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Meet the 2023 Influence Award Judges!

Stephanie Palasti
Written By
Stephanie Palasti
Published On
Sep 25, 2023

Curated by The Influence Agency, The Influence Awards honours the exceptional accomplishments of digital content creators and their talent management teams across various categories.

As an award-winning digital and influencer marketing agency, we’re no strangers to all the hard work that goes into each piece of content that influencers across Canada and the U.S. bring to the table—which is why we make it a point to hand out *shiny* trophies to honour their talent and effort. 

But who decides who gets the title?

Anyone can nominate their favourite content creator or talent management team through a simple form submission. From there, the award finalists will be hand-selected by a panel of industry experts across 22 categories. Once the top finalists of each category have been decided, it’s up to you to cast your vote and ensure that your favourite influencer finishes first.

But before you press that vote button, let’s get to know the six 2023 Influence Award judges!

Melissa Alhstrand

Melissa Alhstrand

Meet Melissa Ahlstrand—she’s the Marketing & Communications Executive at NBC Universal’s Hayu streaming platform. With over 20 years of leadership experience in media and branded content, she’s made a new for herself as someone who’s deeply passionate about uniting brands and people through unforgettable experiences. Her commitment to the mentorship of young professionals within the marketing and media community is already shaping the future of this industry as we know it into one that’s equipped with top-tier skills.  

As for what the future of influencer marketing holds, she sees the rise of creators who thoroughly understand the nuisances of each platform and available tools.

Melissa Ahlstrand’s also quite the advocate for kindness. When asked if she could do anything for a day, Ahlstrand says she would “Pop down to NYC, be with my family, eat all my favourite things, shop with an unlimited budget —for myself and to buy items to give away to those in need.” 

We’re excited to welcome her back as The Influence Awards’ judge for the third time! 

Stephanie Joseph-Flatts

Stephanie Joseph-Flatts

Stephanie Joseph-Flatts was a judge at the 2021 and 2022 The Influence Awards and is returning once again this year! This creative leader is in charge of Gen Z Segment Marketing Strategies at RBC—Canada’s biggest bank and one of the largest in the world based on market capitalization.

With over 12 years of experience putting brands in the spotlight through storytelling, she’s mastered the art of marketing strategy, branding, partnerships, and creative direction.  

When she’s not busy working with the biggest brands in the world—such as LVMH, Nike, Adidas, Google, and Elle Canada Magazine, to name a few—you’ll find her being deeply involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

From speaking at women empowerment panels to mentoring students and Alumni at Universities and colleges, Stephanie Joseph-Flatts makes a strong impact wherever she goes. 

Her relatability extends beyond her vision as a professional. Proving that she’s just like us, this industry expert admits that 90’s slow jams where she can embarrassingly belt out the bridge and the ad-libs are her go-to karaoke songs.

Fraser Mackenzie

Fraser Mackenzie

Fraser Mackenzie sits as the Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Universal Music Group—and he’s been with this global company since 2009. Back in 2022, he was named a Board Member at Ontario Creates, an agency of the provincial government that upholds Ontario’s creative industries, including the music, book, magazine, film, television and interactive digital media sectors, in both the local and international scene. 

This highly creative marketing leader is an expert in digital strategy and also specializes in partnerships in the streaming and attention economy era. Being equally curious as he is passionate, Fraser Mackenzie is an early adopter of new opportunities that cultural change and technological advancements bring. 

Toni Rufo

Toni Rufo

At Blue Ant Plus—a stellar media production company based in Ontario that works with globally recognized brands—it’s Toni Rufo who stands as the Client Services Lead and takes charge of media sales and business development.

For the third year in a row, she’s also serving as a distinguished judge at The Influence Awards. As a senior advertising professional with 16+ years of client service and business development experience, she knows the creative and media sides of the industry like the back of her hand. Through partnerships, sponsorships, stand-out content, and storytelling, she’s helped elevate countless brands to new heights of success.

Andrew Verescak

Andrew Verescak

Throughout his 20+ years of being in the digital marketing scene, Andrew Verescak has developed expertise in a wide array of industries, including consumer packaged goods, professional sports, food & beverage, financial, government, registered charities and N.F.P. organizations.

Whether it’s influencer marketing or social marketing, you’ll catch him directing global brand accounts within North America and Europe. On what it’s been like working with influencers, he shares that he’s floored at the passion, professionalism, and creativity they bring to the table. 

The Founding Partner of Bridge Digital Inc. is also a big fan of the medium of text before images. He believes in its power to unlock creativity and connection for people beyond just pictures—which is why he loves the chaos that is Twitter.

Kathryn Walker

Kathryn Walker

In her role as an Account Manager at Promotion Solutions, Kathryn Walker offers valuable expertise to clients regarding their promotional requirements. With a focus on the contest department for over a decade, Kathryn has collaborated with a diverse range of clients, spanning from small independent agencies to large corporate firms, as well as companies venturing into Contests and various promotional approaches for the first time.

Kathryn possesses a personable demeanour and is readily available to assist clients by brainstorming innovative solutions that are both effective and budget-friendly. Embracing the simpler joys of life, Kathryn delights in hosting BBQ gatherings with friends and occasionally embarking on exhilarating snowboard trips across the globe. Her approachable nature, coupled with her extensive knowledge and determination, consistently assures clients that they are in capable and caring hands.

Anna Sinclair

Anna Sinclair

Anna Sinclair is an award-winning entrepreneur, angel investor and CEO of @TotalMomInc.  She is a former entertainment professional (signed pop singer to Universal Music Group, Disney,  actress and casting director) who created a professional platform that supports women personally and professionally through festivals, business summits and entrepreneur initiatives and grants that help women start and grow a successful business while juggling motherhood.

From humble beginnings as a two-time immigrant and refugee success story, she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey by starting a small business in her basement. Now, she is CEO of an award-winning company that collaborates with major brands throughout North America, a testament to her dedication and drive.

Her professional community network and online e-learning platform focus on increasing social and financial capital through a profitable and sustainable business model. She is helping women learn how to become successful entrepreneurs.

Her dedication to women over the last five years has earned her recognition as one of WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women In Canada and established her as a Canadian business leader and influencer. 

She founded the @cwegala Canadian Women Entrepreneur Industry Gala (CWEs), which brings together leading companies, top C-suites, founders, entrepreneurs, creators and media to open doors of opportunity for women. Her visionary approach unites the industry, and her disruptive mindset has revolutionized the gala experience, dedicating herself to ensuring more women have a seat at the table.

Her experience working with over 350+ brands gives her the knowledge and experience to touch any aspect of a  project from top to bottom. Anna consults through her firm, Sinclair Creative Agency Inc., advising individuals and consumer lifestyle brands on branding, business strategy, content marketing, and asset development.

Get Ready to See More!

These industry experts know exactly what it takes to shine bright in the influencer marketing scene—and they know a stellar influencer when they see one.

Are you excited to see which of your favourite influencers will triumph at this year’s The Influence Awards?

Then join in on the countdown on the official site and get ready to cast your vote!

Click here to look back at last year’s winners.

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