As the Chief Innovation Officer at Critical Mass, Ara drives global innovation efforts for clients such as Mars Wrigley, Apple, BMW, and Diageo. Combining her unparalleled expertise in media, technology, and publishing with a profound understanding of global innovation strategy, Ara creates opportunities for client growth. Ara is a passionate consumer and student of the world, analyzing everything - from people to products. She has strong human intuition, which makes her particularly great at working with both colleagues and clients. Prior to joining Critical Mass, Ara spent five years at the New York Times, leading diverse teams in areas such as Product Innovation and Customer Research, crafting groundbreaking strategies and content for clients. With over 13 years of experience as an innovation consultant, Ara commenced her career at Ogilvy & Mather.
Diane Heun is a seasoned business development professional with a strong focus on the digital space. For over 20 years, she's been a key driver of growth at Critical Mass, whose client list includes Apple, BMW US, Diageo, Nissan, J&J, Peloton, BNY Mellon, and more. Di's track record of success spans financial services, automotive, healthcare, consumer goods, travel, retail, and luxury. She believes that CM's core capabilities (brand, experience design, technology, and digital innovation) can provide powerful solutions to today's toughest business, brand, and customer challenges—and she backs that belief with a proven ability to relate the agency's values and approach to the needs of global brands and the complex ecosystems they live within.
In her 23 years with Critical Mass, Di has held many influential positions—managing director, coach, entrepreneur, and leader for teams and clients. During her tenure, Critical Mass and its affiliate organizations have grown from 25 people in Canada to 950 employees working in numerous locations around the globe. The vision and values that define her leadership have likewise propelled Critical Mass to continued and consistent success. Today, Critical Mass is widely recognized for its breadth and depth of services, its vibrant agency culture, its purpose-driven mindset, and its unwavering commitment to client service.
Under Di’s leadership Critical Mass has been recognized across the industry as an A-List Agency, Best Engagement Agency, Top UX Design Agency, Best Agency to Work For, and Employer of the Year. Di herself was recently included among Campaign’s 40 Over 40 list and named Top Boss in the Digiday Worklife Awards. Industry comments and POVs from Di have been published in The New York Times, Forbes, Ad Age, Adweek, The Drum, and Campaign, and she's been interviewed on a number of podcasts, including Real Famous, A Call to Action, and Fearless Creative Leaders
Di is also currently Chair of the Board at Fast & Female, a charity whose mission is to empower girls by keeping them in sports. She is also a past board member at the House of Anansi Press and currently works with a number of startups as both a strategic advisor and investor. In addition, Di is the co-founder and Managing Partner of a private activist investor fund that has set out to prove that public companies with a female CEO are inherently more diverse and achieve stronger financial performance as a result.
Chris is the CEO of Critical Mass, an award-winning digital marketing and experience design agency. Chris is the driving force behind the development of the agency’s capabilities and integrated client offerings, all while leading the team to consistently innovate and advance Critical Mass’ strategic vision.
Since joining Critical Mass in 1998, he has been instrumental in the growth and success of the agency, expanding the team from just 35 people in one Calgary office to over 1,000 employees across 11 global offices. Chris leads key client relationships across continents, including the launch of major multidimensional initiatives for Nissan, INFINITI, adidas, and AT&T.
Chris’ authenticity is what sets him apart, both with clients and in the industry. He wins new business and leads client accounts with honesty and—not salesmanship and fake swagger. Whether he’s in a pitch meeting, the boardroom, or spending a late night in the trenches, he is constantly encouraging his team to push the boundaries of innovation and achieve their full potential.
Prior to his role as CEO, Chris served as President of Critical Mass for over a decade. Under his strategic leadership and dedication to excellent client service, Critical Mass has been recognized as an A-List Agency, Best Engagement Agency, Top UX Design Agency, Best Agency to Work For, Employer of the Year, and Best Place to Work. Chris himself was voted Influencer of the Year at the prestigious Creativepool Annual. Industry comments and POVs from Chris have been published in The Washington Post, Adweek, Campaign, creativebrief, and more.
When not traveling from office to office, Chris resides in Calgary with his three girls, wife, and two dogs – enjoying all the Canadian Rockies have to offer. Fun fact about Chris, he holds a master’s degree in Classical Archaeology.
Val is the Global Chief Creative Officer for Critical Mass.
She’s an avid storyteller with over 20 years of creative experience. She has worked across many disciplines ranging from design, product, AR/VR, film, brand strategy, marketing, retail innovation, gaming, and applications for some of the world’s biggest brands like FOX Entertainment, JP Morgan Chase, Coke, Microsoft, AT&T, Honda, Kraft, Treasury Wine Estates, Lululemon, to name a few.
