Touché! PHD/PHD Group Photo

Blazing trails

“What a year!” says Alain Desormiers, president of Montreal-based Touché!PHD, of 2008. “We had incredible growth.”

PHD added nine clients to its roster, including Cirque du Soleil, Société des Alcools du Québec and New Balance. “There’s been a lot of momentum,” confirms Fred Forster, president of Toronto-based PHD. “There’s been a coming together of the PHD network, which washes over us in a positive way and energizes everybody.”

Since the merging of PHD and Touché! in 2004, the global PHD network has grown from three offices in North America and the U.K. to include continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Here in Canada, the partnership has been paying off. “When we decided to put our two agencies together, Alain and I agreed that there was a niche for us to fill,” explains Forster. “There wasn’t really, as far as we could see, an agency that was truly integrated, with English and French.”

Both Forster and Desormiers acknowledge that one of PHD’s challenges in managing its growth is finding and keeping the best talent. The agency is one of the few media shops to invest in creativity with workshops and company-wide exercises. Passport to Innovation is an 18-month management-level program that was developed to foster creative-thinking skill-sets within the agency.

Balancing art and science, PHD also uses innovative tools and technologies to ensure it produces work based in strategic thinking, with a seamless connection to creative.

In 2006, it began introducing clients to neuroplanning — a proprietary process developed by PHD in the U.K. It gains insight into consumer thought and behaviour through neuroscientific methods combining psychology, psychophysics, fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and marketing skills. And on the data management front, this year PHD started using the new Eloda Protocol web tool — launched by Montreal-based Eloda in February — which is designed for real-time tracking and management of TV ads.

That kind of pioneering work, in tandem with stand-out creative such as the Quebec Foundation for the Blind effort that was shortlisted at Cannes and Dove’s Sleepover for Self-Esteem, has helped drive new business growth over the past year. “They’ve really demonstrated the value that they add,” says Alison Leung, marketing manager, hair and deodorant, Dove Canada. “They want to try new things, and they really want to be trailblazers.”

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” says Forster. “If you’re standing still, you’re going to get passed.”

Vital stats

Locations:Toronto, Montreal
Number of employees:148
New hires:
  • Alex Gillespie, account director
  • Angela Genovese, account supervisor
  • Chi Ip, account supervisor
  • Mai Duong, digital strategist
  • Thucloan Lieu, digital strategist
  • Stephane Hue, SEM strategist
  • Miriam Bernath, research
  • Lindsay Durrant, account manager
  • Vanessa Porter, account manager
  • Ryan Gilroy, account manager
New business: Belron Canada, Olymel, New Balance, Cirque du Soleil, Agropour, Structube, CMC Markets, Certified Management Accountants (CMA), Société des Alcools du Québec