Seeking American clients

Canadian ad agencies are increasingly prospecting for clients in the fertile u.s. marketplace, both on an individual basis and collectively through industry trade associations.The reasons given for pursuing u.s business vary from province to province, but many agencies say they find...

Canadian ad agencies are increasingly prospecting for clients in the fertile u.s. marketplace, both on an individual basis and collectively through industry trade associations.

The reasons given for pursuing u.s business vary from province to province, but many agencies say they find it more logical to work regionally, preferring to make pitches 400 miles south rather than 3,000 miles east or west.

For Vancouver agencies, Toronto is five hours away, while San Francisco is just two.

For Toronto agencies, nearby upstate New York alone offers a substantial base of about 12 million consumers.

But the efficiency of regional growth is not the only reason.

Some agencies say they are turning their gaze southward because the u.s. is a bigger market and advertising expenditures are higher.

Bill Moreland, president of Moreland & Associates Advertising in Vancouver, says there are more accounts up for grabs in the larger u.s. market and he ‘wants to go where the fish are biting.’

Currently, only about 35% to 40% of the agency’s new business prospects are located in Western Canada, with the balance in Eastern Canada and the u.s.

One of the ways in which Moreland hopes to land North American or u.s.-only accounts is to pick up test-market assignments or take over responsibility for troubled brands.

Further, Moreland has applied to join a u.s. agency network and has listed Moreland & Associates in the upcoming issue of the Red Book, the standard registry of u.s. ad agencies.

Moreland is an American citizen who moved to Vancouver nearly four years ago to run Advantage Marketing Advertising.

Two years ago, he opened the agency that bears his name.

Raised in Illinois, he spent most of his 25-year career working in u.s. agencies, including bbdo in New York and Los Angeles, Tracy-Locke in Dallas, and Chiat/Day in Venice, Calif.

About 18 months ago, an activist group of members of the Advertising Agency Association of British Columbia (aaabc) proposed that the association ought to put together a marketing program to raise the profile of b.c. agencies in the Cascadia region, which includes southern b.c., Washington state, Oregon and parts of California.

Moreland was involved in the effort, which, ultimately, fell apart when the aaabc could not muster sufficient support among its members.

Moreland says he subsequently set out to drum up u.s. business on his own, and he is not the only b.c. agency to do so.

J. Walter Thompson, Vancouver, for one, has announced it is on the hunt south of the border.

Late last year, agency Vice-President Graham Catchlove restructured his office to give himself more time to look for new business in the Cascadia region.

Way across the country, Quebec’s leading agencies are hoping to convince u.s. advertisers they need use only a Quebec agency when advertising in Canada because agencies in the province have the dual ability to reach Quebecers as well as the English-speaking population in the other provinces.

To that effect, the Association of Quebec Advertising Agencies (aapq) ran an 20-page advertising insert in the Nov. 22 issue of Advertising Age, the u.s. trade magazine covering marketing and advertising.

The glossy, tab-sized insert, titled ‘Quebec. Fresh Advertising… With a Difference,’ outlined Quebec’s demographics and discussed why Quebec advertising is different.

It also profiled Quebec film producers, media channels and Videotron, developer of the interactive cable system Videoway.

Joseph Mullie, general manager of aapq, says the association realizes the insert cannot be a one-shot effort.

Although plans have yet to be solidified for 1994, Mullie says the aapq’s prospecting efforts in the u.s. will definitely continue.

Canadian offices of multinational agencies are frequently able to exploit their relationships with sister agencies in the u.s. to pick u.s. ad assignments.

But such is not the case for Canada’s independently owned ad agencies.

The need to have a physical presence in the u.s. has led several Canadian independents, including Saffer Advertising and Wolf Advertising, to set up u.s. offices.

Toronto-based Wolf now owns four agencies in New York state: one in Rochester, one in New York City and two in Buffalo.

Agency Chairman Larry Wolf says his strategy has been to ride the changes businesses have gone through in adapting to the liberalization of trade regulations across the North American continent.

Specifically, Wolf says he tries to help Canadian companies roll out regionally into the u.s.

He says the north-south trading configuration is the most viable, adding he believes there is great potential for Canadian companies in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New England.

John Hayter, president of Vickers & Benson of Toronto, says v&b does plan to take advantage of opportunities abroad, but not for at least a year.

Hayter says that for now the agency is concentrating on solidifying its position in Canada.

v&b began scouting the u.s. last summer when Mike McCormick, president of V&B Direct, moved to New York City to open M.J. McCormick Direct, a creative boutique for direct marketing that remains affiliated with v&b.

Late in 1993, Geoffrey B. Roche & Partners of Toronto picked up the creative assignment for the launch of a new car-care product by Ziebart of Troy, Mich.

The multimillion-dollar tv campaign will run primarily in the u.s.

Agency President Geoffrey Roche says although he had been doing some prospecting for u.s. business, the Ziebart project came in unexpectedly: a u.s. consultant, hired by the client, sought the agency out after seeing some of its work.

During the 1980s, Roche worked in the u.s. for eight years with agencies such as Chiat/Day and Hal Riney & Partners.

He argues there is a huge amount of business, mainly untapped, less than two hours away by plane and u.s. clients do not care where the agency is located as long as it can do the job.

East Coast agencies surveyed have not been looking south recently, although all agree that the Boston area would be ideal territory for new business prospecting.

Ian Thompson, a partner at McArthur Thompson & Law of Halifax, says the agency has considered working with a Boston-area agency because his agency could offer a cost advantage and a new approach for u.s. clients advertising in either Canada or the u.s.

Thompson says that by looking south, Atlantic agencies can make the most of a ‘sad reality’ in Canada: ‘Our sense is that [people] in central Canada have a bias about Atlantic Canada that Americans don’t have.’