"We see our job as identifying, developing and maintaining strategic alliances that go beyond any single campaign."

That's what best distinguishes Optimedia Canada from its competitors, says Toronto-based president, Sunni Boot. "In an era of media globalization, differentiation is becoming increasingly challenging," she adds. "We meet that challenge with a continuous and demonstrable communications product that adds value to [our clients'] business and provides them with a competitive advantage. And as they succeed, so do we."

So how successful was Optimedia this year? Boot expects 2002 billings to be approximately $248 million. Although the agency had to do without the Microsoft business, lost the previous year "because of international alignment," she says Optimedia more than made up for it with a whopping $50 million in new accounts. These include Nestlé Purina Business, Kia Canada, Compaq Computers (as part of the HP consolidation) and Corby Distilleries.

Still, Boot admits that 2002 was a pretty challenging year overall.

Among other things, there was the disintegration of COMMA, the clout-seeking media alliance of Optimedia, MaxxMedia and Carat Canada. But Boot says COMMA was a concept which had outlived its usefulness anyway. "It was absolutely right for its time, but today our individual companies have grown in and of themselves, and the move to global companies mitigates the need for us to work in such an arrangement."

When it comes to the much-talked-about acquisition of Bcom3 by Optimedia parent Publicis - thereby adding Starcom and MediaVest to the immediate family - Boot explains that her company welcomes the addition of two strong brands.

"The new protocol is towards large global media families that house two or three large media brands," she says. "It reflects the needs of clients looking for consistency of best practices and standardization of reporting, along with the creativity that comes from working with strong offices that provide the best of domestic expertise."

But what Boot considers the "greatest highlight" of 2002 was the consolidation of the General Mills and Pillsbury media business at Optimedia.

"This assignment embodies all that we stand for: consistent, excellent work and relationships that scale the entire organization - rewarded with an expanded assignment that added the full scope of our media offerings to our previous buying assignment."

All in all, Boot says she's very much enjoying the "enormous sea changes" that technology and convergence have brought to the media sphere.

"Even though we have huge consolidations, we also have incredible choices, especially with the advent of digital which makes everything interactive. All of this means that we are now able to maintain a cost-effective marketplace with myriad ideas. It's just phenomenal."

Women reaching women for L'Oréal

Convergence is coming at us from all directions, but Optimedia can handle it. A multi-platform media-driven buy for L'Oréal last March was a case study in how to take advantage of the new opportunities being dangled by media houses like CanWest.

The goal

To extend the association L'Oréal had already built with International Women's Day (IWD) in Quebec to reach English-speaking Canadian women.

The strategy

Tie L'Oréal to IWD in a subtle manner by ensuring that L'Oréal's participation reflected its own positioning - which is based on women's confidence and stature. The goal was to build a strong foundation for the event that was relevant to the target, stood up to rigorous scrutiny and is renewable in future years. Finally, the plan had to provide a mechanism for including L'Oréal's non-profit partner, the Canadian Women's Foundation

The execution

Optimedia developed an integrated, 100%-media solution to capitalize on both the new media landscape of converged offerings and the upcoming International Women's Day event.

Key elements of this solution included:

  • Profiling renowned Canadian women who speak about the meaning and relevance of IWD to women.
  • Commissioning CanWest Global to create a compelling series of vignettes and editorials by these women as the foundation of a month-long campaign.
  • TV buys for the vignettes scheduled during the two weeks leading up to IWD (March 8/02). These were pre-selected/purchased programs (Top 10-rated for their respective environments) designed to reach women of all ages. Selected shows included the Grammy Awards, Survivor, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Practice and Dawson's Creek. The vignettes were strategically matched to each environment: For example, the vignette featuring Denise Donlon, president of Sony Music Canada, aired during the Grammy Awards, and that featuring Dr. Samantha Nutt, executive director of War Child Canada, aired during Survivor.
  • A custom-published 40-page keepsake magazine featuring additional editorial from the women.
  • A licensed vintage French movie, How to Steal a Million, placed commercial-free on Prime (a strong network for women 25-54). This was pre-promoted across Canada with a special ad in TV Times.
  • Sequential 1/3-page ads leading to a signature ad on the outside back cover of the first section of the March 8 issue of the Financial Post, plus additional ads in a handful of selected dailies.
  • Specially-developed online creative placed on Canada.com to drive women to the L'Oréal Web site - where visitors were encouraged to send cards to friends, with L'Oréal donating $1 to charity for each card sent.
  • On the day after IWD (March 9), Optimedia took advantage of the inaugural issue of Fashion Post with another placement of the signature branded ad.

The results

  • Awareness of IWD increased from 73% to 85%.
  • The greatest awareness gain was seen against women 18-34, where it increased from 66% to 82%.
  • L'Oréal's measured association with IWD increased from 9% to 19%.
  • The greatest association gain was seen against women 18-34, where it increased by 150% over the previous level. TP