Corus signs on beer veteran Kincaid

Corus Entertainment has girded itself for battle in Canada's convergent media marketplace by signing on a veteran of the beer wars....

Corus Entertainment has girded itself for battle in Canada’s convergent media marketplace by signing on a veteran of the beer wars.

David Kincaid joined the burgeoning Toronto-based media company as vice-president of marketing earlier in September.

Prior to this, he spent 13 years at Labatt Breweries of Canada where, as senior vice-president of marketing, he oversaw a number of successful campaigns – including the ‘Out of the Blue’ initiative for the company’s flagship brand, Blue.

At Corus, Kincaid’s major role will be to find ways of helping advertisers maximize their use of the company’s various radio, television and Web holdings, by designing multimedia packages tailored to their specific needs. He will also oversee marketing communications for Corus as a whole, and help establish a more centralized approach to the promotion of its media holdings.

‘There are really two prongs,’ says Corus president John Cassaday, who has known Kincaid professionally for close to 20 years. ‘How do we position ourselves to our constituents, and then how do we help our advertisers benefit from our clout in terms of reach, research capability, communications skill and so on?’

Kincaid, for his part, says he’s ‘excited’ about the move, and believes that his experience with a major purchaser of advertising such as Labatt will serve him well in his new role on the vendor side.

‘Having viewed the communications industry [as] the person who’s buying the broadcast value, hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of that perspective to the other side of the desk.’

Corus was founded just over a year ago, when Calgary-based Shaw Communications spun off its media assets – which at the time included 14 radio stations, along with specialty television channels YTV, Country Music Television and Treehouse TV, and part-ownership of The Comedy Network, Teletoon and Telelatino – to form a separate company.

Since then, Corus has been on something of an acquisition spree, picking up new holdings – mostly in radio – from the likes of WIC Western International Communications, Metromedia Broadcasting, Power Broadcasting and Blackburn Radio. These purchases have fueled dramatic growth: from 800 employees and $100 million in revenues a year ago, to 3,000 employees and $350 million in revenues today.

On Sept. 18, Corus announced another major deal, acquiring children’s entertainment company Nelvana for approximately $540 million in cash and shares. A leading producer of animated programming, Nelvana controls such familiar properties as Franklin, Little Bear and Babar. It also has a consumer products division that includes publishers Kids Can Press and Klutz, and owns 20% of Teletoon (thereby giving Corus an increased stake in the animation channel).

The decision to buy up a content provider like Nelvana forms part of a plan designed to vault Corus into the ranks of Canada’s convergent media giants, alongside the likes of CanWest Global Communications, BCE and Rogers Communications. Cassaday says Corus wants to be one of the small handful of companies that will ultimately control the vast majority of Canadian media – and from there to branch out internationally.

Hiring a gifted marketer like Kincaid will help the company pursue that goal, he adds.

‘[Kincaid] has a lot of blue-chip experience,’ Cassaday says. ‘He’s had experience in merchandising and licensing, he’s accustomed to working in a relatively decentralized organization and he’s had some international exposure, which was of interest to us.’

Originally, Kincaid’s move to Corus was planned for August, but was put on hold when Don Kitchen, executive vice-president of the North American division of Labatt parent company Interbrew, died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Kincaid’s former employer has now lost several key senior team members in the last few months. In June, Bill Durnan stepped down as president of Toronto-based Ammirati Puris, the brewer’s agency of record.

Still, Kincaid expects Labatt’s marketing engine to continue chugging along without a hiccup.

‘On paper, it’s an unfortunate sequence of events,’ he says. ‘But in terms of the ability to continue to grow the brands, I don’t even have the faintest worry that’s going to be done well.’