New shop Tattoo making its mark

Hoping to make an indelible impression upon the Canadian marketing industry, three stalwarts of the business have come up with what they believe is a most appropriate moniker for their new agency: Tattoo....

Hoping to make an indelible impression upon the Canadian marketing industry, three stalwarts of the business have come up with what they believe is a most appropriate moniker for their new agency: Tattoo.

That’s the name that has been given to the direct response and digital marketing agency that came together earlier this year under the leadership of Cheryl Young, Fransi Weinstein and Mona Goldstein.

Young, who is president of the new firm, has 20 years’ of senior client-side marketing experience with such well-known financial services organizations as Amex Bank of Canada, Scudder Investments and the Bank of Montreal. She is also the immediate past chairman of the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA).

Weinstein, Tattoo’s chief creative officer, has worked for a long list of general advertising and direct marketing agencies, including, most recently BBDO Response, where she was senior vice-president and creative director.

Goldstein, who was president of Wunderman Cato Johnson (now Impiric) for 16 years – she resigned in 1998 – and another past chairman of the CMA, is Tattoo’s vice-chairman and strategic advisor.

A fourth senior management partner, Sharon Zillmer, moves over from her position as director of digital marketing for the DAC Group, Tattoo’s Toronto-based parent company, to become vice-president of digital marketing.

The coming together of some of the most recognizable names in the Canadian direct marketing industry under one roof is no accident, the principals of the new firm say.

‘When you take seasoned, experienced people and you add enabling technology, what you get is better work faster,’ says Young. ‘Our promise is to tattoo our clients’ brands on the hearts, minds and wallets of their customers. That’s our commitment.’

It’s a formula the founders of Tattoo hope will spell new business for them. As it is, they’ve already managed to pick up some project direct mail work from AOL Canada, which they believe could spawn more such business in the not-too-distant future.

A lot of business is also expected to come from DAC’s directory advertising client base, which includes business-to-business marketers such as the Trane Company, a Texas-based manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, Toronto-based audio-visual company Duocom Canada, Shred-It, and AT&T Canada.

DAC’s client base is largely North American in scope, and Young says that’s an orientation that Tattoo would like to follow as it expands.

‘We do, however, want to build the Canadian business very aggressively,’ she says, pointing out that Tattoo has working relationships in place with 24/7 Canada,, and Canada Post Corporation, and is currently pitching to become agency of record with a financial institution, which she declines to name.

The new agency has also struck strategic alliances with a handful of advertising and media agencies in the Toronto area, including TAXI Advertising & Design, Riddochdickinson, Carat Canada and the Stewart Consulting Group.

‘The whole notion of strategic alliances is one that we feel really good about,’ says Weinstein, ‘because it enables us to offer clients ‘best in breed’ services. It also keeps us nimble, because instead of trying to own everything in-house, we can be entirely flexible and client-centric.’

‘We can play well with others,’ Young adds. ‘Tattoo will align itself with the right partner for the right challenge at the time.’

Zillmer, meanwhile, says Tattoo’s ability to align itself with the right strategic partners will become increasingly important as the agency furthers the integration of its direct and digital marketing services.

‘We’ve all seen interactive marketing agencies invest in technology,’ she says, ‘but then things change and their clients have to have their programs run on the same platforms. It really takes away their flexibility, and you see they have to develop campaigns based on the technology available to them instead of on their actual needs.’

Although Tattoo currently has only six employees, the founders expect that they will have as many as 22 people working in their downtown Toronto offices by June of next year, the agency’s official first anniversary.

‘I could see us adding some client service people,’ Young says, ‘I’d like some really strong business thinkers, because the ‘handling’ function traditionally associated with agency/client relationships is going to be replaced with technology. We need thinkers much more than we need paper shufflers.

‘One of the nice things about being backed financially by the DAC Group,’ she adds, ‘is that they’ve allowed us to hire quality people, get quality premises and invest in our technology well ahead of any revenue streams coming in.’

Young says the approach allows the senior management team to pace the agency’s growth, a fact that appeals to her client-side sensibilities of keeping overhead costs in line with revenues. It also means that the agency knows it can go out and recruit the best people available to do a particular job.

Weinstein says that while other direct marketing agencies may be having a difficult time finding and attracting the right people because of escalating salary and benefit demands by even the most junior of staff, Tattoo isn’t experiencing any difficulty in raising interest among potential employment candidates – and it isn’t because Tattoo is breaking the bank to attract them, she says.

‘There’s a handful of agencies that everybody keeps stealing from, but we don’t intend to go that route,’ Weinstein says. ‘We’ll pay for talent, but we won’t pay just to get someone to leave another agency, because that’ll backfire on everybody in the end.’

She speculates that the real reason Tattoo is drawing attention from so many potential employees is because of the stellar reputation the principals of Tattoo bring to the table, and because there are a lot of people in the business looking for some positive change in their work environment.

‘I think there are a lot of people out there that are like us, and are willing to work in a changed environment,’ she says. ‘I’m finding that there’s a lot people in that same head space and that they’re thrilled that there’s an opportunity to go and work for an agency that is trying to do things in a new and different and more refreshing way.’