Taxi CEO Rob Guenette on the decision not to pitch Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire, one of the biggest and most prestigious accounts in Canada, is in review, and its 16-year incumbent agency Taxi has decided not to take part.

The two parties took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement early Monday morning announcing that Taxi’s AOR relationship will conclude at the end of the year.

“We are very grateful for our partnership with Taxi,” said Canadian Tire’s VP of marketing, Eva Salem, in the statement. “We have been true extensions of one another and have created an incredible amount of award-winning work that we can both be proud of.” Canadian Tire did not respond to requests for an interview, or comment on the review.

Longtime Taxi CEO Rob Guenette said that when he learned Canadian Tire wanted to explore a change, he informed Salem and chief brand and customer officer Susan O’Brien that Taxi would not take part.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult to retain a piece of business when you’re the long-term incumbent, and especially when the client is looking for change,” he said.

Pitching to hold onto an account when the odds appeared so stacked against the agency meant potentially being distracted from current Canadian Tire assignments, he said. “I took the long view,” said Guenette. “If we distract ourselves from delivering what we need to deliver with Canadian Tire, if I divert resources to [the pitch] that could be spent on other things in the future, It may not end well.”

While large brands have been accused of putting accounts into review as a way to attract lower bids and drive down costs, Guenette said that was not the case here. “There was not one mention of fees. Not one mention of less fees, more scope,” he said. “I can’t speak to what’s going to happen down the line, but that did not come up.”

Taxi is losing the revenue from one of the largest accounts in the country in 2022, but Guenette said the agency will not need to let anyone go thanks to enhanced integration and cooperation with VMLY&R. “We’ve already found homes for everybody,” he said. “In fact we’re hiring.”

Still, Guenette acknowledged that the decision not to take part in the review was difficult. “It was a 16-year run of some pretty outstanding strategic and creative work,” he said. Taxi’s work includes the introduction of the famous Canadian Tire Guy, creating the award-winning “Tested” platform, and evolving Canada’s oldest loyalty program, the famous Canadian Tire Money, into Triangle Rewards.

And the account held special significance for Guenette, who led the winning pitch for the business back in 2005. “Would I rather not lose the business? Damn right I would rather not lose the business,” he said. “It’s a pretty big, important, iconic brand.”

But given the circumstances, his past experiences, and the “vibe” he was getting, Guenette decided the best thing for the agency was to step away on the best possible terms while also doing the best possible work. “Quitting while you’re ahead is not the same as quitting,” he said.

David Brown