Telus goes into review, Taxi will pitch to hold

Procurement puts 18-year relationship into review, but Taxi says "these are our brands and we are going to fight for them"

After nearly 18 years with Taxi, Telus is putting its advertising account into review, though the two may end up staying together anyway.

Is this the end of the Telus critters?

The review will be invitation-only with those requests for proposals going out in the next two weeks. The review will include Telus, its affiliated Koodo mobile brand and Blacks (the photography retailer that Telus acquired in 2009).

“Honestly, it is purely a procurement process,” said Anne-Marie LaBerge, vice-president of brand and marketing communications at Telus. “We do best practices around procurement processes, and we feel it is the right thing to do… This has nothing to do with performance and we hope that Taxi can win it back.”

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She said Taxi had not yet confirmed it was going to pitch to retain, but Taxi president and CEO Rob Guenette was unequivocal: “These are our brands and we are going to fight for them. We are going to win these businesses back,” he said. “We can’t imagine our agency without it.”

The Telus/Taxi relationship goes back 18 years to the Clearnet days, an account that Taxi won in 1996. Telus acquired Clearnet in 2000 and adopted Taxi’s “future is friendly” tagline and cute animal advertising, which have been mainstays of the brand ever since.

The business and the “critters” platform were instrumental in Taxi establishing itself as a major agency contender in Toronto, and a key reason the agency won its first Agency of the Year honour from Marketing in 2001.

LaBerge also said the review does not mean that the platform will change.

While procurement has become a four-letter word in an agency world that often blames procurement departments for squeezing fees and overly demanding reviews, Guenette said that, in this case, a procurement-driven review is understandable. “Procurement is not the devil here,” he said. “How can you argue with due process after 18 years?” Even if it’s understandable, that only goes some way to reduce the sting of Taxi’s having to pitch to keep the business. “Intellectually, I understand it. Emotionally, it is hard.”

Guenette confirmed that Taxi hasn’t yet received the RFP but has already begun preparing. “We are going to approach this pitch very differently.”

LaBerge also said that account contracts for the brands will be staggered with a new Telus contract going into effect late in 2014 and Koodo in 2015 to minimize the impact on both the marketer and the agencies in the event a change takes effect.

The review comes as one of Telus’ largest competitors, Rogers, is about to complete an agency review of its own, with JWT, Y&R, BBDO and incumbent Publicis the final four in contention.

According to GroupM’s most recent This Year, Next Year report, Telus spent about $88 million on advertising in 2012, the seventh largest account in the country. The same report found Bell spent about $90 million and Rogers $145 million.

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