Telus Quebec’s coming out party

Catherine Patry explains how a zebra helped launch the telco’s LGBT consumer campaign – set to roll out nationally next year – and why the business market is a different beast altogether.

For Catherine Patry, director of marketing and communications at Telus Quebec, the future has always been friendly. She started her career as an account manager at Taxi Montreal in 2001, building a relationship with the client that would later become her employer.
Though she remembers her first Telus campaign fondly, she admits that it didn’t have much sticking power (though the critter it featured certainly does).
‘It was an animal that did not make it past one quarter – a snail, un escargot. The whole campaign was one billboard, one newspaper ad and one radio spot,’ she says, laughing. ‘That was my first mass media campaign, and now I would say we do 200 times more work than that.’
Telus has become better at character selection since then, too. After 14 years with the same critter-centric creative platform, Patry says the brand has figured out what works, racking up far more hits than misses.
‘When you see a close-up of a cute critter smiling or winking, you can’t help but feel compelled,’ she says. ‘The important thing is that the critter is the relevant choice for the message,’ she says. Case in point: the national smartphone campaign launched in August featured a dolphin, the brainiest – and arguably cutest – critter in the sea. Patry worked closely with Telus’s national team and Taxi to develop the campaign’s French adaptation.
Mind you, that critter wasn’t alone: some of the ads also featured Pat Prefontaine, a swaggering motivational-speaker type remiscent of the Old Spice guy. But while Telus is exploring the potential of human characters, Patry says, ‘The critters are there to stay.’
This summer, a brand new spokescreature helped Telus Quebec add some pizzazz to its stable. An eye-catching zebra took the lead in a campaign that saw the telco reaching out to the province’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The idea began when Telus’s marketing department identified the LGBT community as a target market worth pursuing. In 2009, Telus sponsored Relève publicitaire, a contest that sees teams of marcom students create and pitch integrated campaigns on behalf of their universities. The students were briefed on Telus’s goals for an LGBT campaign and given three months to assemble one (for school credit), before pitching to a jury of representatives from Telus and its agencies, Taxi and Media Experts.
The sponsor of Relève publicitaire isn’t obligated to use the winning campaign, but in this case, Patry says the judges were wowed by Université de Montréal’s submission. Telus worked with Taxi on bringing the creative to the next level and with Montreal’s Youville on developing the experiential marketing component, but happily adopted the students’ tagline ‘J’ai toujours su que j’étais Telus’ (‘I always knew I was Telus’) and the zebra.
Why a zebra? ‘The easier, not necessarily clever, route would’ve been to use a chameleon the colours of the gay pride flag, but that’s what you expect,’ Patry says. ‘With the zebra, it’s unexpected. It’s smarter.’
She continues, ‘The zebra is unique in nature. It looks like a horse, but it’s not a horse…. Plus, from an execution standpoint, the zebra pattern looks fantastic, so you can wrap a stage or chairs – the experiential marketing team was enchanted.’
Zebra-themed campaign materials appeared in Quebec from June to August, including coasters, placemats and Zoom ads in bars and restaurants, billboards, street projections, ads inside metro stations, in-store displays, a microsite, print and Facebook ads.
But Patry says the campaign was about more than selling phones and services: ‘It was important for us at Telus, since we strongly believe in diversity, that not only did we do a mass campaign but that we also embraced the community.’
Telus formed strategic alliances with gay help line Gai Écoute, not-for-profit org Fondation Émergence and the Quebec Gay Chamber of Commerce, sending management staff and other reps to events such as the International Day Against Homophobia and the gay pride festival Divers/Cité. Campaign messaging communicated that ‘you can reach Gai Écoute by dialing *1010 on your Telus mobile phone.’ Telus also encouraged LGBT organizations to request grant funding as part of its community investment program, and publicized its internal policies dedicated to improving quality of life for LGBT employees.
‘Since we’ve launched the campaign, there has been much more open discussion internally regarding homosexuality,’ Patry says. ‘People who are gay in the office feel that Telus embraces diversity and that they can speak more freely about their boyfriends or girlfriends.’
