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.

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