Gene creates two new leadership roles


GM Michelle Tafler and ECD Julia Morra will help the agency bring a creative-focused approach to the health market.

Health agency Gene is creating two new leadership roles, with the promotion of Michelle Tafler to SVP, general manager, and hiring Julia Morra as ECD.

Joe Dee, managing partner of Gene, tells strategy the positions solidify Gene’s leadership across strategy, creative and client success. “We felt it was time to take the next step as an agency to meet the demands of our clients,” Dee says. “As a creatively-led agency we needed to make a bigger statement around what’s driving the product at Gene.”

The appointments represent the agency levelling up its leadership to align with overall growth, rather than any specific new client wins, he adds.

However, over the past year, the agency has onboarded several new clients, including MedicAlert, which – in its largest ever campaign – tasked Gene to hone in on a simple and easy and clean way to deliver its value proposition in a single sentence. Gene’s other major clients include Telus Health and Lightyear Health.

As an agency, Dee says Gene’s ambitions are to change the health and wellness category, and the new leaders experience outside of health categories will be beneficial as the emerging consumer health market requires “a whole new energy of communications.”

Morra’s appointment is both a hiring and elevation. She first joined sister agency Cossette as a CD in 2019, coming off of more than eight years at Grip, and has worked on brands like McDonalds and Walmart.

At Gene, she will lead the agency’s creative teams and creative direction. Dee adds that he would like Gene to be seen as a great creative agency that happens to focus on health and wellness clients

Tafler, meanwhile, first joined Gene in November as SVP of client success, coming off a year as senior director of brand for Aurora Cannabis. Dee explains that Gene’s strategy and client success offering will be under her leadership, responsible for the overall strategic vision for clients and the agency.

Dee has previously told strategy that the pandemic has accelerated a consumer mindset regarding “the health conscious economy,” a big-tent term that includes not just health and wellbeing, but also pressing issues that could impact peoples’ quality of life, like climate change and sustainability.