After months of speculation about the future of its creative account, RBC confirmed that it has added Grip Ltd. to its agency roster alongside long-time incumbents BBDO and MacLaren McCann‘s MRM after a competitive review.
Alan Depencier, vice-president, marketing, RBC Royal Bank, said the review was part of RBC’s best-practices process of evaluating partners every five to seven years. “We just have a standard process that we do from time to time, a process to make sure we have the best possible partners,” he said. The bank’s media business remains with M2 Universal with no plans for a review, said Depencier. According to GroupM‘s “This Year, Next Year” research report, RBC is the biggest Canadian bank advertiser, spending about $53 million in 2012.
The decision to add Grip reflects the bank’s evolving marketing needs in recent years, he said. As the business has expanded and become more complex, RBC needed to add creative and marketing speciality partners. “We have gone to a more multi-agency model,” he said. “You need to have multiple agencies to handle and understand the breadth of our business offerings.”
He said BBDO, Grip and MRM will take lead on different verticals of the business, working with speciality agencies – digital, events, experiential, etc. “We don’t really have a lead agency,” he said. While BBDO will continue to be responsible for much of the brand work – it handled the recent advertising for the Olympics – MRM handles all of RBC’s creative needs for other parts of its business including much of the personal banking work, for example.
“This is not a jump ball situation, they are going to align certain businesses with specific agencies,” said Jeff McCrory, senior vice-president and managing director at BBDO of the new arrangement with Grip Ltd. “Our role is very significant and really important and we are ecstatic to still be a part of the business in a really significant way.”
Grip managing partner Bob Shanks said his agency is starting with work only on RBC insurance and partner card assignments. “Those are the two assignments that we are working on but that could expand,” he said.
The review started in October, included an RFI stage, an interview for chemistry and fit and finally a creative presentation. Grip was told in January it was officially an RBC agency. Procurement was involved in each stage of the review, but Shanks called the review “one of the better processes I’ve been through.”
Depencier said “more than a dozen” agencies took part at the RFI stage. BBDO and MRM were exempt from the early stages though they were both asked to provide creative responses to an RBC business challenge along with Grip and one other unnamed agency.
The shift to RBC’s ad agency roster follows agency changes at TD, CIBC and BMO in the last 18 months. Both TD and CIBC have made significant changes to their brand marketing since hiring Leo Burnett and Juniper Park respectively, but Depencier said adding Grip doesn’t mean a similar overhaul for RBC nor the retirement of its animated bowler-hatted brand mascot. “We have no plans to retire Arbie,” he said. “Over time he might get dialed up more and in certain situations he might get dialed down.”
According to a recent report from Brand Finance for Report on Business Magazine, Canada’s banks have the most valuable corporate brands in Canada, with Royal Bank at the top.
The Top 100 Canadian Brands ranking put Royal Bank’s brand value at just over US$11 billion, up from US$10.28 billion last year when it came in second.
TD Bank, last year’s first-place finisher, was second on the list this year, coming in at US$10.85 billion.