Prior to joining CM, Val was the ECD for Wunderman Thompson California, where she focused on digital transformation and loyalty experiences. Prior to that, she was the Global VP Creative at Method Products (People Against Dirty), where she led global creative and innovation for Method and Ecover brands. Before that, she was the Executive Creative Director at EVB, leading work for the NBA, Facebook, Twitter, and Mamba Candy. Val was also Executive Creative Director, Global Innovation Lead at SapientNitro, where she led the AVATAR digital ecosystem for James Cameron’s Lightstorm. Earlier in her career, Val held several top creative positions at Razorfish.
Val taught college level graphic design at an engineering school for seven years before jumping into digital in 2000. It is her love for teaching that has helped her mentor and lead in an industry where it is hard for women to succeed. She is also an advocate for women’s diversity and junior talent programs, leading them at several agencies over the years.
She has a huge passion for ecosystem connections, interface layer personalization and the evolution of e-commerce. TWITCH, Minecraft, and old school games fascinate her and she believes mixed reality, streaming and experiential models can unlock solutions to business problems in ways that traditional marketers haven’t tapped into yet.
She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University.
Grant is the Chief Strategy Officer at Critical Mass. His role at the agency is to lead strategy teams across the globe to ensure the agency is relentlessly focused on designing meaningful experiences that improve customers’ lives. Grant has a track record of building strong teams that deliver best in class, strategically driven work.
Prior to joining CM, Grant was with Razorfish for more than 10 years. Most recently as GVP Head of Planning, he was responsible for digital strategy for clients such as Spotify, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Viacom, CBS Radio, BMW, and CNN. Grant also spent four years working in planning at Euro RSCG 4D. Grant also serves as Adjunct Professor at New York University, where he has taught for more than two years. He graduated from Miami University (Ohio) with a B.A.
With over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurial, start up, turnaround, and corporate environments, Lee is well-equipped to lead Critical Mass’s pursuit of operational excellence. In addition to leading the Finance and Support Services group at Critical Mass, Lee collaborates with the Leadership team to ensure that employees have access to the best resources, the best facilities, and an inspiring environment to work and grow in. He champions Critical Mass’ cause for profitable growth and operational success—all while never failing to appreciate the importance of having fun. Prior to Critical Mass, Lee was an integral member of the executive teams at both Bell and Rogers Wireless in Western Canada, which included the launch of Bell Canada’s expansion into Western Canada. While he is not quick to tell you, Lee is an accomplished athlete, having represented Canada in many international competitions as a member of the National Field Hockey team. The inherent drive for success, commitment to excellence, and passion for teamwork has followed Lee into his role with Critical Mass.
Sara has nearly 20 years of experience in digital marketing, project management, and people development on both national and international scales. As the Chief Talent Officer, Sara oversees human resources, talent acquisition, learning and development, as well as internal communications. She and her team are responsible for crafting, preserving, and enhancing the employee experience that upholds Critical Mass’ culture, values, and good intentions. She was named Digiday’s 2020 HR Leader of the Year in the Worklife Awards.
Sara has an employee-first mentality with the belief that inspired talent leads to successful work, satisfied clients, and strong business results. With almost 20 years of experience at the agency in various capacities and geographies, Sara strives to bring people together to inspire while getting the most out of her teams. Prior to this role, Sara served as EVP, Talent and before that as VP Project Management and VP, Global Business Operations where she established and maintained global operational standards for an array of CM clients, including Nissan, Infiniti, Citibank, and BMW. Her digital capabilities include large-scale e-Commerce projects, content management systems, integrated marketing campaigns, and prototype and usability testing.
Sara recently relocated back to Canada and is enjoying rediscovering the Rockies with her family.
As Chief Operations Officer, John is charged with overseeing the efficiency of the agency’s process and quality of its work product. Since joining Critical Mass in 1999, he has progressed through several roles in the organization. Through his experience leading individual projects, large-scale client teams, and entire offices, John has developed an intimate understanding of the challenges facing complex organizations and enjoys identifying and capitalizing on opportunities for improvement. With a Master’s Degree in Integrated Marketing from Northwestern University, John believes in the power of data and analytics to drive business and organizational decisions. He also holds a degree in journalism with a concentration in advertising and business administration from Ohio University. His free time is occupied by baseball, cheesy science fiction novels, and chronicling the adventures of his son.