Telus adds Rethink, Carat and WPP to its agency roster

After an invite-only review process that began late last year, Telus announced three new agency partners on Friday morning as part of its efforts to ”cultivate a best-in-class marketing ecosystem.”

Rethink has been selected as lead creative and strategic agency partner for the telecom’s home solutions portfolio, which includes Optik TV, internet, and home phone; Carat will lead the integrated media strategy; while WPP will manage the company’s  “creative and production” needs, using an “extended workbench” model.

Telus had worked mostly with The&Partnership for creative and strategy, and Cossette for media. While The&Partnership’s mandate changed, it did not have to participate in the review. Cossette was asked to pitch to hold onto the media business.

“After a rigorous review process, we are excited to welcome these world-class agencies to the Telus family,” said Jill Schnarr, chief communications and brand officer, in a release. “Our evolving business and ever-changing customer demands propelled our decision to explore new and innovative ways to bring our global leading brand to life.”

When it launched the review, Telus said it was part of a “transformational journey” for the brand. However, despite choosing what many would consider Canada’s most successful creative agency at the moment, Lisa Mack, vice-president, brand marketing, said not to expect any radical changes to the brand itself.

While Rethink has a big part of the account now, The&Partnership remains lead agency on the Telus brand and its mobility business, for example, and Mack said that the famous Telus critters continue to be an important part of “our beloved iconography.”

Instead, the transformation Telus is seeking is in how it efficiently creates, produces, and delivers its marketing at all touch-points of the consumer journey.

“Did [the review] make us think about our brand differently? No,” said Mack “I think it got us more excited about the potential that we have with our brand, to continue to use the tools in our toolset, and go to market in an even better, more exciting, more engaging way across that full funnel of marketing opportunities.”

A key step in that transformation is the hiring of WPP to manage all of what Mack calls tier two creative production—the growing number of assets brands use for performance marketing, for example, to reach consumers across an increasing number of channels and platforms.

“I think they really shone from a technology perspective,” said Mack. “[Especially] when you think about needing to leverage tech to be able to generate speed to market and hyper-personalization.”

While some brands have chosen to bring this type of work in-house, Telus is using an “extended workbench” model, with agency employees sitting inside Telus, but remaining employed by the agency.

Neither Mack or WPP was willing to provide much detail of how this will be structured. “We’re going to be able to draw from the best of the best within the WPP framework,” said Mack. “We’re going to design our own team.”

But WPP’s “marketing implementation agency” Hogarth specializes in creative content production. The agency also just hired Dave Carey as president for Canada. Carey was previously managing director for Oliver Canada, which was chosen as CIBC’s “implementation agency” last year. (Carey provided an in-depth explanation of the model here.)

Telus also said Carat will similarly be a part of that digital media extended workbench, allowing them to work closely with the Telus team and WPP’s creative producers to deliver campaigns and creative with maximum efficiency and performance.

“We want that minute-by-minute connectivity to the business, but we also want to be able to tap into the thought leadership that comes from having a strong agency partner,” said Mack of Carat.

“We were really, really impressed with their thought leadership, both on domestic soil as well as from a global perspective,” she said.

“Throughout the process with Telus, it was very clear to us that our collective ambitions and values are very much connected,” said Sarah Thompson, president media, Dentsu Canada. “We believe media can do good and drive business, and Telus, an extraordinary brand and company, is connecting product and purpose in a meaningful way for Canadians. The Carat team is excited to partner with these other great agencies to deliver amazing work and growth for Telus.”

Meanwhile, Telus is also adding a top creative agency to the roster, one with a reputation for attention-grabbing, breakthrough strategy and creative. Mack said that while they already knew a great deal about Rethink , the review process allowed them to validate some of their perceptions and formally evaluate the agency on key criteria such as strategic insight, chemistry, and culture.

“We expected innovative thinking, and we got innovative thinking throughout the process,” she said. “And Rethink was one of the ones that rose to the top on what… they believe they could do for our brand within the home solutions footprint.”

Rethink had been working with Shaw for 12 years*, but that relationship was ending with the Rogers merger, said Sean McDonald, Rethink partner and global CSO.

“[Telus] wants breakthrough work, and we have a reputation of delivering that repeatedly by establishing really trusted relationships,” he said. “We also have the scale and the presence across the country, and beyond, to deliver on their ambitions.”

The business will be managed from Rethink’s Vancouver office, but will be a “huge opportunity for all of our offices across Canada to make a big impact on the business,” said McDonald.

While Cossette Media will no longer be working on Telus, Plus Company’s Camp Jefferson, Jungle and Koo continue to work with Telus. “We still have long-standing partners in our mix that play an incredibly important strategic role in helping us deliver our business, our brand and our growth objectives,” said Mack. The other key agency partners are Response, Behaviour and National Public Relations, each chosen for their unique contributions to helping Telus realize its marketing goals. “Those decisions were equally thoughtfully considered,” she said


*This story has been corrected.

David Brown