Brann grows remit

Brann Worldwide isn't calling itself a direct agency anymore. But Rob Morgan, executive VP and general manager of Brann Worldwide, is quick to point out: the Toronto-based shop isn't abandoning its direct marketing heritage either.

Brann Worldwide isn’t calling itself a direct agency anymore. But Rob Morgan, executive VP and general manager of Brann Worldwide, is quick to point out: the Toronto-based shop isn’t abandoning its direct marketing heritage either.

‘This is a whole year-long process we’re entering into to build Brann as a brand. And in Canada, we’re moving quickly toward a marketing and communications agency,’ he says. ‘Our foundational component, or our marketing bias, which we call ‘Helping Buyers Buy,’ is a channel-neutral process. It does not have us dealing in a direct channel only.’

‘In fact,’ says Morgan, ‘The wins we have had this year have really been in branding, and advertising, and telemarketing – certainly direct is part of it, but it’s only one aspect.’

In a move aimed to better weather recession, Havas Advertising, which owns Brann, announced plans last month to merge Brann into Arnold Worldwide Partners, another agency brand owned by the French holding company. But Morgan says it is a non-issue in Canada and that Brann will operate independently here.

Brann, which recently moved to new offices in downtown Toronto, has been operating in Canada for four years – although under various names. (The Toronto office became part of the Brann Worldwide network in 1999, after its acquisition by Snyder Communications the previous year). Clients include CIBC, OnX.com, Aramark Canada, Investors Group and Safeway Select Bank (California). This year alone, it has seen its staff grow by 40%. The Toronto office is one of 16 offices in 14 cities in North America and Europe, operated by Brann Worldwide of Wilton, Conn.

Morgan says the Canadian repositioning is going forward for two key reasons: to quash the silo structure that has been adopted by so many agencies; and to avoid making the mistake many direct shops have made of denigrating the brand value of an organization, or driving response at the expense of brand.

‘I approach it from an inclusive point of view and say that ‘I need to deliver the parts that are most relevant and applicable to you as a client’ – I don’t want to be pegged as a direct marketing agency,’ he says, adding however, that he will continue to adhere to the financial accountability model and measurable results of direct. ‘Consumers don’t look at any one of my clients and say, ‘I am an X credit card customer or I buy this technology only.

‘There’s gasoline left in the engine of being a direct marketing agency in the U.S. just due to sheer volume,’ Morgan continues. ‘But in Canada, with the advent of CRM programs, database costs are dropping like a stone, people are actually figuring things out – those big campaigns are changing – it’s going to ongoing communications,’ says Morgan. ‘They’re not going to fuel a silo, stand-alone business.’

To that end, Brann recently partnered with an Ottawa-based new media and interactive shop, called mcmillan, to be able to offer a broader range of interactive services. Some formal partnership details have yet to be determined like whether or not mcmillan will move people into the Brann office in Toronto, or continue to operate from its own offices in Ottawa, San Francisco and Vancouver.

In January, Morgan says he will announce several new key client wins. In the meantime, he has begun to seek out speaking initiatives, and advise prospects and clients of the new direction, and is planning some image and awareness advertising in trade publications.

‘The first step is awareness, and that’s not going to happen overnight – it’s going to be deliberate and purposeful and it’s going to be planned,’ he says. ‘We can’t build a brand with a value proposition that’s no different from anyone else out there right now. We want to really deliver on our brand experience – ‘Helping buyers buy.”