Excite launches Web portal

As Excite.ca rolls out the largest dot-com advertising campaign in Canadian history, it is already bragging about its ability to attract Canadian Internet advertising to its upstart Web portal. Excite has booked more than $1 million in advertising for the 50-50...

As Excite.ca rolls out the largest dot-com advertising campaign in Canadian history, it is already bragging about its ability to attract Canadian Internet advertising to its upstart Web portal.

Excite has booked more than $1 million in advertising for the 50-50 joint venture between Rogers Communications and Redwood Calif.-based Excite@home. Advertisers include Canadian e-commerce veterans such as HMV, Indigo and Air Canada.

To fulfill the promise of delivering the eyeballs of Canadian Web surfers to those advertisers, Excite has launched a three-month, $6.5-million, multi-media advertising campaign – Canada’s largest Internet company campaign, says Jennifer Langley, Excite.ca’s director of marketing.

The campaign, created by Toronto-based BBDO, is concentrated in Toronto and Vancouver where Internet penetration is the highest.

Excite has its work cut out for it. Yahoo Canada is still the market leader with about half of the 8.3 million Canadians who went online in January visiting Yahoo.com or Yahoo.ca, according to Media Metrix Canada, which tracks online usage. Bell Canada’s Sympatico.ca site had about 2.1 million users, while about 1.35 million Canadians visited Excite.com, making it the 16th-most popular site visited by Canadians.

While Excite will attempt to pry away some consumers from its competitors, it is primarily targeting new entrants to the Internet who have not yet formed brand loyalty with a competing portal, says George Bell, president and CEO of Excite@home.

‘This is not a displacement strategy,’ says Bell. ‘The goal of Excite.ca is not to steal customers from Yahoo. The goal of Excite.ca is to grow in a marketplace where there are many uncommitted users.’

The launch of Excite draws a clear battle line between Rogers and Bell Canada parent BCE, which recently offered to buy Canadian broadcaster CTV to provide content for its recently formed Sympatico-Lycos Web portal.

Both companies are attempting to stem the flow of Canadian Web traffic to U.S. sites by creating a uniquely Canadian platform for Canadian Internet surfers and advertisers.

But industry watchers are skeptical that the current offerings will convince Canadians to jump on the Internet portal bandwagon.

‘The portal strategy is still largely untested,’ says Jordan Worth, a telecommunications analyst at Toronto-based International Data Corporation (Canada). ‘This is a battle of brand, a battle of billboards rather than a battle of bits.’

With the content on both Bell and Rogers sites currently available directly from the providers, or on other competing portal sites, there is little to convince consumers to use the sites as much more than search engines, he says.

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.