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.

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.