but from what they’ve they know it’s not genetic, but it does happen while you’re a fetus.

Jeremy Weisz  40:12

For people, like, I believe and correct me if I’m wrong, the brain, this arterios system is basically right below the brain is that right. So if it burns, it’s like, it’s basically essentially on the brain.

Amanda Dorenberg  40:30

It was in the brain. So there’s a spectrum and there’s a grade I can’t remember what it’s called, but there’s a grade from one to five of how deep these bleeds can occur. One being more dermal like surface level and five being the most like inner areas of your brain. So my two areas have been in my occipital lobe. So, left side you can see I have this beautiful scar, left side, two areas of bleeding, grades three and four. So it was very deep within my brain, the two. So I was rushed to St. Michael’s. Fortunately, I was in Toronto close to home at the time. And surgeons did a very quick procedure to cauterize the areas of bleeding to stop the bleeding. But because there were actually two different areas, multiple areas, I had so much damage to my brain that I could not withstand an actual craniotomy. So I needed to have a full craniotomy, which is full brain surgery where they cut into your, they take a piece of your skull out and remove the damaged veins and vessels. So I was temporarily paralyzed on my right side, just due to the damage of the brain. I was blind about 85%. And I was in ICU for three, four weeks just waiting. And then they sent me home under 24-hour care, as I started to regain a little bit of mobility. So the mobility regained as the bruising and scabbing had sort of in some of the swelling had subsided from the hemorrhagic stroke and the areas of bleeding. So they sent me home under 24-hour care. And I was finally able to withstand, be healthy enough to withstand up a full craniotomy surgery, September 24 of 2009. So anyway, from June until the end of September. So of course, during this time, and during the couple of years of recovery, I closed my agencies, my businesses, and I took a pivot in my career.

Jeremy Weisz  42:35

When you woke up, right, because that stuff happens in an instant. You’re waking up in the hospital with tubes, everywhere, literally everywhere. Well, what are you thinking?

Amanda Dorenberg  42:49

Ah, to be honest, I was a little confused. I didn’t really know what was going on. I remember I woke up in a panic and I tried to get out of the bed like I literally tried to stand up and I couldn’t and I was kind of like flailing around. And I remember that the nurses like I could hear them. But I wasn’t really cognizant enough to understand exactly what was going on. I could hear them saying like, we should probably put her in a strap so that she doesn’t try to get up. Like she doesn’t know what’s going on. Unfortunately, they didn’t. They just gave me a bunch more medicine and I fell back asleep. But when I was able to sort of come to it wasn’t until it was like three weeks basically, before I even knew that I had to have a full craniotomy surgery, I was just like, in and out of this, like, medically-induced sleep, let’s say. And that was to try to ensure that what trauma my brain had been through could heal to its best. When I was able to actually wake up I did remember, I had full recollection of sort of everything up to the blackout before I was in the hospital. So that was a good thing because I had that cognitive memory. When I would speak to the surgeons, when they came into my room to tell me that I needed a full craniotomy. They explained what that was, I didn’t know what it was at the time. They had suggested they’d explored a few different options because there’s some sort of chemo-like treatments that could be done. There’s really three treatments for this. If you have a bleed, and it’s very, very rare in the sense of survival if you have a bleed, first and foremost, and then being like a fully functional cognitive human.

Jeremy Weisz  44:36

Were they surprised you even survived what you survived?

Amanda Dorenberg  44:39

Yeah, I had like a 0.01% of being a functional person. And I remember going into the surgery and laying on the operating table and the esthetician leaned over me, he’s like, “okay, I’m gonna put the mask on and count you down to sleep.” I could hear the doctor speaking and they flew in a surgeon because my case was so rare, they flew in a surgeon from the States and another one from Germany, who specialized in this particular scenario. And I could hear them talking about the projected blood loss. And I just remember, I can’t remember what the number is off the top of my head. But I remember thinking at the time, “oh my gosh, that sounds like a whole lot of blood.” And then I just like, passed out from like anesthetic. But when I woke up from surgery, I remembered everything up until that moment, which once again is really remarkable, very much. I’m very blessed to be here. A bleed from a brain AVM specifically typically occurs either as a young child or in elderly individuals. So for me to have this happen at 27 was really, really quite rare.

Jeremy Weisz  45:54

What was your physical state, like after the second major surgery?

