PHD plays to win

THOUGH IT IS A FELLOW Omnicom Media Group shop, don't expect Silver MAOY winner PHD to play nice with its Gold-getting sibling OMD. Rob Young, SVP director of insights and analytics at PHD says much like real family members, things can get pretty heated between the two agencies, which often go head-to-head for the same accounts.

That competitive attitude likely played a role in PHD winning a spot back in the MAOY winners' circle following three years off the list, last there when it took the top prize in 2010.

PHD also scored a Bronze in Cannes this year, taking home a Lion in Media for its "Your Better Starts Here" work for Sport Chek that saw the agency launch a new tagline for the retailer by planting signage at over 500 locations across the country where the journey towards a new self would begin, such as entrances to gyms and university sports centres.

Fred Forster, CEO at PHD Canada and Omnicom Media Group Canada, attributes much of the agency's success to it structuring itself in a way that best enables collaboration and integration. That includes adding to growing media channels, such as search, for which it built out its team this year by adding Ben Aydin as paid search director.

"There are so many new media channels and technologies coming at us all the time," Forster says. "Innovation happens best when we facilitate multi-discipline team environments against individual client business."

To maintain its edge among increasingly tough competition, this year the agency rolled out a gamified planning system, Source, globally. Forster says big international wins like Unilever and the planning business for GSK were won in part due to adding the system, which uses game mechanics to encourage collaboration between agency staff members within local shops and between global offices, with the ability to add ideas to projects and gain points on a global leaderboard (the current worldwide leader is Tammy Gardner, group account director, who recently moved to the new Toronto office of Touché! PHD from the original PHD office). Forster says Canada just passed the U.S. on the leaderboard to land in the number three spot globally, sitting just behind Australia and the U.K.

"I think our place on the leaderboard speaks to how much we have adopted Source here and integrated it into how we deal with client business," he says.

Young adds that Source has "really brought the network together," and while it is currently primarily used by planners at PHD, it is also being picked up by buyers and clients as well. He says projects usually get between 25 and 30 suggestions from around the world when they are first posted on the system, with around 20% of those being useful enough to put into practice on the campaign. Getting a different perspective and fresh set of eyes on projects is a big bonus, he says. For example, suggestions coming from Spain are generally softer, warmer and less analytical than ideas for media plans that come from the Canadian offices.

It is elements like Source that help to keep the creativity Forster says is necessary in today's media landscape alive in PHD's Canadian offices.

"As an agency I think we've been successful by encouraging and celebrating creative thinking and innovation," he says. "If creativity is the idea and innovation the execution of the idea, it takes effort, ambition and a certain doggedness at times to make it happen. To innovate today often requires overcoming client anxiety, selling ideas, getting out of comfort zones and challenging the status quo. In the end it's about talented people who believe that innovation can make a difference for their clients' businesses and then love coming to work every day to make it happen."