Tammy Sadinsky on why CIBC chose Courage and Oliver

On Wednesday morning, CIBC confirmed it has two new agencies to lead brand strategy, creative and advertising.

The press release announcing the decision described the new arrangement as a “a modern and agile two-agency model for the bank.” (Read our news story here.)

In short, the very young, still-small Courage will be the ideas team, with Oliver responsible for execution. Soon after making the announcement, CIBC’s senior vice-president, brand and marketing, Tammy Sadinsky spoke with The Message to provide more context about the decision.

Why Courage? We are looking at this model as Courage and Oliver, it’s the total picture that will be critical to our success in bringing our brand purpose to life in the marketplace.

[We have] lots of confidence in the talent at Courage today, in their track record—as well as those in the broader [NFA] network that they belong to—that they could translate strategy into creative expression to bring our bank’s purpose to life.

We need to connect with hearts and minds of our clients and Canadians, and Courage really demonstrated the ability to be able to do that.

Courage is young and small… how do you know they will have the bandwidth for what you need? Our brand needs strong strategy and strong creative translation. It needs the right minds, if you will, thinking about how to translate our brand purpose into a way that will resonate with consumers

So, we need the best of the best strategically and creatively to do that. And yes, it takes a little courage on [our] part to do something like this, but I believe in the vision they’ve got, and that the vision suits our needs.

And small can be a virtue if you know you’ll have the top people working directly on your account. Yes, absolutely. We look for results orientation, ownership of those results, partnership collaboration. These are very important values for us. And the leadership at Courage shares those same values. They will roll up their sleeves because they have the same ownership mindset and results orientation.

About Oliver: Are you building an in-house agency? That is not the intent with Oliver. Oliver is intended to extend any internal capabilities we have. Like most companies, we have a few folks that do creative extension and production, but that’s very small.

Oliver’s role in this partnership is to really leverage its capabilities and know-how in a way that will enable more agility for us to translate our creative into market better than we have been.

Oliver won’t have people inside CIBC? In some of their models, they actually put people inside—that’s not the intention.

So then why Oliver?  We were so impressed with what Oliver brought to the table from a culture standpoint, from a capability standpoint, from a proven track record standpoint.

They define their mission as execution experts, and they’ve got the capabilities, the technologies, the competencies, and the people geographically to do this.

It was very clear that they could take us to the next level, and then it was very clear that—because they saw their role to be this—that it was going to be much easier to work in combination with Courage.

How definitive will the line be in terms of responsibilities? Will both agencies be pitching you ideas? Absolutely. This is where there’s both art and science, right? I don’t know exactly where that line is. I’m imagining it [and] we’re scoping it.

There will be campaigns where Oliver is best suited —more execution driven, lower funnel driven. But it was critical to us that both Courage and Oliver have creativity, and Oliver has some very impressive team members that we had a chance to meet. Creativity, especially in resource-challenged times, is going to be our advantage.

If you’re sitting down and mapping out brand strategy, you’re sitting down with Courage? I’m sitting down with Courage. The thinking and the creative expression is owned by Courage. Oliver is important to have at the table at that upstream front end to know what’s coming and, quite frankly, to iterate as they see [best] on this too. But you’re right in terms of where the ownership would be.

But if Oliver comes to you with an idea, you’re open to that? Totally. I’m totally okay. And that’s what I loved about the Courage folks, too, because there was no preciousness there. This truly is going to be a family of different competencies that come together to do what we want to do.

With respect though, easier said than done. [laughs] 100%

Why did you have to make this change? How will the brand be different going forward? A year ago this month, we relaunched our brand… and upon the launch of that brand, we felt it was the right time to redefine how we enable that [brand], looking at our long-term agency model. The agency world has evolved since we last undertook a review 10 years ago. Many of the world’s top agencies today have highly focused specialty practices. And to get to a more progressive and modern creative expression in the marketplace, we needed to kind of relook at how and who we wanted to go about this.

You’re keeping ambition as the brand platform? Yes, that is our purpose. Our purpose dates back to our inception as a bank. We just kind of re launched it to consumers and Canadians last year, with a different kind of visual identity, a more updated visual identity to signal this evolution we’re on. Now it’s time to really make that purpose sing in the marketplace.

David Brown