Amanda Dorenberg  46:02

It was challenging, I was probably like D, I’m five foot nine. So for me to be 95 pounds, I had lost a significant amount of weight, you’re in the hospital, you’re eating barely anything, or you’re just getting pumped through with IV. I had to do physio, so I had a physiotherapist who would come visit me every day to get me up to walk. And it was like the slowest walk ever, but I was moving. And that’s really…

Jeremy Weisz  46:27

The first time around, you are paralyzed on one side. And this time did you regain some of the sensation?

Amanda Dorenberg  46:34

I retained movement before the surgery before the major craniotomy. The temporary paralysis was maybe about 10, 15 days, and it was just because of how much damage and pressure was on my brain from the bleed, and from the bruising and scabbing. So that subsided and I was able to move. But because I was so weak, and I had lost so much muscle mass and weight from being basically bedridden from June until the end of September. And physically and cognitively you still have to sort of work through building that body-brain connection. Again, it took quite a bit of time, my full recovery was about two years, I had a seizure disorder, a very bad one after that, for about 12 to 14 months, I was on some really intense medication that had like, the craziest side effects of like overgrowth of gums and disfigurement of your jaw as a fashion model. At the time. I was like, “Oh my gosh, like what am I gonna do?”

Jeremy Weisz  47:34

That’s like the least of your worries, but it’s probably a worry nonetheless.

Amanda Dorenberg  47:38

It was. Yeah. But it was a lengthy recovery. And I’m just grateful to be here.

Jeremy Weisz  47:49

How do you think about that now, on a daily basis?

Amanda Dorenberg  47:56

It’s a massive scar, massive horseshoe that I wear very proudly. And it was a 12-and-a-half-hour surgery. So I think that if I can withstand what I went through there, there’s nothing that’s going to really bother me at this point. I’m very calm, I really don’t react, I don’t get into like, arguments or fights or say a piece if I need to say this, but I just am really grateful. And at the end of the day, like I’m humbled to be here. So for me, kindness and grace is everything. And I think that gratitude, like for everyone’s various different walks, people would look at me, and you’ve got this career and this job and the CEO title of whatever. But if you don’t actually know that the journey that someone went through to get there. And if you don’t know who they are, don’t ever judge someone, don’t judge a book by the cover, I guess is like the most stereotypical statement, but it’s really, really true. So it’s just, it’s humbled me.

Jeremy Weisz  49:06

Yeah, thanks for sharing that. It’s humbling to listen to, so I appreciate you sharing it. And I just want a couple of last things, Amanda and just thanks for sharing your journey or stories. Obviously, we talked about COMMB here, and we’re looking at the screen. But I know there’s several other organizations that you’re involved with. And one of them being You can see it talk about this for a second.

Amanda Dorenberg  49:38

Certainly. So my business partners and I own Billboard Magazine in the Canadian markets. We launched October 5, which was very exciting. It took about 18 months for us to negotiate the deal with Penske. But our mission and our ethos with Billboard Canada is to highlight Canadian talents on more of a global scale as we launched with our inaugural cover, as I said, October 5, and we did that with five Punjabi artists, so all Canadian Punjabi artists that are getting major international waves, global waves, and we’re very excited to be able to provide a platform and a voice for Canadian arts, culture and talent. So we’re various.

Jeremy Weisz  50:21

So this is with COMMB, you’re in the actual physical billboard space. But Billboard CA is actually the music space not to be confused. And then you’re also involved in as you can see, on the screen Arts Help, talk about Arts Help.

Amanda Dorenberg  50:43

Yes, so Arts Help is the largest global digital arts publication focused on conscious creation, if you will. So we’ve got a number of different consumer-facing products and services, and a number of different b2b products. But we are an editorial platform. So a content platform that provides a voice for independent and unknown artists globally, we have sent art to space, we’ve won a Guinness Book World Record for the largest amount of art being created on a Zoom call during the pandemic. And we also give funding to artists so we have a large partnership with the United Nations. Everything that we do is very cause-oriented, focused on sustainability. And all of the impacts of human footprints on the environment. So we give funding to artists. If you’re interested, please check out the website.

Jeremy Weisz  51:41

Amanda. I want to be the first one to thank you everyone. Go check out You could check out you can check out our Arts Help, and much more and more episodes of the podcast and Amanda, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Amanda Dorenberg  51:56

Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure.