PHD Canada was named Media Agency of the Year at Strategy’s annual Agency of the Year Awards this week, taking home Gold in the category. OMD was awarded Silver whilst Starcom MediaVest Group picked up Bronze.
To win one of strategy‘s signature Agency of the Year airplanes, it’s not enough to just have a handful of strong campaigns. The winners are selected by a panel of judges who demand work showing diversity across brands and categories.
PHD Canada’s president, Fred Forster says PHD is differentiating itself the way it always has – with strategy.
“If you look at where the business is today, we have kind of hit rock bottom in terms of being able to get things as cheap as we possibly can,” says Fred. “Let’s not kid ourselves: so much of the pitches are still based on price and are procurement-led. We are at a point and time where a lot of the agencies are at the same level in terms of how cheap we can make it. Strategy starts to play a more important role in how agencies can win when the field has been leveled in terms of price.”
Strategy is built into PHD’s strategic planning framework, says Fred. That has been expanded most recently with the introduction of global online gamified planning tool Source, which allows PHD staff to contribute to country-level projects in other regions. At the end of the third quarter, PHD Canada was sitting at the top of Source’s global leaderboard, says Fred, an impressive feat considering the size of the team compared with larger markets like the U.K. and U.S.
“Source is unique in allowing us to put together very strong channel plans, but also something that is easily understood by clients and sets us apart as we pitch new business,” says Fred. “It’s now the linchpin of the organization in many ways.”
This year PHD hired 73 new staff in Canada, and won clients including the CPA, Government of Ontario, Intact Financial Services and University of New Brunswick.
According to RECMA’s overall billing activity statistics for 2015, PHD ranked #3 in the market. The agency had an 11.3% share of the Canadian industry for the year, bringing in $917 million in billings. That’s up from $673 million for 2014.
But don’t expect the team to rest on the laurels of this year’s performance.
“This business is evolving so fast that we can’t be satisfied with the structures or skill sets we have,” Fredsays. “It has to be constantly in motion and we have to think down the road as we try and make decisions today. And hopefully we have another good year next year.”