Vive la difference

Quebec is different. But it's not that different. It's not that hard for a marketer to make money there. So how do you do that cost effectively when you're used to the cookie-

Quebec is different. But it’s not that different. It’s not that hard for a marketer to make money there. So how do you do that cost effectively when you’re used to the cookie-

cutter solutions you deploy everywhere else in the country?

‘It’s the eternal question,’ says Claude Carrier, partner at Montreal-based Bos. He says Quebec is rarely at par with other provinces in terms of performance.

Top up spending even if you’re getting good results so you can get even better results? Or spend more because the province is under-performing and you want to get it up to the other provinces? Not only an eternal question, but also a common one.

‘It’s tricky because in some cases [the client will] say, ‘Does that mean I have to have a separate campaign?’ Which means that

suddenly not only is it a media investment, but a lot has to go into developing the campaign.’

But the key to cost-effective ROI, regardless of whether you have one strategy or two, is to keep Quebec in the loop from the outset, says Carrier, who has most recently led client The Weather Network in this direction (see sidebar, p. 32.) The reason for doing this is not only to save on production costs, but also to find common ground between French and English Canada so that the client can successfully leverage the brand.

‘If you wait and bring Quebec into the process at the end, like many do, and send the creative to be adapted or translated, it’s not as easy to get good ROI,’ says Carrier. ‘Because what you’re doing is saying: ‘Let’s make the best of what we have now,’ which is not the right way.’

Beyond that, the consensus is that there’s

no one right way to go. It all depends on

your situation.

Some, like beverage marketer Pepsi QTG, opt for a separate strategy and campaign for Quebec. In that case, Pepsi has found itself number one, a position it doesn’t hold

anywhere else in Canada. Others, like Calgary-based Telus Mobility, go with a one-size-fits-all strategy – heavily tweaked for Quebec – and have also met with genuine success.

Pepsi has used separate French and English campaigns; costly, but it’s worked for the last 20 years. While English Canada was being treated to U.S. stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna, the marketer first went with Quebec TV personality Claude Meunier.

According to Martin Beauvais, CD at BBDO Montreal, going with homegrown stars was the secret to Pepsi’s success. French Quebecers are simply far more supportive of Quebec stars than English Canadians are of their counterparts and the ‘star system’ is considerably more developed in Quebec as a result. Pepsi simply capitalized on that at

the onset.

Two years ago, Pepsi decided to ditch that strategy. Beauvais and company decided it was time for a change given that Meunier was a bit long in the tooth to resonate with the 18-to-24 demo. He says research showed that kids were impressed by how Pepsi recognized Quebec culture by going with someone like Meunier, and in effect gave Pepsi licence to go in another direction now that the company was credible.

BBDO then decided to skip the obvious choice – a younger spokesperson – and instead went for a theme of celebrating Quebec culture. That led to the ‘Ici’ campaign, which is

currently winning Quebecers’ hearts and minds. (The spots feature five different actors walking around wearing T-shirts with the letters that spell the word Pepsi, while celebrating such cultural expressions as poutine and that Quebecers say ‘icit,’ not ‘ici.’)

According to Chris Hamilton, director of marketing for Toronto-based Pepsi QTG,

independent testing by research firm Millward Brown, showed that the ‘Ici’ spots tested in the top 2% of all ads ever tested in Quebec.

‘We have been able to grow share in the Quebec market while carbonated soft drinks [overall] have had marginal success,’ he adds. ‘We’ve grown faster than the category.’

Telus is holding its own as well against its competition. ‘We have one brand, and we don’t create a separate campaign for Quebec,’ says Anne-Marie LaBerge, director,

communications (Quebec), for Telus Mobility. ‘We take the national campaign and work with Taxi to adapt it. The message is the same and we give it a Quebec flavour.’

To Telus’ credit, this road well travelled – often by cringe-inducing spots from the U.S. dubbed into French – isn’t one the company follows blindly.

Telus does a number of things to get it right, including localizing advertising in a manner that genuinely integrates French culture (for example, featuring local artists) and by including Quebec as part of the original brief so that all advertising is adaptable from the start to both French and English Canada.

