Rogers’ CMO Simone Lumsden on ‘The 60 Project,’ and why bespoke agency Theo is the right fit

Who: Rogers Communications Inc. and Theo.

What: “The 60 Project,” a multi-faceted program celebrating the telecommunications giant’s 60th birthday, with an emphasis on a series of corporate social responsibility initiatives undertaken in the midst of a year like no other.

It’s the first Rogers work by Theo, the bespoke WPP agency that was awarded the Rogers business last month. “We were in transition at that time, but we’d created the partnership and had informed our past agencies and set up the new agency and this was the first body of work, done in record time,” says Rogers’ chief marketing officer, Simone Lumsden.

When & Where: The advertising for ‘The 60 Project” launched with an umbrella spot earlier this month, with additional campaign elements rolling out over next 12 months.

Why: It’s a significant anniversary for Rogers, but the arrival of COVID-19 forced the company to re-assess how to mark the occasion during the pandemic. “We wanted to recognize this year as being special, but special in that we doubled down on the support we give to the most vulnerable Canadians in their time of need, in a year like no other,” says Lumsden, who joined Rogers in July 2019.

“We didn’t want fanfare and balloons and celebrations and cake like we might have done in a regular year. We wanted to be outwardly focused on the community, and call it something that would have some meaning and have tentacles that could spread throughout the organization.”

How: A :60 umbrella spot outlines the various community-focused efforts that are part of “The 60 Project,” including doubling down on partnerships with Big Brothers/Big Sisters Canada, to using Toronto’s Rogers Centre as a staging ground for the Step Up to the Plate initiative for Food Banks Canada (designed to provide eight million meals to Canadians in need).

The spot uses stock footage of various settings including city streets, a subway car and a classroom, with an oversized word “Here” digitally inserted in post-production. “They did a phenomenal job,” says Lumsden. “It really looks like someone got on that subway car, put the letters ‘Here’ and filmed it. I had seen the storyboards, but I couldn’t believe it looked so real.”

The accompanying voiceover describes how “Here is where the possibility for a better Canada begins. Where opportunity puts down its first roots. Where fuller minds lead to fuller futures.” The spot concludes by saying that the goal is not to get back to normal: “We want to get back to better than normal.”

Speaking of Theo, how is it coming together? The search for a president is still ongoing, although there’s a temporary¬† leadership team in place comprised of executives from Taxi, John St. and Mindshare. “At that very senior level, all of those people have other remits and clients,” says Lumsden.

John St.’s chief creative officer, Angus Tucker, has been heavily involved in the first creative output. “He is definitely leaning in hard on the Theo work for sure,” Lumsden says.

The rest of the agency’s staff is still being assembled. The Theo website currently has job listings for a senior and intermediate creative team as well as junior art director and copywriter in Toronto, and junior art director and copywriter listings in Montreal.

The agency is also looking to fill five media roles, including a senior manager for both media planning and media investment in Toronto, as well as account managers in both offices.

“Changing agencies in the middle of a pandemic has got a lot of downside and risk, but the upside is that there is some great talent that is under-deployed right now,” says Lumsden.

“[W]e knew there would be great talent that might be a little more available right now because everyone’s shifting budgets around and spending a little bit less. There’s been a softening in the market, and as it happens there are people who are ready to make a change or forced to make a change,” she says.

“We’ve had no problem at all finding great talent to join the Theo team.”

On why the bespoke agency model is right for Rogers: As head of brand and VP of customer experience marketing with Telus, Lumsden was instrumental in the 2017 creation of the company’s dedicated ad team The Greenhouse, which combines resources from agency partners Cossette and The&Partnership.

Lumsden says this blended agency model speaks to the need for a comprehensive solution that addresses the end-to-end consumer journey, beginning with advertising and marketing but also acknowledging all of the consumer touch-points as well as the consumer intelligence and data required to drive conversion.

“To have the creative team understand how the creative and messaging has to come to life at all these different touch-points is so much more complex than just doing a single TV ad,” she says. “I find it so much easier if I’m partnering with one entity. We’re all singing off the same song sheet and we all know what we’re trying to achieve in terms of enabling these customer journeys.

“For me it’s a lot more efficient to deal with one sophisticated end-to-end partner rather than a multitude of different agencies. That to me is a model that makes a ton of sense.”

How is Theo different than Red Magnet, the bespoke agency Omnicom created for Rogers? “I was a fan of the intent behind the Red Magnet model, for sure” she says. The difference was that while the various Rogers’ lines of business were overseen by Red Magnet, the master brand was handled by Publicis, and Taxi had responsibility for the Fido and Chatr Mobile brands.

“Even though it was designed to be a singular entity, Red Magnet was still one of three,” says Lumsden.


Chris Powell