Strategy’s 2000 Best Media Operation: Best Media Operation, Quebec: Bos

In 2000, Montreal-based ad agency Bos did not announce plans to spin off its media operation into a separate, branded company. It won't be making any move along these lines next year, either - not if early indications are anything to...

In 2000, Montreal-based ad agency Bos did not announce plans to spin off its media operation into a separate, branded company. It won’t be making any move along these lines next year, either – not if early indications are anything to go by.

And probably not in 2002. Or, in fact, at any point in the foreseeable future.

While it may be common for big agencies to operate stand-alone media management firms, this isn’t a serious option for a mid-sized independent like Bos. Nor is it really much in keeping with this Quebec shop’s general philosophy.

The folks at Bos don’t see media as a separate discipline, says Diane Lanctot, the agency’s media director. Instead, her department is simply one more component of the team responsible for developing strategies and executing campaigns.

‘We’re one agency,’ she explains. ‘Every aspect of the strategy is done in one place. It’s always a team effort and that’s what makes us different – we don’t separate the departments … [and] we all work together. A creative idea can change the media plan, and a media opportunity or strategy can drive the creative. We’re different from the big buying agencies. We can’t offer the same thing, and we don’t want to.’

Bos has enjoyed a good deal of recognition in the Quebec market over the past several years for the strength of its creative product. But the agency’s media management operation has gained a stellar reputation as well, ranking first overall for Quebec this year in Strategy’s Best Media Operation survey.

In the past six years, the media department at Bos has grown from one staff person to seven. Its annual billings of between $45 million and $50 million are nearly 15 times what they were in 1994.

While the evolution has been slow and gradual, Lanctot says the operation now shows every sign of coming into its own. ‘We’re standing out more and more with the accounts we currently have, and we’re starting to gain more buying clout,’ she says.

Bos clients include Microcell Solutions, the Montreal-based telecommunications company that markets Fido wireless phones, Tourisme Quebec, which advertises mainly in the U.S., Loto-Quebec and a number of other small to mid-sized clients.

The work for Microcell, which earned two golds at the 1999 Cassie Awards, is without doubt the agency’s signature accomplishment. Bos played a key role in the conception of the Fido brand, developing the whimsical canine theme that runs through all the advertising. And the agency is responsible for the aggressive media strategy – combining TV, print, outdoor and transit – that has helped turn that brand into a household name.

Lanctot says clients today want greater impact for their dollar – something that becomes tougher to deliver as the media landscape grows ever more fragmented. In her view, many agencies equate effectiveness with buying power, and assume that simply purchasing more time and space will deliver the requisite impact. In this, they’re mistaken. ‘We don’t feel that way,’ she says. ‘We can get the efficiencies and value and impact by being different – that’s what we sell. Our goal is not just to do a creative media plan or a buy, it’s for the client to get impact in the form of results. Sometimes those results are awareness, other times it’s sales.’

Consolidation in the media management business means that more and more buying power is now concentrated in the hands of the large operations, Lanctot notes. Smaller shops, she argues, will need to begin forging alliances if they hope to survive in future.

Lanctot says she’s also troubled to see more and more big advertisers in the U.S. treating media management as a commodity, rather than as a strategic function that calls for partnership between client and agency. That’s a trend she’s not anxious to see migrate to Canada.

‘You have to build strong, long-term relationships with

your clients,’ she says. ‘How [else] can you build creativity or get impact?’

Also in this report:

- Gold: The Media Edge p.80

- Silver: M2 Universal p.82

- Bronze: MindShare Canada p.94

- Best Media Director: Hugh Dow, M2 Universal p.96

- How we identified the winners p.100