Proximity (DAOY) Group Photo

Silver — BBDO (DAOY)


BBDO Canada rocked the strategy award circuit this year. It raked in a Bronze B!G Award this fall for its Shaw Cablesystems’ Together is Amazing Food Bank Initiative, and it took the Gold for Agency of the Year (see p. 45). Now, to demonstrate it’s more than a traditional agency, it’s won Silver for DAOY, beat out only by its digital twin, Proximity.

As North American president and CEO Gerry Frascione explains, digital has become an important focus woven into BBDO’s culture.

“For us digital is not a department or a special skill set,” Frascione says. “It’s a way of thinking.”

There’s a term used around the office – “dreaming in digital” – that epitomizes the firm’s philosophy.

“It’s only once you start to dream in that language that you actually know you’ve internalized digital as a way of being,” Frascione says. “It’s our shorthand way of inspiring our staff not to think of it as a discipline or practice – it’s curiosity, an approach, everyone is expected to dream in digital for their clients.”

Though digital has been a focus for the last five years, in the past year and a half the firm has really ramped up its digital expertise, hiring over 20 new creative people, says co-SVP and ECD Carlos Moreno. “That digital knowledge had to come with them,” he says.

“As we expanded our digital imagination we wanted to make sure we were hiring digital natives,” adds Frascione, also Canadian chair for both companies. Developing that expertise in-house is important because even though BBDO owns digital-savvy Proximity, Frascione says they want to ensure that both are strong through-the-line agencies that can compete as standalones, as well as collaborate on shared accounts such as RBC. A staff growth of 18% for BBDO and Proximity is evidence of the firm’s impressive trajectory from August 2010 to August 2011, notes Frascione.

Training is another important piece of the pie, with 2.5% of annual revenue invested in professional development, and increasingly on the digital side, says Frascione. An online hub powered by Google called the Digital Lab is the epicentre of digital innovation for the company, providing expert training forums for employees and also functioning as an information portal for all digital innovative in the company – staff and even clients can access it to stay on top of the latest ideas, campaigns, newsletters and more.

And while having that talent is vital, great digital ideas come out of great ideas, period.

“It’s not about technology per se, it’s about the idea that led us to that type of execution,” Moreno says.

Co-SVP and ECD Peter Ignazi cites the chicken channel BBDO developed for Swiss Chalet as an example. The idea of a 24-hour TV channel devoted to roasting chicken wasn’t necessarily about innovation on the digital front, nor was the idea related to a new medium.

“It’s about looking at old mediums in new ways,” Ignazi says.

The Cannes-award winning “Touch the Rainbow” work BBDO did for Skittles is another example of a neat idea driving a digital campaign that wasn’t wrought from a digital innovation.

“We call it our non-technological technological advance,” says Tim Welsh, SVP, creative operations officer. “[The question was], ‘how do you engage with an ad by putting your finger on the screen?’”

“The temptation is to chase after the latest shiny digital thing,” says Ignazi. “So we make sure we’re aware of [all the digital innovations], then when it comes to planning we see what’s appropriate for reaching the target at that time.”

The Facts

Offices: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary

Staff: 310

New hires: Kevin Pfuhl, SVP, managing director; Lezlie Grossman, SVP, managing director; Nancy Crimi, VP, associate creative director; Deborah Prenger, VP, associate creative director; Steve Walls, planning director, Blackberry North America; Jason Perdue, copywriter; Jeff Cheung, art director; Jon Murray, copywriter; Patrick Shing, art director; Neal Khosla, copywriter; Marla Goodman, creative traffic manager

New business: Ministry of Health; Mike Holmes (Holmes On Homes); United Way; Heineken; Miller Chill; Mars (Dove, Twix, Pedigree, Whiskas, Starburst)