Peter Zarry
Peter Zarry

Schulich School of Business, York University

Peter T. Zarry was one of Canada’s best-known advertising personalities. He worked on both the agency and client side of the advertising business, in both industry and government, and as a professor/lecturer at both York University and the industry’s CAAP program.

Peter was born in 1933 in Victoria, B.C. and raised there. After graduating with a B.Comm. from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., he joined Sun Life as an insurance salesman. Two years later, he returned university (the University of Western Ontario) and received an MBA. He then spent three years in brand management with Procter & Gamble.
Peter then moved to the agency side, joining J. Walter Thompson as Account Executive. Three years later, at age 28, he became the youngest VP and General Manager in the JWT organization. Management’s confidence in Peter paid off; he was instrumental in changing the agency’s business orientation and doubling the size of its annual billings within a few short years.

Then, Peter went to Louisville, Kentucky to be the International Director of Marketing for Kentucky Fried Chicken. From there, he was hired away by JWT in Chicago, and later ran some JWT operations in Europe, based in London.

Peter was been interested in teaching and accordingly, spent several years in the doctoral program at Northwestern University in Chicago. Returning to Toronto, he took a position as Professor of Marketing at York University.

After three years at York, Peter moved back to the agency business. He joined Spitzer, Mills and Bates as President, a position he held for five years. Subsequently, he was transferred to Europe as Chairman and CEO of Ted Bates in England, Europe and the Middle East. A return to Canada was in the cards, however, and Peter subsequently became Chairman of the Advertising Management Group, the body responsible for overseeing all federal government advertising.

In 1988, Peter took over as Executive Director of York University’s Division of Executive Development, where he remained until his death in July 2001. At the university, Peter took a unit of modest size and scope, and built it into one of the largest and most successful in the country, and one of the most innovative in North America. In the process, he provided the opportunity for thousands of men and women to expand their capabilities and their extend their careers. Through demonstrated success at York and his advocacy of the need for quality executive education, he changed the face of executive education in Canada. When reflecting on Peter’s countless contributions to Schulich, the thoughts that come to mind include savvy strategist, entrepreneur, and passionate educator.

Peter edited Advertising in Canada, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. It was the first comprehensive textbook that emphasized the practical aspects of the advertising business, and the first that was written from a specifically Canadian perspective.

Peter’s interest in developing and motivating young people entering the advertising business is well known throughout the country. He helped develop the Communications and Advertising Accredited Professional (CAAP) program and was its director for more that five years. Over his career, he lectured and taught more than 6,000 students in university and CAAP. Indeed, ‘Zarry graduates’ are often described as achievers who combine integrity and leadership with business acumen, and many have gone on to become senior managers in the advertising industry.

Like most good and creative thinkers, Peter was also an iconoclast – willing and able to challenge conventional wisdom and discuss the human condition in new and innovative ways. All in all, he was the multi-talented, hardworking, widely known, and respected man whom some people consider the father of contemporary advertising in Canada.