Lowe RMP Surveys U.S. View of Canadian Agencies

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Toronto direct marketing agency Lowe RMP is conducting a survey to help Canadian agencies identify opportunities in the United States and determine how to approach their southern neighbor.


The survey at www.lowermp.com/survey targets marketing decision makers in mid- to large-size U.S. companies. It marks the first such study of U.S. marketers' experiences, perceptions and familiarity with Canadian marketing agencies.


"U.S. business is the Holy Grail for many Canadian shops," said Peter Coish, president of Lowe RMP. "The scale of agencies here means that a modest account for the average U.S. direct shop is a big one for a Canuck shop. Second, having U.S. clients on the agency marquee lends big-time credibility in the Canadian market."


The survey explores perceptions and attitudes U.S. marketers have of Canadian agencies. It looks at the U.S. current and potential use of Canadian and international marketing services. It tries to identify why a U.S. agency would or would not buy services from a foreign agency.


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the survey aims to unearth the obstacles Canadian agencies must overcome to penetrate the larger, lucrative U.S. market.


Erica Halliday, an undergrad student at Memorial University of Newfoundland's School of Business Administration in St. John's, designed the study as part of her business commerce course work. The study concludes Dec. 11.


At issue is the lack of awareness of the advantages Canadian shops have over U.S. counterparts. First is an economic argument. It takes 63 cents to buy a Canadian dollar. That means the Canadian hourly rate is nearly half of comparable agencies in New York.


"With businesses so cost-conscious these days, we think the message has to resonate," Coish said. "The U.S. film industry has discovered the cost advantages of shooting up here. Toronto's known as 'Hollywood North.'"


Next, Coish claims smaller mailing files have forced Canadian agencies to work smarter with direct marketing tools like modeling techniques and talent. Finally, Canadian agencies bring a fresh set of eyes to creative challenges faced by U.S. marketers.


"Canadians are not that different from Americans; 90 percent of us live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, and we've grown up on U.S. media," he said. "So we can 'get' the U.S. consumer, but layer on an international perspective."


It is difficult to gauge the U.S. percentage of business in overall Canadian DM agency billings.


Lowe RMP gets 40 percent of its billings from work on U.S. clients like HSBC Bank USA and assignments for CitiFinancial, CapitalOne and a division of American Greetings Corp. Lowe RMP also is an affiliate of Lowe & Partners Worldwide, a subsidiary of ad agency holding giant Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., New York.


Then there are other Canadian subsidiaries of U.S. shops, such as Wunderman, OgilvyOne and MC Direct, that also handle American accounts.


Other leading direct marketing agencies in Canada are FCB Worldwide Canada, DraftWorldwide Canada, Grey Direct, McLaren MRM, BBDO's Proximity Canada and Cossette Communication Group's Blitz. Their DM clients span industries such as automotive, publishing, banking and telecommunications.


Coish said the findings will be shared with the marketing industry in Canada. He already knows the answers to some of the issues raised in the survey.


"We expect that most U.S. marketers have never even considered using a Canadian agency and are unaware of the economic advantages of using them," he said. "But when presented with those advantages, they perceive that there are other issues that might keep them from using us, for example, doing business at a distance, buying non-American, language, etc."


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