Sympatico-Lycos goes local

Ten years ago, Bell Canada gave Marc Tellier a summer job. Today, the telco giant is giving him command of its recently formed Sympatico-Lycos portal, and counting on him to produce $100 million in annual advertising and e-commerce revenue by the...

Ten years ago, Bell Canada gave Marc Tellier a summer job. Today, the telco giant is giving him command of its recently formed Sympatico-Lycos portal, and counting on him to produce $100 million in annual advertising and e-commerce revenue by the end of 2001.

Bell will commence a teaser advertising campaign in April to promote the revamped site, which is slated to launch in May, although it has yet to determine which agency will handle creative duties. But instead of marketing Sympatico-Lycos as a strictly national portal, Tellier plans to create a network of local sites that will deliver more specific audiences to advertisers, and at the same time encourage regional businesses to develop e-commerce offerings.

Bell is already a partner in Toronto.com and MontrealPlus.ca, and Tellier says the company will unveil a dozen more online city guides beginning with QuebecPlus.ca this month. Community-themed sites like Toronto.com, which is already one of the leading Canadian originating Web sites according to Media Metrix Canada, provide a range of local entertainment, weather, and business news, making them popular properties among merchants and advertisers who want to reach regional audiences.

‘The approach we have, which I think is unique in the global marketplace, is to not only offer that national play, but the strong local play combined with the directory component,’ says Tellier, president and CEO of Sympatico-Lycos, which is 71% owned by Bell. ‘Having a multiple brand strategy, a federation of sites, will clearly bring a much better value proposition to the advertisers than a generic national portal.’

Not everyone, however, is enamoured of the local portal strategy, much less the initial deal with Lycos. In early February, Bell invested $37 million to form Sympatico-Lycos, although Bell chairman and CEO Jean Monty indicated the total investment could climb as high as $125 million over the next few years.

The deal will essentially create a Canadian version of the popular Lycos network, thereby enabling Bell to stem the flow of Canadian Web traffic and ad dollars to the U.S.

But some industry watchers, who expected to see Bell unload its estimated $7-billion war chest on a major acquisition, were less than impressed with the Lycos joint venture, which essentially provides a Canadian conduit for a host of Lycos-branded products and services. Such components include the Angelfire and Tripod Web sites, where surfers can build free home pages, Quote.com, a finance and investment site, and Sonique, a music-themed site where users can download audio files and MP3 players.

‘I’m not a big believer in what Bell is trying to do in its recent localizations of its so-called Internet strategy,’ says Iain Grant, an analyst at Brockville, Ont.-based Yankee Group who is highly dubious of both the cost and value of the Lycos deal to Bell.

‘Paying $100 million to not talk about your products on Lycos I think shows a great victory for Lycos salesmanship,’ he says.

Jordan Worth, an Internet analyst at International Data Corporation (Canada) in Toronto, says, ‘It’s basically the same as cable companies adding more American channels.’

But despite, or perhaps because of, his youth, the 31-year-old Tellier seems remarkably undaunted by skeptics, and is confident the model that Bell is using will make Sympatico-Lycos the most popular online destination for consumers and advertisers alike.

‘At the end of the day, a winning Internet strategy comes down to three things – innovative business models, powerful distribution channels, and great marketing,’ he says knowingly.

Tellier, however, boasts no formal marketing experience, although he has held enough positions within the BCE family of companies to bring a singular perspective to the job. He took a summer job as a financial analyst at Bell in 1990, three years through his economics degree at the University of Ottawa. After finishing his studies in 1991, he joined the company full time as a customer systems engineer, before moving on to co-found the company’s investor relations department.

By the time he was 29, Tellier was already vice-president, business development at BCE Emergis, and was busy forging corporate alliances and partnerships. The next year, he moved to Bell ActiMedia as vice-president, new media and alliances, where he oversaw all of Bell’s Internet properties (with the exception of Sympatico), such as Yellowpages.ca and Canada 411.

ActiMedia, which publishes both conventional and online directories, will play a pivotal role in luring advertisers to Sympatico-Lycos, and in helping Bell to meet its $100-million target, explains Tellier, who concedes that Canada still lags about 18 months behind the U.S. in e-commerce development.

‘Our relationship with Bell Actimedia is so important to us. The fact that we actually talk to every single small and medium business out there in the context of their print yellow pages – there’s a huge opportunity there.’

While many industry observers are still atwitter about the possibility of major content deals, Tellier says his most pressing goal is to stanch the flow of Internet traffic to U.S. sites, where approximately 80% of Canadian surfers – and thereby ad dollars and e-commerce transactions – terminate.

In addition to providing Lycos services with the .ca suffix, Bell has purchased a substantial chunk of advertising inventory on the Lycos network in the U.S. in an effort to repatriate Canadian surfers.

According to Media Metrix Canada, Sympatico, the eighth-most visited site among Canadians, received 2.4 million unique visitors in December, compared to just a shade under two million unique Canadian visitors for Lycos. Bell hopes the ads can convince the majority of Canadians who visit Lycos.com to access these products within the Sympatico-Lycos network, and bring precious advertisers with them.

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.