BBDO Response morphs into Proximity Canada

BBDO Response is no more. However, the demise of the BBDO Response name has nothing to do with a faltering economy, but rather with the fact that the operation has become the first North American member of the Proximity Worldwide relationship...

BBDO Response is no more. However, the demise of the BBDO Response name has nothing to do with a faltering economy, but rather with the fact that the operation has become the first North American member of the Proximity Worldwide relationship marketing network, which launched in Europe in the fall.

In joining the network, the BBDO Response name has been changed to that of Proximity Canada. Proximity president Sarah Simpson says the agency is in expansion mode, as it sets about opening offices in Montreal and Vancouver and boosting the size of its data analytics group in Toronto.

Officially launched in Toronto Jan. 11 by U.K.-based Proximity Worldwide CEO Simon Hall, the Canadian operation has been gearing up for the transition for the last several months, according to Simpson. As evidence of that fact, she points to the recent hiring of executive vice-president and creative director Michael McGovern and vice-president of consumer analytics Richard Peake.

She says that the recent account wins of Column Financial, a commercial real estate lending organization owned by Credit Suisse First Boston that opened a Canadian office last summer, and Certas Insurance were due largely to the fact that the agency would soon be able to offer a suite of proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) tools developed by Proximity.

They include Brand IT, which Hall says can identify the multiple personalities inherent to the client’s brand; CRM Monitor, which looks at the key influences on customer relationships; Fusion, which pulls together those influences into a single customer management strategy; and Mediator, which is a response analysis package.

Explaining the rationale for the formation of Proximity, which is described as a ‘parallel network’ to BBDO, Hall says, ‘It’s an attempt to create a model which better reflects the world in which we all now operate. At its heart is a clicks-and-mortar integration – we’re bringing together the traditional skills of direct marketing, but harnessing them with interactive principles so that we can touch every part of the brand experience that a customer has.’

Hall says Proximity will introduce another six tools over the course of the next 12 months, including a tool for auditing customer experiences on client Web sites. The others, he says, will focus on a range of relationship marketing elements, from prospect conversions to loyalty programs. He says Proximity is also investing in international market research focused on specific target groups, such as youth.

Simpson, formerly general manager of BBDO Response, says the most significant aspect of the changeover to Proximity is the access it will provide clients to those proprietary tools.

‘BBDO Response kind of pigeon-holed us in the direct marketing area, but I think this is going to make us much more about the convergence of direct, data and interactive,’ she says, adding that she believes the change could eventually open some doors to additional business that would be independent of BBDO.