Touche!’s Antoine Nguyen inspires insights

This year's New Establishment: Media winner sometimes approaches audiences in an unconventional way. Here's how it's paid off.

This story originally appears in the 2019 MIAs print annual.


The New Establishment was created in 2017 as a new awards program by strategy to recognize up-and-coming talent in the advertising industry at junior and intermediate levels. Every year, strategy selects deserving individuals in the media, brand and innovator categories. We are currently accepting applications for the New Establishment: Innovators. For more information on the award, click here.


Antoine NguyenOne might expect someone who’s focused on data, insights and audience strategies to be introverted. They might conjure up images of a hardworking yet humble analyst, slouched over a keyboard, crunching numbers and diligently taking notes to present to their supervisor. But
Antoine Nguyen is bursting with enthusiasm, as though riding an ongoing media high.

That’s because for Nguyen, who has been in the industry since 2011 and with Touché! since 2016, it’s about far more than just numbers. There’s a romanticism that media agencies can sometimes forget when they’re so focused on granular targeting strategies.

“When we talk about audiences, we talk about pool sizes, how much reach we can get,” he says. “But at a certain point, you start treating them like numbers [not people].”

Nguyen’s approach to marrying data, insights and creativity with humanity is what has made an impression on his agency, as well as his biggest client Sport Chek.

The media strategist’s work on the brand’s “Digital Window Shopping” campaign during Black Friday is currently making the rounds on the awards circuit, and Touche!’s AVP of strategy Marilyne Alie believes it wouldn’t have been as successful without Nguyen’s insights – and his instincts.

“Over the pre-planning period, he came up with this elaborate audience strategy that he built from up to 300 different pools,” explains VP and group director Samantha Kelly. “Black Friday is three to four days, with a really short opportunity to seize. Once he set up those audiences and the campaign launched, we were in this war room waiting.”

The paid media campaign spanned several days, since the annual event extends from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. But once the sale went live, the team witnessed a devastating development: conversions were down from the previous year. “People were actually visiting the site like crazy. But they’d add items to the cart and then abandon it,” says Nguyen.

Kelly says that drop in conversions could have led to a panic. But when she looked to Nguyen, “he was cool and collected. He looked at the numbers, and he told us, ‘This might not be as bad as we think.’”

“It’s like window shopping – and like window shopping, we figured people were doing it across all retailers, waiting to see who has the best deals,” he explains.

With the clock ticking, Nguyen figured out what the team could do. “We identified those top categories based on what people were leaving in their carts and matched them with the top promos we have.”

It wasn’t just about targeting individuals with products in their own abandoned carts; the “star items” were used in banner ads that were delivered en masse.

Nguyen says the experience gave him new perspective as he begins to assist with planning across Canadian Tire’s many other retail banners. “You can easily run into the trap of over-targeting people, segmenting into so many interests and data points and getting too granular… In 2017, we were very broad – there was mass reach and takeovers everywhere. Six months later we went the other way and everything became granular. There were hundreds of assets and audience groups for every campaign. But when you fragment that much,
you can’t gain valuable insights.”

Now, he says, the goal is to strike a balance. “You want to be strategic and targeted, but also broad enough to attract net new customers and minimize overlap. And you absolutely have to be willing to tweak as you go. We’re always in that state now.”

Earlier this year, a new title was created for Nguyen. As the audience strategy supervisor, he now advises other teams and clients on how to build and activate against custom audience pools. “His role is to make sure that anything we recommend to clients from a high level is executed properly and actually delivers on results,” explains Alie. “There are nuances to digital platforms, so optimizing and improving on everything we do is important… The fact that he has a different way of thinking helps me challenge myself. He’s so tuned in to how everything affects media. That’s how we all should be.”