Patry says that while Telus wanted its ‘coming out party’ to happen in the summer to coincide with major pride events, it will sustain its LGBT advertising and community partnerships in Quebec throughout the year. The program is scheduled to roll out nationally next year.
‘We use the Quebec market to foster innovation and test new ideas,’ Patry explains. About 70% of the marketing programs that run in the province are custom made by her team, with the other 30% made up of campaigns co-created with the national mobility team.
Patry prides herself on unconventional campaigns, like the launch of the Telus TV HD service, developed with Taxi, which saw electrostatic frog images placed on glass surfaces in Rimouski, Quebec (from bus shelters to office windows) to simulate a frog invasion. Five-second radio spots of frog sounds completed the stunt.
At Halloween last year, Patry acted as creative director on a branded loot bag for trick-or-treaters, created by Telus’s internal agency as a loyalty and retention program. ‘We already gave a Telus calendar as a Christmas delighter to our [high-speed internet] clients and wanted to do something special for Halloween as well,’ she says. The bags were so popular that they ran out in two weeks and Telus will be repeating the program this year.
In addition to working on the consumer side of things, Patry also handles marcom for the 800 business-focused products and services that Telus Quebec offers. In fact, one of the biggest challenges she faces is raising the visibility of this division.
‘Business decision-makers don’t necessarily associate Telus with business products,’ Patry says. ‘We’ve done such a swell job on mobility consumers with all the critters that we now need to focus on our business brand.’
To that end, Telus Quebec is launching ‘Generation Inc.,’ a multi-platform program that includes a TV show, a website and an experiential marketing tour across the province. It’s a made-in-Quebec strategy that Patry expects will go national next year.
In order to associate the brand with entrepreneurship, the Generation Inc. TV show uses a ‘pimp my company’ concept, Patry explains. ‘We take 12 companies that are doing well but need help to get to the next level,’ she says. ‘Three experts per show analyze the company and provide guidance to the entrepreneurs.’ A Telus technology expert will appear on 8 of the 12 episodes. Generation Inc. is scheduled to air Monday nights at 7:30 p.m., beginning this month, on Quebec’s French-language V channel.
Though reality TV is an unusual channel for reaching the business market, Patry says it’s an ideal way to stand out. ‘The target market is so busy – they are not necessarily affected the same way by mass media because of all the clutter, so we need to find new ways to reach them,’ she says. ‘The TV show is going to allow us to distinguish ourselves from the consumer brand that people are used to seeing, and it will allow us to distinguish ourselves from our competitors as well.’
And since there aren’t a lot of snail-friendly corporate environments, the business branding is less anthropomorphic.
‘You recognize Telus, but it is completely different,’ Patry says. ‘There’s no critter.’

Born: Gatineau, QC. March 29, 1978
Education: Bachelor of history and French literature, plus a law degree, from University of Ottawa, followed by a DESS (diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisées) in communication and marketing from Université de Montréal.
Career: Patry started as an account manager at Taxi Montreal in 2001, just two weeks after completing her clerkship for law school.
“My plan was always to work in marcom [but] I knew I didn’t want the same background as everyone else,” she says. “I already had
in mind that you needed a unique selling proposition to differentiate yourself.”
Patry handled the Telus account at Taxi for two and a half years before moving on to an account supervisor role at Bleublancrouge, where she stayed another two years. In 2006, she was recruited to Telus Quebec, where she’s now the director of marketing and communications.
Size of marketing team: 14 people. She oversees mobility, wireline, the business market, the brand office and the creative
and production services department.



If you were a Telus critter, which one would you be?
I would say the many birds that we’ve used in our campaigns. The birds are so beautiful and colourful. If I were a critter, I would definitely fly beyond the horizons.

What advice would you give to young marketers?
Always choose a work environment that will let you think outside the
box in order to grow creatively,
and always keep snacks at the
office for those long work nights.

How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
I don’t. A job well done is what I am supposed to do. But I do own lots
of shoes.