DDB returns to Quebec with Bleublancrouge partnership

The Zip deal is done and DDB is buffing up its Quebec credentials

DDB Canada has dipped back into the Quebec market by entering into what president and chief operating officer David Leonard characterized as a “pure strategic alliance” with independent shop Bleublancrouge. The new non-equity alliance will be known as DDB Canada Montreal.

DDB and Bleublancrouge have had an informal working relationship for the past 10 years, with the Quebec agency providing French-language services for DDB clients including Esso, the Canadian Tourism Commission, Manulife Financial and Johnson & Johnson (which today announced a global creative review).

DDB Canada Montreal formally launched Wednesday as an “agency within an agency” with seven staff members and dedicated space, said Bleublancrouge CEO Sébastien Fauré.

Details on how revenue will be divided were not disclosed.

David Leonard (left) and Sébastien Fauré

Fauré will serve as president of DDB Canada Montreal, which boasts AutoTrader.ca, McDonald’s Canada’s digital work and Manulife Financial as its charter clients. Existing Bleublancrouge clients will continue to be served by the agency, though they will now have access to DDB resources in emerging disciplines such as shopper marketing, mobile marketing and data analytics.

Leonard said the current arrangement preserves the integrity of both agency brands while providing BBR with additional scale and tools and DDB with much-needed French-language expertise.

“So many multinationals have come into this market, acquired a strong independent Quebec brand and screwed it up,” said Leonard. “The letters have gone off the logo after two years. What we said is we’re going to create a different model: we will preserve and protect both brands, leave all options open.

“If it’s better for a Quebec-based operation to work with a locally known brand in BBR, great; if people want to have the breadth and depth that a network provides, great.”

This is not the first time DDB has sought a presence in Quebec. In 2006, it bought a stake in the Montreal-based Zip Communications. This year that relationship more-or-less ended with the two agencies moving “in different directions,” said a DDB spokesperson. ” Some project work will continue for select clients where strong working relationships have been established.”

Asked if DDB had given any thought to either outright acquisition or even purchasing an ownership stake in BBR, Leonard said, “You’ll have to just wait for a little while and see what happens.”

But Fauré said BBR, which will mark its 25th anniversary next year, was not looking to sell. “If that was the idea, we would find somebody willing to put a lot more money in the pot,” he said. “When we had discussions about who would be the best partner for us in terms of values, respect and product quality, DDB was the number one name on the list.

“It’s more a wedding of good intentions that someone selling out his soul.”

Fauré said BBR has significant growth potential in Quebec, but the alliance with DDB can help it attract top-level talent keen to work with the national and international brands that comprise much of DDB’s client roster.

“We will remain committed to the Quebec marketplace, but at the same time we want to attract the best talent, and sometimes the best talent wants to work on international brands,” he said. “We’re looking at this association as an opportunity to grow and also an opportunity to provide our creative guys with some additional creative opportunities.”

The two agencies entered into serious discussions about forming a strategic alliance about 14 months ago, said Leonard.

“We simply got to a point where we had to make a declaration and commit to a partner,” he said. “And [Bleublancrouge] is in a place where they need to fuel growth beyond this market and make a deeper connection to a successful network brand, ad that’s really how it came to be.”

Leonard said DDB had been at a “competitive disadvantage” because of its lack of a Quebec operation when pitching business with a strong Quebec component, such as the federal government.

“It’s easier for clients if you’ve got that firm, longstanding commitment and that seamless enterprise,” he said. “If you just dabble and bounce from partner to partner, it’s not healthy.”

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