2019 Media AOY Bronze: Touche!’s people-based planning

How the media agency is using its data source platform Omni to change the way it looks at media.


This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of strategy.

When Touché! president Karine Courtemanche told strategy last year the agency had “invested a lot in the back-end of our operation,” she wasn’t kidding.

Tech and talent were the agency’s focus heading into 2019 and its holistic approach has paid off. Revenues from its research initiatives have doubled for the second consecutive year and the launch of Omni, a data source platform, is changing the way the agency looks at media.

Understanding data and technology and putting it to use in valuable ways is a game every agency played in 2019. Courtemanche calls it, “the cost of entry” into the industry these days. “If somebody cannot do it, it’s just not the business for them anymore.”

The 2019 RECMA report ranked Touché! #1, atop a total of 20 Canadian agencies, scoring high for both vitality and structure and maintaining a comfortable and steady lead when compared to the next top five agencies including OMD, Cossette Media, Carat, UM and Initiative. More than $33 million in revenue is generated monthly for the agency’s clients, most famous among them Via Rail and Canadian Tire, both of whom Touché! continues to pick up honours both in Canada and abroad.

Media spend may have increased in the last few years, but president Karine Courtemanche says there’s a feeling that clients are more conservative with their dollars. “It’s not about flexing your muscles and putting more money out there than your competitors,” she explains, but rather finding ways to stretch a media budget, something Touché! has seen success with Omni.

Courtemanche uses its Sport Chek campaign that tracked customer habits around “digital window shopping” as an example (see below). The real-time data found which items consumers left in their online shopping carts, providing insight as to what products the brand chose to put on sale or feature in ads during a Black Friday event. Those same insights can now be used for future campaigns, she says.

For Touché!, which holds roughly 40% of Quebec’s ad market in its portfolio, reaching new clients is increasingly difficult, so the development of Omni has been the focus. “If we want to grow revenue, we have to grow internally within our own existing clients,” says director of marketing science, Jean-Francois Bourdeau.

Omni is able to build audiences based on browsing behaviour, purchase history or other content users interact with. The platform launched this year in Canada and was made fully operational in the fall.

The game plan for 2020 is to onboard every client to Omni; the platform started with global clients like Volkswagen and BRP and is now focused on national clients like Canadian Tire, Via Rail, Agropur and Montreal Tourism. The new campaigns for these clients are in part integrated with Omni, he says, and many have been exposed to the basics. Bourdeau calls it a complete “people-based platform” for digital planning.

“We can activate these audiences because we can see the online inventory in real-time,” he adds.

With a team of 15, including three statisticians, between Toronto and Montreal, Omni has helped Touché! double revenues, he says. “People are coming to us for our expertise in multitouch attribution, marketing mix modeling and research.”

Continuing to make headway in the Toronto market remains a top priority for Touché! heading into 2020. However, Courtemanche points out in the process of growing nationally, the agency picked up some clients in the U.S. and Latin America, as well as the global AOR mandate for Bombardier Recreational Products.

“We realized that’s our new benchmark,” she says of acquiring international business. “To us, changing the benchmarks to which we compare ourselves in something that we want to play up in 2020. We started as a good Quebec agency, then became a Canadian agency. Now, we’re looking at ourselves to be among the best in the world.”

New key business
Bombardier Recreational Products (LATAM and EMEA markets)

New hires
Émilie Bertrand, media supervisor; Emily Dupras-Rioux, manager, programmatic; Kristine Sherliker, group account director; Marivic Idanan, supervisor, strategy


Media cases

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When Hydro-Québec wanted to boost pride in its ranks and improve its connection with younger Québeckers, Touché! knew triggers like technology, adventure and entertainment would get their attention. So it partnered with a notable marathoner and filmmaker to deliver on all three fronts. A fully immersive, high-adrenaline journey documented the 2,000 km path an electron takes to bring light and warmth to urban customers. Breathtaking photos, Instagram stories, YouTube videos and Facebook Live events told the story of the marathoners’ quest to traverse the hydro lines’ terrain.


For BRP, the agency helped make The Ryker resonate with a new generation of riders using pop culture, it was able to break away from Spyder?s image, and build credibility for The Ryker by featuring it in content such as music videos.

The shop used data around abandoned products in online carts with “Digital Window Shopping,” using the intel to make those desired items the stars of a digital ad push for Sport Chek.