2021 Media AOY Bronze: Touche blends the art of media with the science of data

With an audience planning process that is “obsessed” with consumer signals, the agency is now looking to trigger conversations on social.


This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of strategy.

Winning Agency of the Year is getting to be a habit for Touché – this is the media agency’s fifth consecutive medal. When trying to unravel whether the shop’s secret is its people, processes or data science, our conclusion is that it’s all of the above.

To maintain its momentum, CEO Karine Courtemanche says the agency has established an audience planning process that is “obsessed” with finding and reading consumer signals gathered from sources like social. But Courtemanche says social listening isn’t always enough; sometimes you need to trigger the conversation.

Take Can-Am’s “Women of On-Road” campaign, for example. The goal was to get more women – who make up a very small portion of the client’s audience – to try the company’s three-wheel vehicles. One of the problems, Courtemanche explains, is that companies set up social media pages to target people who have shown they’re likely to purchase from the brand. In Can-Am’s case, it was men, which created a bias against women. To change that, the agency got creative with data collection.

Touché created a private Facebook group specifically for women to talk about some of the perceived stigmas when it comes to riding. Members of the group revealed that they felt they were being cautioned against the dangers of motorcycling more than their male peers. Another topic was the misconception that women did not have the physical strength to ride a motorcycle.

The insights led Can-Am to partner with Rolling Stone’s “Women Shaping the Future” event, which showcased the problems women face entering the category, as well as creating a mentorship program for women in partnership with riding schools. The campaign reached three million future women riders, sales to women increased 15%, and women now represent 36% of Can-Am owners versus 19% among other manufacturers.

“Through that group we were able to identify new audiences and topics that weren’t part of the conversation at first and then extend that message to a much broader audience. It wasn’t done through a social listening tool; it was done by creating a safe space where women could express themselves.”

Courtemanche says that consumer signals are where science meets art. The art is finding the right insight via online reviews, products left in digital shopping carts, or search keywords. These signals are not always obvious and may require building strong data partnerships.

An example is when Touché worked with AutoTrader for Volkswagen’s “Dealership Done Digital” campaign. With dealerships closed, auto sales plummeted by 75%. To reverse the trend, a VW virtual dealership was created in partnership with the car buying and selling platform, with a virtual salesperson and experts providing guidance and answering questions for customers in real time.

Touché used social sentiment analysis to identify the reasons behind vehicle searches and three new COVID-born trends emerged: divorce, job uncertainty and fear of public transit. New segments were created, and targeted mobile ads were sent to those shoppers, who were then directed to the showroom. By August, VW exceeded its sales objectives by 8% and AutoTrader experienced its best consumer engagement.

The agency’s quest for consumer data has meant it has had to expand its expertise, such as hiring online data analysts. Touché also brought on “clean room” specialists who analyze the data in clean rooms, a location with servers where companies securely keep and update their data. By doing this, clients can see how the different types of data match up and use inconsistencies to determine whether they’re over-serving ads to similar audiences.

“You can no longer buy your way into the consumers’ minds and hearts,” says Courtemanche. “To create campaigns that creatively solve complex business challenges, you need a mix of talent, process, and data science to understand consumers, find insights, and quantify the advertising contribution to business outcomes.”

New business
Éco-Entreprise Québec, Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), Premier Tech

New hires
Daniel Keogh, Brent Jones, Sara Daher, Courtney Rosebush, Christopher Easby, Neha Singh, Audrey Ansah, Ricky Gupta, Ariane Bissonnette

Montreal, Toronto


Can Am

1. The motorcycle industry is filled with masculine stereotypes, confining women to the passenger seat. Can-Am worked with Touche to bring more women into the category by giving them a safe space on Facebook to air their grievances when it comes to gender bias. The team also educated and empowered women by speaking with attendees at a Rolling Stone event and mobilized members of the Facebook group to participate in a challenge to ride a collective 20,000 miles on International Female Ride Day.


2. For Volkwagen, the shop created a virtual showroom as a one-stop shooping experience based on the “choose-your-own-adventure” concept. With the help of AutoTrader, consumers looking for a used car were sent new comparable VW models.

Canadian Tire1
3. “Operation: Puck Drop” for Canadian Tire, in partnership with Hockey Canada and TSN/RDS, supplied Canadians with the tools to build their own backyard rinks.