For example, LaBerge points out that you can’t say, ‘send a picable’ in French, the

current tagline on Telus advertising. But Telus made sure to choose images in such a way that the same image could be retained, but with the French line ‘cliquez. envoyez. délirez.’ (‘click. send. go crazy.’). And if, for some reason, the image just won’t work, another image was already shot during the original production that will work in French.

On integrating French culture, LaBerge uses a Quebec campaign for the new Telus Mike phone as an example. Telus wanted to promote the fact that using the Mike makes long

distance very cheap. The company decided to play on the rivalry between Montreal and Quebec City. ‘So we’re saying you can now call Montreal as much as you like even if you don’t want to. So we’re really using that local flavour and culture to send our message. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.’

Serge Rancourt, president of Montreal-based Publicis, says clients should carefully investigate the cost of separate campaigns. ‘Some firms overspend because there’s the media part, but there’s also the creative itself. And the smaller the market gets, the more exorbitant it gets to produce a commercial. Before getting into very unique creative in Quebec, you have to make sure you’ve looked at being able to do a national version that would work in both markets.

‘We always try to be conscious with our clients to invest most of their money in media but with creative that has been done beforehand. Very often if it’s an afterthought, you get in trouble because you realize your creative will not work in the market. To optimize your ROI, it has to be really thought out before you start to get into the production of creative.’

Duly noted, says Pepsi’s Hamilton, who makes one concession to Rancourt’s assessment about the wisdom of ‘spending twice’ on the same brand. ‘If it came down to just being number one, it may be a different decision. But because looking for growth is our goal, we choose [to do separate campaigns]. But we hold all our success [in Quebec] up against the same ROI as we would in English Canada. The results with the share growth we’ve seen in a flat market as well as advertising being in the top 2% shows we’ve got the right formula.’

Rancourt says a ‘flexible strategy’ is what Publicis has pursued for automaker Kia, which uses a mix of product offerings with a heavy tilt toward the small car, and incentives that address the ‘value side of the consumer.’

Language, culture and even the way Quebecers consume media are all factors Kia has to take into account in assessing the best model for marketing to Quebec. One such factor is that small cars are much more

popular in Quebec than the rest of the

country. According to Rancourt, Quebec

represents more than 30% of Kia’s sales and gets about 30% of the firm’s marketing budget.

‘The Quebec market has been a tough one for us this year with a lot of new competition,’ says Ross Cunningham, marketing manager for Toronto-based Kia. ‘General Motors and Toyota have really targeted that market. So we’re looking for more ways to stand out.’

To do that Kia uses cross-promotion in Quebec. For example, all TQS news stations use Kia

vehicles. In 2002 Kia was the official car of the Gala des Oliviers comedy festival. And like Pepsi, the company also uses a well-known personality, Rock La Fontaine, in its radio and TV spots.

Strategically, Kia has made sure to get its feet on the ground in Quebec: In English Canada, the company works with its national office and Publicis, but in Quebec uses a three-pronged approach that adds a regional, Quebec-based office. Says Cunningham of the Quebec team: ‘They’re in the automotive industry, they also know the Quebec approach so they know our strategies and have insight on how to reach that market…. So we all get together and see if [our marketing strategy] blends and if it doesn’t we have to do things a little differently.’

‘The television is national,’ says Rancourt, ‘but we make sure that it works [in Quebec]. We have unique creative in radio and newspapers and we’ve done the odd unique television ad.’

Working in an integrated fashion with a Quebec team, rather than handing off some pre-arranged strategy, is a theme that comes up again and again in a best practices sense. Telus’ LaBerge, for example, admits that sometimes it’s tempting to move away from discipline and have Telus Quebec go its own way. She says she hammers on the sanctity of the brief – which is developed with Quebec as an integral part of the process – to keep

everyone on track.

‘Sometimes, just because you’re in this

market and because of the competition, you’re going to look at the national campaign and say: ‘If I had a monkey this way and if we could actually use this message because Quebec is more price sensitive….’ You’re tempted to start your own little thing. But you soon realize you can do miracles with what you have in just adapting and the return on investment is so much better.’