E-tailer agency expanding

The Internet can be an unforgiving place for marketers and e-tailers. And several of North America's biggest companies have been looking to Toronto-based Cyberplex to help them avoid the numerous traps that can turn a great concept into a Web disaster....

The Internet can be an unforgiving place for marketers and e-tailers. And several of North America’s biggest companies have been looking to Toronto-based Cyberplex to help them avoid the numerous traps that can turn a great concept into a Web disaster.

The company is now looking to increase its presence in the U.S., as well as in Europe, and bring its knowledge and experience to the burgeoning number of companies looking to move their brands and goods online.

Cyberplex has already helped some of Canada’s most innovative e-marketers bring their brands and products to the Web. The company was recently appointed Ford Motor Company of Canada’s interactive agency of record after helping to create the Internet strategy for the new Ford Focus, not to mention the company’s main consumer Web site. Cyperplex has also worked with Chapters in building its much-lauded online bookstore.

‘We have a bit of a brand in Canada, but I don’t think anyone in the Toronto market knows we’re so big in the U.S. already,’ says Steve Taylor, Cyberplex’s vice-president of marketing and service innovation.

And Cyberplex, which is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, wants to get bigger. In little over a year, the company has already opened sales centres in North Carolina, Texas and California, which currently generate about a third of the more than $20 million in unconfirmed projected revenue for 1999 – more than double the $9.5 million it earned the year before.

Since it was founded in 1994 by two young management consultants, Dean Hopkins and Vernon Lobo, the company has expanded rapidly. In five years, it has grown from a small operation run out of Hopkins’ home solarium to one that employs more than 250 people in six offices in Canada and the U.S.

Part of Cyberplex’s success in attracting high-profile clients can be attributed to its using the Internet to improve its clients’ bottom lines, either through revenue growth or cost-cutting, says Geoff Rotstein, Cyberplex chief financial officer.

‘We grew up on the Internet. We’ve been able to take the three different areas that are now requirements of successful businesses in the Internet space – strategy, marketing and technology – and combine them from the beginning. Other companies may have expertise in only one of those areas,’ Rotstein says.

The Cyberplex team was probably the first and best in Canada at combining strategy, design and execution on the Internet, says Rocco Rossi, vice-president, interactive marketing at Labatt Breweries of Canada, which has worked with Cyberplex on several projects since 1996.

Cyberplex’s newest client, Toronto-based Hotline Communications, is counting on the firm’s ability to build its brand and drive its profits globally. The Internet communications software developer has hired Cyberplex to help it increase its user base from its current level of 2.5 million to more than 25 million in the next two to three years, says Doug Humfries, Hotline’s vice-president of marketing.

Cyberplex is helping Hotline determine its target audience, a very technologically savvy, hard-to-reach group, he says. ‘Cyberplex understands the market, our product and its benefits and to which targets it would have the highest appeal. They use really logical, strategic thinking into the Internet world,’ he says.

And getting one’s Web marketing efforts right the first time is essential in the ultra-competitive world of Internet marketing. According to a study by the Toronto-based Boston Consulting Group, about 38% of consumers who experience a failed Internet transaction refuse to deal with the e-tailer ever again, with six per cent boycotting not only the company’s Web site, but its retail stores as well.

Not only are Web consumers becoming more sophisticated and demanding, so are Web retailers and marketers, says Chris Frostad, vice-president of business architecture at Cyberplex.

‘If you look at a lot of the older sites, you’ll see they tend to broadcast to everyone,’ he says. ‘At the end of the day, what’s most important is to understand how to engage that particular customer, and once you’ve built that relationship with them, then you can start working different value propositions to them and make money in a variety of different ways.’

While the lion’s share of Cyberplex’s work right now is still in e-commerce and system integration, Taylor says momentum is building in the area of wireless applications and even the development of embedded systems, such as smart, Internet-enabled cars and fridges. However, if it’s anything like e-commerce, which was somewhat slow to catch on, Taylor says it could still take a couple of years for some clients to cotton on. A large proportion of Cyberplex’s work is also streaming in from the flourishing business-to-business side of the Internet, says Taylor.

The main focus going forward remains beefing up the company’s share of mind among potential U.S. clients, Rotstein says, but the company is also feeling bullish about its chances overseas. Cyberplex currently has two clients in Europe being served out of North America. For now, Rotstein says, the company will look to grow with its European clients, while keeping an eye out for other opportunities.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.