Ray of sunshine

Toward the end of 1992, u.s.-based Campbell Soup delivered a body blow to the Canadian advertising industry when it unexpectedly pulled its Canadian red and white soup account from longtime agency Oglivy & Mather and shifted it to Backer Spielvogel Bates,...

Toward the end of 1992, u.s.-based Campbell Soup delivered a body blow to the Canadian advertising industry when it unexpectedly pulled its Canadian red and white soup account from longtime agency Oglivy & Mather and shifted it to Backer Spielvogel Bates, which also handles the account in the u.s.

As usual, cost-efficiencies and global alignment strategies were given as the reason for the change. Of course, Campbell will do what it feels is best for its business, and no one can fault it for that.

But from the point of view of the ad industry, the arbitrary nature of the decision- and many other foreign-based packaged goods firms have made similar decisions in the last decade or so – tears at the very fabric of the industry here. This is why the emergence of a new telecommunications system – public cordless telephones – comes as such a ray of sunlight for the advertising industry.

If for ad agencies packaged goods accounts have become, to paraphrase economists when they speak of older, dying industries, sunset accounts, technology accounts are the new sunrise clients.

Nowhere is this more true than in the telecommunications industry in which devices such as fax machines, cellular phones and, now, pocket-sized phones for use in public places have exploded onto the market place in the past decade, revolutionizing the way we live in the process.

In the case of the new cordless phones, the government has awarded licences to four companies to develop a transmitter system and become service providers to the public. It is estimated that by 2000, Canadians will spend $1 billion annually for on-air service.

That does not take into account the many millions that will be spent on the phones themselves or on the private transmitters that can be bought for use in homes and businesses. All this translates into a mini-new business bonanza for Canadian ad agencies.

The four licensees – Rogers Cantel Mobile, Mobility Personacom Canada, Canada Popfone and Telezone – will each spend several million dollars annually on advertising as they compete with one another for customers.

Similarly, the federal government recently opened the long-distance phone market up to competition, instantaneously creating lucrative work for ad agencies where none existed previously.

Not only is the telecommunications industry an expanding element of the economy, it is by its nature a domestic one. This means the marketing decisions are made on Canadian soil, and the agencies holding the accounts need worry only about the quality of their work, not the vicissitudes of the international business arena.

No, telecommunications is not the answer to the ad industries woes, but it is a bright spot and agencies ought to make the best of it.