Touché!'s walk-on win

The past year has been a tumultuous one for media agencies. Dubbed "reviewmageddon" by some outlets, many agencies are leaving 2015 with fewer clients and a little worse for wear due to the sheer number of accounts that are under the microscope.

Then there's Touché!

Karine Courtemanche, president at the Omnicom agency, which has offices in Toronto and Montreal, admits it's tough to complain about the current environment when her team is riding a winning streak. "We have had a really good run over the past couple years, so it's tough for me to say that it's more difficult."

This year marks the first Media Agency of the Year Gold for the agency. So what makes 2015 special?

In the past year Touché! has increased its revenue by 35%, which was fuelled by account wins, including Desjardins, Metro, Cogeco and SiriusXM, all handled jointly by the Toronto and Montreal offices. Montreal also picked up the Tourism Québec and Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (Quebec Health Ministry) accounts.

A focus on being hyper local in its approach, especially for retail accounts, is one piece Alain Desormiers, CEO and founder at Touché!, says has helped his team continue to generate new clients, noting the agency has doubled in size over the past three years.

"Like almost everyone, we have found 2015 to be special in terms of the intensity of the pitches," he says. "Although honestly the last three years have been quite something in terms of business development. We have been called on for a lot of new business opportunities. And there is almost always a pitch on the burner."

Courtemanche says that constant growth is necessary.

"Everyone realizes that with business growth comes growth opportunities internally," she says. "So we have tried to rally everyone behind the vision of growth that we have, there isn't the option of keeping with the status quo anymore. We have found that we are different, we believe that we are very oriented towards creativity and how data can fuel creative — that's our positioning."

What's impressive about Touché!'s run is the relatively short amount of time the agency has had a presence outside of Montreal. Opening its doors in Toronto in 2013, the team has since grown from a staff of 15 when it opened in 2013, to 50 now. That growth meant moving to a new larger office this spring.

"We are starting to look and feel like a real agency in Toronto," she says.

The move was timed alongside an internal reorganization at Touché!, creating a business intelligence unit to focus more concretely on data. The agency took its entire digital unit and divided it into three categories: strategy, buying and business intelligence.

"We made it more clear around the boundaries, and what each team should be delivering. We have so many big, data-driven clients now," says Desormiers. "I think 2015 has been a big one in terms of putting data at the core of everything we do."

The new business intelligence team, which is made up of eight people, has more of an emphasis on accountability and buying, says Courtemanche, focusing on buzzword areas like viewability and ad fraud. Each of the business intelligence unit members reports results to the entire team so that the strategists can use the data to inform future campaigns.

"Our restructuring is more about the requirements of the new business," she says. "The clients are, as they should be, obsessed with data. And we want to be structured in a way where we can move where they need us to go."

Though Touché! used existing staff to reorganize the digital team, the agency also grew overall last year, adding 22 new people. The agency also boasts about its small turnover rate, noting it was 15% last year.

What's next for Touché! as it closes out 2015? Desormiers expects the current level of account reviews to continue. And talking with Courtemanche it sounds like there is no chance the Touché! team will be slowing down.

"We truly believe that there is growth, or you're declining, there's no in-between," she says. "If you're not growing, then you're declining."