Agency A-List – Publicis bets on data to build brand experiences

How the agency is helping adapt brands to different channels.
Publicis and their branding division Ove designed Canada Post's new concept store in Richmond Hill Ontario

Publicis and their branding division Ove designed Canada Post’s new concept store in Richmond Hill Ontario

Realizing that clients are often being asked to do more with more limited budgets, Publicis has increasingly invested in what it believes its clients need in order to be successful in today’s marketplace: the ability to leverage data to make brand messaging part of a consistent multichannel experience. Publicis believes brand messaging can’t live in isolation, so it uses data to adapt brands for each channel by connecting through contextual relevance, making sure in the process that every dollar spent is more efficient and effective for marketers.

“Those touchpoints seem to be growing exponentially and brands have to figure out how to effectively communicate across all of them,” says Duncan Bruce, President and CEO, Publicis Canada. “We believe data needs to be at the core of an agency, and when it’s used right, the brand experience should be seamless and in line with the brand purpose and strategy.”

“We believe data needs to be at the core of an agency, and when it’s used right, the brand experience should be seamless and in line with the brand purpose and strategy.”

With offices in Montreal, Toronto, Windsor and Calgary, the breadth of Publicis Canada’s network has been a big benefit when it’s come to investing in having the right in-house intelligence to make its interconnected approach work for clients. Through the network’s ‘Borderless North America’ initiative, it brought Publicis Hawkeye to Canada, its data sciences driven CRM unit. And, with the addition of Nurun, a digital platform agency, to its operations in Canada its digital practice is now 200-people-strong between Montreal and Toronto. Between them they are actively investing in tools to deliver everything from predictive analysis to efficient multi-variant testing and developing its own proprietary tools, like Caffeine, which allows it to incorporate search-related insights into strategic planning.

“We need to be able to connect through context – the right person, the right message, at the right time,” adds Bruce.

And to help brands get that relevant messaging to market quicker (particularly retail clients like The Home Depot, for whom Publicis produces content ranging from Pinterest boards to how-to videos) the agency has invested in beefing up its executional capabilities, bringing traditionally outsourced services such as video editing, CGI, colour transfer, and sound production all in-house.

FROM LEFT: Publicis stepped away from a traditional food imagery focus to re-assert Haagen-Dazs’ leadership position in super premium ice cream; As AOR, Publicis launched Rogers industry changing “Roam-On” campaign announcing a revolutionary global data roaming plan through a multi-channel, social influencer program.

“It’s critically important because that’s the executional arm of the content experience,” says Bruce. “Data gets us to the insight and the idea, but then you need to be able to deliver against that in a cost efficient manner across exponential channels.”

Publicis recently hired Max Valiquette as VP, Head of Planning. Tasked with rebuilding the planning department, one of his first objectives was ensuring its clients communications adhere to strategically sound Brand Blueprints, “Planning’s becoming that much more important across the customer journey,” says Bruce. “It’s about using all the pieces, and understanding strategically what the brand stands for and its purpose. The brand stays the same. Different channels just allow you to present different dimensions across the customer journey.”

Publicis’ approach has proven successful: in the past two years accolades have included retaining Rogers, winning FCA (Chrysler’s) digital work; the Toronto Transit Commission AOR assignment; major web site platform assignments with Purolator and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation; and retaining its Canada Post account.

FROM LEFT: Rogers “Roam-On” campaign and social influencer program; Publicis’ services go beyond the expectations of a typical advertising agency as illustrated by their platform design team’s WestJet app; Publicis has developed numerous fun, effective campaigns for the City of Toronto including a platform to raise awareness for the need to compost.

Last year, for Canada Post, Publicis took its interconnected approach one step further. Having introduced new brand positioning – ‘Canada Post delivers the online world’ – it engaged its design unit in developing a new flagship location in the GTA that reimagined the post office as a retail outlet for online deliveries. It incorporated things like a drive-thru parcel pickup, an all-in-one, self-serve, touchscreen shipping station that lets customers send parcels anywhere in Canada 24/7, self-serve vending kiosks, and fitting rooms for customers to try on online clothes purchases. For the first half of 2015, the number of parcels delivered from fashion retailers increased by 28% in the GTA compared to the previous year. Canada Post delivers two out of three parcels ordered online in the country.

“That’s understanding the whole customer journey; it’s not just about helping a brand produce content across digital channels at cost, building a platform, or tackling mobile or social, it’s also helping a brand in the physical world.” Literally, interconnected brand building.


The Agency A List stories originally ran in the June Cannes issue.