The StockHouse powerhouse

Armed with nearly US$30 million in new capital from such backers as Hollinger and Liberty Media Group, a Vancouver-based Web site has launched its inaugural marketing campaign - an estimated US$5 million to US$10 million effort aimed at positioning itself as...

Armed with nearly US$30 million in new capital from such backers as Hollinger and Liberty Media Group, a Vancouver-based Web site has launched its inaugural marketing campaign – an estimated US$5 million to US$10 million effort aimed at positioning itself as the leading online destination for financial investors around the world.

In early February, StockHouse.com kicked off its global campaign in Canada with a series of humorous newspaper ads in the National Post promoting its Canadian site, StockHouse.ca (StockHouse also operates sites for the U.K., Australian, Hong Kong and U.S. markets). In the next few months, an even bigger campaign will break in the U.S., one that will include television spots to run on the financial network CNBC.

The Canadian ads, created by Vancouver ad shop Rethink, were designed to drum up awareness for the brand, and to communicate the site’s offerings, which include original editorial content, online discussion groups called ‘Bullboards’, and portfolio tracking.

So far, the creative has proved to be a success – almost too much of a success, explains Jeff Berwick, the company’s 29-year-old president and CEO.

‘Our traffic has actually doubled on the Canadian site in the last two weeks because of the marketing,’ he says, noting the increased traffic momentarily caused the site to crash. ‘But we’re back up again.’

Berwick actually chuckles when he describes the mini-meltdown. And why not?

A self-described computer junkie since the age of 12, Berwick left his native Edmonton in 1991 and moved to Vancouver, where he took a job as a teller at CIBC. By 1995, about the same time the Internet was starting to take off, Berwick had become an investment advisor at the bank, where he gained considerable knowledge of the financial markets. Seeing an immediate opportunity, he founded StockHouse, and began building the site by himself, handling everything from programming, to Web-page design, to sales and editorial.

Although StockHouse had never promoted itself prior to the current campaign, the site had already attracted a remarkable number of visitors, largely though word of mouth within the chatty online investment community. In fact, StockHouse may be the most popular Internet property you’ve never heard of – Berwick claims StockHouse, whose figures are audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, gets more visitors than any other Web site in Canada.

As of mid-February, he says the site received 120 million page views per month (60 million on the StockHouse.ca site, 50 million on StockHouse.com and about 10 million on the Hong Kong and Australian sites) and close to three million unique visitors per month (although only 1.2 million were visitors to the Canadian site).

Activity on the site’s Bullboards has been equally impressive. Approximately 1,000 people are registering for the message boards each day, and daily postings are in the 10,000 range. That’s enough to make StockHouse the fourth most popular financial message board in the world, trailing only Yahoo!, Raging Bull and the Silicon Investor.

When you combine StockHouse’s traffic with its blue-chip demographics – 100% are investors, 84% have a university education, and the average user income is greater than $70,000 – you’d think advertisers would be tripping over each other to paste their banners on the site.

But so far, other than a handful of notable clients like E*Trade, Mercedes-Benz and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the stream of advertisers has looked more like a trickle – a circumstance Berwick attributes in part to the measurement methodology used by Web advertising measurement firm Media Metrix Canada (see story, page one).

The lack of third party audit numbers, however, hasn’t dissuaded some powerful backers from injecting significant capital into StockHouse. The site is currently valued at US$120 million, thanks largely to recent investments by Conrad Black-controlled Hollinger, which kicked in between US$5 million to US$10 million, AT&T programming arm Liberty Media, and China.com, which anted up US$20 million. Berwick is currently holding meetings with underwriters, and says he expects StockHouse will launch an initial public offering later this year.

In addition to funding its marketing push, the recent investments have allowed StockHouse to begin beefing up its site. The company just opened its broadband office in New York, and plans to add a live video component to its site in the next six months. A high-profile producer at CNBC has been lured away to head up StockHouse’s interactive television division, which will eventually be offered in Canada.

Although StockHouse doesn’t provide any e-commerce functions on its site (Berwick says he refuses to turn StockHouse into a mall), it does plan to move into the fast-growing online trading market. According to Toronto-based Investor Economics, Canadians had more than $70 billion worth of assets in discount brokerages after the third quarter of 1999, compared to only $15 billion in 1993. While Internet trading still accounted for only 19% of all trades, that figure was more than double the 8.5% of 1998.

Instead of setting up its own brokerage, however, StockHouse plans to integrate virtual brokers like E*Trade into its site, and collect a transaction fee.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group