Quebec agencies can export
But it takes initiative, drive, and oh yeah, a lot of travel

David Harries, Maurice Dascal and Chris Emergui head companies that are arguably the most successful exporters among Quebec's ad agencies. Each derives more than half its revenues from outside the province.

But when Quebec's advertising industry held a summit last month on the challenges of globalization last month, none attended. "There was a summit?" asked Harries, president of Ryan & Deslauriers. "Nobody invited us. I didn't even realize it. I was out of town on business."

According to a consultant commissioned by summit organizers - the Publicité Club de Montréal -- among the biggest challenges facing the Quebec advertising industry is the fact that domestic ad production is geared to the local market and cannot be exported.

That Quebec companies exported $118.5 billion worth of goods and services in 1999 -- close to 60 per cent of the province's GDP -- and most its ad agencies exported next to nothing, is a black mark on the industry.

We wanted to find out why some agencies were so successful in getting work outside the province, and others have phones that don't work outside the 514 and 450 area codes. Ironically when we called the presidents of the province's three most successful exporting agencies, all three were out of town.

Harries, who has an MBA and tons of international marketing experience seemed to be the ideal guy to ask about what it takes to business outside of Quebec. Ryan & Deslauriers specializes in resort, sport and lifestyle marketing, and close to 70 per cent, of the $6 million that the company expects to bill this year comes from outside the province.

"Quebec has wonderful film, music and graphic design talent that can be used in ad production," said Harries who closed two deals in New York last week. "Clients recognize this. But to get business the province, you have to travel. You have to make customers feel you are accessible."

Ryan & Deslauriers spends $400,000 a year in travel, a huge amount relative to its size. But the results speak for themselves. The agency serves clients across the U.S., in British Columbia and most recently in France.

The agency has its head office in Montreal, but much of the creative work is done at their design studio located five minutes from the ski trails of Mont Tremblant, two of which -the Ryan and the Deslauriers - the firm drew its name from.

According to Tom Pedriks the agency's chief creative officer, being in the mountains, stimulates the creative juices. Unlike many bigger firms, the Ryan & Deslauriers doesn't see itself as just a pin in the map, active in only one geographic area.

But to get out of town clients, you have to hustle. "Every week check out Ad Week magazine from New York. And every week we call the advertisers they list who are looking for agencies, said Pedriks. "Ninety-nine times out of 100, they say no. But when prospects give us a chance to show our ideas, they rarely regret it."

Maurice Dascal was also out of town during the industry summit. The president of Dascal & Associates says that Quebec agencies have tremendous cost advantages over out of town rivals.

"Salary levels in are lower in Montreal than in Toronto and Boston, where many of our clients are," said Dascal who travels about ten days a month. "So when we bid jobs out of town, we are very competitive."

Dascal is a big booster of using Internet technology to reduce travel and meeting time. The agency uses password-protected "viewing rooms," to display design, video and music advertising concepts online, to people in several cities simultaneously. The technology has become especially popular in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Chris Emergui, president of BAM Solutions, -- which specializes in online advertising campaigns -- was also out of town in mid-November. Emergui notes that to get business from outside Quebec, agencies must be able to speak to customers in their own language. That means running a bilingual agency, something Harries and Dascal agree on.

But the three presidents have something else in common other than running bilingual, successful mid-sized agencies. Rather than sitting around in a hotel at a three-day summit talking about exporting, Quebec advertising's three most successful exporters were out of town doing it. Maybe there's a lesson there.

David Harries and Tom Pedriks, of Ryan & Deslauriers drew inspiration for their agency's name from two ski trails at Mont Tremblant.

Photo credit: Ryan & Deslauriers


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