We Are Social enters Canada through Vision7 partnership

The Blue Focus shop will work with agencies like Cossette and Citizen Relations on V7's Toronto campus to help clients stand out on social.

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Blue Focus International is officially bringing social specialty agency We Are Social to Canada, opening a Toronto office through a partnership with Vision7 International.

We Are Social, which describes itself as a “socially-led creative agency,” has been working with a number of global brands in Canada, including Yokohama, Intuit and Lorex, since earlier this fall.

The Toronto office, the agency network’s fifteenth globally, will be led by managing director Coby Shuman. Shuman comes from Huge and has previously spent time at Sapient and Ogilvy & Mather offices in London, New York and Toronto. Shuman will report directly into We Are Social’s chief executive Jim Coleman, who is based in the U.K.

Canada’s cultural diversity presents “enormous opportunity for international brands, homegrown brands and the thriving Canadian startup community,” Shuman noted in an exclusive email interview with strategy. However, he said, many brands follow similar approaches, and platforms and technology are constantly changing, making it harder for advertisers to stand out.

That said, Shuman believes We Are Social’s “research capabilities, editorial approaches and a bespoke social-first production function” can help brands connect more effectively with audiences.

At launch, the Toronto office will consist of six employees specializing in social research, strategy, creative, editorial, content and production. As needed, it will work with experts across We Are Social’s 850-person global network.

The agency enters the Canadian market through a partnership with Vision7, also owned by Blue Focus. Vision7′s campus model involves having a lead agency and smaller, secondary agency for each discipline working out of the same office in a given city. The group’s Toronto campus, where We Are Social will be based, includes Cossette and Camp Jefferson on creative, Cossette Media and Jungle on media and Citizen Relations and The Colony Project on PR.

By integrating into the Vision7 campus, both here and in the U.S., We Are Social will benefit from the shared operational services with Vision7, such as human resources, IT and legal, while creating opportunities for support and collaboration on client work, Shuman says.

Vision7 Canada is the more established campus model, but the company is planning a similar approach in the U.S., says CEO Brett Marchand. Last year, Vision7 acquired San Francisco creative agency Eleven, and at the time Marchand said the company would be pursuing campuses in San Francisco and Chicago, with the possibility of further campuses in New York (where We Are Social and Citizen Relations both have offices) and Miami.

In August, Legacy Acquisition Corp announced it would acquire Blue Focus’ global advertising and marketing services companies, which would be spun off into a company called Blue Impact. Once the transaction closes, Blue Impact will consist of Vision7 and We Are Social, as well as San Francisco-based product design agency Fuseproject, Hong Kong-based full service agency Metta and Shanghai mobile media agency Madhouse. The new company will be led by Marchand, who has been appointed CEO of Blue Impact.

The ownership structure of Blue Focus International made the partnership “incredibly easy,” Marchand says.

“We do not view We Are Social as a non-Vision7 agency,” Marchand says. “That way we can seamlessly integrate We Are Social services and capabilities into the Canadian campus.”

Canada is one of the most mature social media markets and most Canadian social media users are interacting with brands in different ways, according to Shuman. The agency network’s 2019 Global Digital Report found that nearly 70% of Canadians are active social media users, with strong penetration across all major platforms, including global players like WeChat.

Earlier this year, We Are Social opened a Tokyo office, following the launch of outfits in Hong Kong and Madrid in 2018, as well as its acquisition of Socialize, a Dubai-based agency.