Gold: ZenithOptimedia

Agency head: Sunni Boot, president/CEO

Agency head: Sunni Boot, president/CEO

Number of employees: 85 in Toronto, 25 in Montreal

Notable clients: Global clients are L’Oréal, Nestlé, General Mills and HP. Domestic clients include Wal-Mart, CIBC, Canada Post, Purolator, Pfizer Canada, Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), XM Radio, and the AOR for Hyundai and Kia.

New business wins: Growth has come through increased business from existing clients such as L’Oréal [Zenith won the planning of the L'Oréal Paris division] along with a major new assignment from the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Losses: none

Anyone even on the periphery of the media business is well aware of Sunni Boot, the driving force behind ZenithOptimedia, and her savvy second in command Debbie King. But according to Boot the real secret of the agency’s success is its team of innovative people and a leading-edge global network. Here in Canada, she believes what sets ZenithOptimedia apart is a truly seamless domestic network between the Montreal and Toronto offices.

‘It’s about what works, where it can work best, and who can do it best,’ says Boot. ‘If I can work with Australia and obliterate time zones, I sure as heck can work with Montreal. I think that’s a big plus for our clients, having two really strong offices.’

And within those offices, how those teams are structured and what they’re offering clients is today a point of differentiation that Boot believes is setting Zenith’s stage as an agency of the future.

Within the past 12 months, Zenith has opened two new divisions, Publicis FFWD, originally a youth division which was rebranded to focus on events, and Diversite, an ethnic media practice. Both are responding to the need to fully engage consumers. ‘We have to become more expert in a lot of areas,’ she says. Boot says event management is ‘a growing area for us at Zenith and for our clients.’ And says the seven-month-old Diversite’s efforts thus far ‘show me that ours was a veneer offering before. [Already Diversite] has impressed me with its knowledge of the ethnic community.’ And she predicts this service will become increasingly important because it’s about ‘reaching the spirit of a community.’

Work-wise, as well, the agency does not disappoint. Standout campaigns include the Kit Kat countdown clock, dubbed ‘The Kit Kat Break.’ This CanWest-produced, animated 15-second unit featured a branded clock built out of the bar itself, and bracketed top programming such as the Superbowl and Survivor, running in concert with the brand-sell creative. The relaunch of Furby, the popular interactive plush toy first introduced in 1998, for Hasbro was another highlight, says Boot. [See case study on page 36].

For General Mills’ Pizza Pops brand, the agency conquered the ever-present challenge of reaching the male teen market via a cross-platform campaign with CHUM. It involved all the key activities of a group that prefers to kick back and hang out – TV, gaming, the Internet, and text messaging – using MuchMusic on air,, and It also included a contest to win everything they need to chill out: a TV, a recliner, a gaming system, and of course, microwavable Pizza Pops. It all came from the insight that male teens really just want to do nothing and hang around.

‘Everything today is a medium,’ says Boot to explain the change in thinking that has helped make Zenith a success. ‘And media management companies are more than ever setting themselves up to deliver media-neutral and holistic solutions.’