BBDO restructures, reabsorbs Proximity

What was once the agency's digital arm will be focused entirely on data-driven CRM as an internal discipline.
Proximity group photo

BBDO Canada will be taking over much of the digital work of Proximity, leaving its former sister agency to focus on CRM as a discipline within the agency.

Dom Caruso, president and CEO of BBDO Canada, says BBDO and Proximity, which will be an offering within the agency instead of a separate business unit, are being brought together “under one roof” to accelerate growth. BBDO is absorbing all of Proximity’s digital campaign work, leaving it to focus entirely on its data and CRM offering.

“There’s two clients needs we’ve been hearing about,” Caruso tells strategy. “One is mass audience, brand-building kind of work where digital needs to be central. We’ve been handling that through both Proximity and BBDO, but we are pulling it all together and integrating all of those capabilities. The other need is more CRM in nature, which is very data-intensive and more one-to-one marketing. Around the world, that’s what Proximity is, so what we’re doing in Canada is aligning to the global model.”

“There was a time when a distinct digital capability was the norm. This is no longer the case. All of our agencies are digital, whether BBDO or Proximity,” said Chris Thomas, CEO for the Americas at BBDO and chairman of Proximity, in a release, adding that the new structure will allow Proximity to focus on and grow the data-intensive CRM assignments it has become known for and give BBDO a greater ability to serve clients with integrated offerings.

As part of the restructuring, Proximity Canada president Adrian Capobianco will be leaving the agency, which he joined in February. Rosie Gentile, VP of integrated strategy and insights, will lead the Proximity discipline going forward as SVP of integrated data, insights and strategy. Caruso will still oversee all of BBDO Canada’s operations.

Prior to this restructuring, Capobianco, who described numbers and data as his “comfort zone” to strategy when he joined the agency, had made a number of new hires in recent months with backgrounds in CRM, namely Michael Kasprow as ECD. Two weeks ago, Proximity also announced the hiring of Joe Szabo as VP of user experience and Paul Hanlon as director of digital strategy and content. Those positions, as well as the other digitally-focused staff at Proximity, will now be continuing their duties under the BBDO umbrella, assisting with the Proximity CRM practice as needed.

“All of those staff are going to be playing [in the new structure], because the majority of the work we do is integrated campaigns,” Caruso says. “Even coming in, that was always going to be part of [Kasprow, Szabo and Hanlon's] jobs, so collapsing everything together allows them to do that within a more simple structure.”

Caruso says that besides Capobianco, there are no redundancies or layoffs anticipated because of this.

Proximity Canada was the first North American office for the agency network when it launched in 2001. It was created when BBDO Response relaunched under the Proximity name, combining the previous agency’s direct marketing capabilities with the then-growing areas of data, digital, interactive and CRM.