Agency A-List – Touche!’s strategy couples tech innovation and creativity

With data at the core, the media agency helps its clients to move more nimbly.
From left to right: Karine Courtemanche, president Jeff Berry, Managing Director, Touché Toronto Alain Desormiers, CEO and founder.

From left to right: Karine Courtemanche, president Jeff Berry, Managing Director, Touché Toronto Alain Desormiers, CEO and founder.

In a world of complexity, Touché! couples technological innovation and creativity to help clients get ahead.

“Most of our clients struggle to work with the complexity of technology, and the multiplication of platforms such as data and analytics, search, social and native content; it’s very confusing to efficiently maneuver within this complex environment,” says Karine Courtemanche, President, Touché!.

“To find an agency in the marketplace that can deliver on these criteria and yet break the mould to come up with breakthrough ideas, is difficult. But when we deliver on both ends, this is where we create real value for our clients.”

To that end, the 170-person-strong media agency, with offices in Toronto and Montreal, has worked tirelessly to create a collaborative culture in which its clients don’t feel siloed or structured.

“What we found works extremely well for our clients is espousing a ‘one team’ approach with our creative agency partners, and our specialists in areas like search, strategy or social,” says Courtemanche. “They gather around clients and not disciplines.”

“The data allows us to think even more creatively and be even more innovative”

The approach has helped the agency to not only double staff and revenues over the last three years, but also retain clients like Via Rail, Tourism Montreal and Hydro Quebec, and win national clients like Cogeco and Metro.

Tech investment is where being backed by Omnicom Group has come in handy for Touché!.

The network’s heft has helped Touché! be at media’s technological forefront, a boon to the entrepreneurial thinking that permeates the agency.

It’s invested heavily in new tools, ad tech and resources to help its clients manoeuvre more effectively and nimbly in the marketplace by increasingly putting data at the core of their collaborations.

The big idea was to promote in-store discounts linked to the day's temperature using real-time weather feeds. The store discount of the day, which matched the exact outside temperature of each market, was displayed on billboards, social media, and programmatic buys.

The big idea was to promote in-store discounts linked to the day’s temperature using real-time weather feeds. The store discount of the day, which matched the exact outside temperature of each market, was displayed on billboards, social media, and programmatic buys.

One such investment was the creation of a dedicated marketing sciences unit that mines the mountains of client data stored in its proprietary data management platform to produce powerful, actionable business insights.

It also invested in a real-time reporting platform for its digital buys, giving clients convenient access to their campaign data whenever they want it, which has been of particular benefit to meeting the real-time campaign needs of big retail clients like Via Rail and Canadian Tire.

“What’s cool about technology, and more the data and the metrics that come out of our tools, is it allows our staff to not only make smarter solutions, but give us more intelligent information so we understand the consumer better and are more savvy about how we invest our clients’ dollars,” says Jeff Berry, managing director of Touché!’s Toronto office.

“The data allows us to think even more creatively and be even more innovative.”

Coupling innovation and creativity to come up with big ideas, like the one behind its ‘The Colder it Gets’ campaign for Mark’s, is what Touché! really does at its core.

Launched during the winter of 2015 to increase retail foot traffic, and activated with OOH, programmatic and social advertising, the campaign was weather-triggered – store discounts were doled out to match plummeting temperatures. Foot traffic ended up increasing by 20%.

Another example was Touché’s #MyNorth campaign for Sport Chek, wherein it micro-targeted advertising to nine basketball communities in Toronto with never-done-before media that was customized for each micro-market.

Both of those campaigns were award-winners, and the secret to their success, says Courtemanche, was their relevance.

“I think consumers like it when brands make an effort to reach out and make them feel like they’re being recognized as individuals,” she says. “Most of our campaigns are respectful of consumers and relevant to their lifestyles. If I look back at our best campaigns, they were all examples of mass personalization.”

Courtemanche is quick to point out too that, for Touché!, the use of technology in those campaigns, and all its subsequent work, is a means, not just an end.

“It’s a way to get to the big ideas and to the innovation,” she says. “And we believe, in a very complex world, this is what makes your campaign memorable, and this is what we deliver for our clients’ consumers.”

And given the agency’s impressive awards tally (it’s the most awarded media agency in the country and the only Canadian shop to be on the WARC 100 list that ranks the world’s best media agencies in 2016.) Touché! has clearly delivered in spades.


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