Last Year's Headline: Amex appeals to small business with new gold Air Miles card...

Last Year’s Headline: Amex appeals to small business with new gold Air Miles card

Synopsis: Looking for a reprise of the success it enjoyed in 1997, Amex Canada and The Loyalty Group announce a follow-up to their American Express Air Miles card.

This time, however, the two companies set their sights on the lucrative, but hard-to-reach Canadian small business sector. Their earlier co-branding effort concentrated on consumers.

Debra Ambrose, Amex’s director of card product development, says the consumer offering was one of the most successful cards the company ever launched in Canada. It ended up serving as a co-branding case study for other Amex divisions. So a business card was a natural follow-up – especially since the small-business market was considered underserved by card issuers. The Loyalty Group, meanwhile, sifts through its database of more than 5.5 million cardholders to identify small-business owners and operators suitable for marketing the initiative.

One Year Later: Ambrose deems the launch of the American Express Air Miles Gold business card "an overwhelming success", saying it surpassed the company’s acquisition targets. "This year, we will continue to invest a significant portion of our small business marketing funds against acquiring new small business Air Miles card members.

She says the company will also be enhancing the benefits to the American Express corporate charge card for small business and, later this year, will launch a co-branded card product "with a major Canadian retailer."

Last Year’s Headline: Curtain descends on Blockbuster/Air Miles deal

Synopsis: Blockbuster terminates its agreement with The Loyalty Group’s Air Miles program and announces the upcoming launch of its own loyalty program, dubbed Blockbuster Rewards. In a message to customers notifying them of the change, the video giant notes that "As an Air Miles collector, it can take a long time before you get to enjoy the rewards through Blockbuster." With its own rewards program, the company says, members can get "instant rewards." This brings a mild rebuke from Loyalty Group executives, who call the wording "odd," noting that rewards through its Air Miles program start with as few as 20 miles.

One Year Later: Blockbuster Canada unveils its Rewards program in July.

"Overall, we’ve been very happy with the results," says Chuck McAulay, director of marketing for Blockbuster Canada. "Of our Blockbuster members, more than 30% have obtained a Rewards card. We feel that’s a great achievement for the past eight months."

McAulay adds that Blockbuster is now attempting to "add value" to the card by bringing in third-party partners. For example, Rewards members who show their card at a Famous Players’ movie theatre can get a large popcorn for the price of a medium. New York Fries and Kodak have also signed on, offering deals on french fries and photo finishing.

Last Year’s Headline: Hyundai USA puts parts online

Synopsis: Hyundai Motor America (HMA) of Fountain Valley, Calif., unveils its "Hyundai Parts Online" ordering system and, in the wake of the launch, Hyundai Canada says it is planning to initiate its own Web site by year-end.

Mark Orlando, national marketing and public relations manager for Hyundai Canada in Markham, Ont., says the Canadian site could include online parts ordering capability. What is compelling about the HMA model is that, in addition to providing customers with a faster and easier ordering method, the automaker can also collect consumer information that can then be used to tailor service offerings to individual customers.

One Year Later: Hyundai’s drive to be online appears to be stuck in first gear. "We wanted to make sure we do it right," says Alex Ng, national parts manager for Hyundai Canada. "We are very close to launching our Web site."

The site will be launched in two phases, Ng adds. The first will consist of "brochureware", that is, vehicle information and company profile material. "For parts and service, we are not there yet," he says. "That is in the development stage."

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.