Jeff Greenspoon

CEO, dentsu Canada

Our collective desire to bring people together across all backgrounds, experiences, and capabilities is an integral part of everything we do at dentsu. As a global organization, we often recognize that different markets operate in very different ways. They have their own flavour if you will. When we turn that lens on ourselves in Canada, we see that we are no exception. Our country is a marketplace that thrives at the intersection of innovation and failure. Now, let’s explore what that means exactly.

What makes Canada the ultimate test market?

From Ikea’s pick-up warehouses to product enhancements on social platforms like Twitter and General Motors new global Virtual Showroom, Canada has always been a favourite of companies looking for an ideal market to test new ideas. Why? There are numerous factors, but here a few key reasons:

  • We’re a good representation of customers around the world with 20% of our population being born in another country.
  • Nearly 70% of Canadians live within 100km of the U.S. border, which means our culture and consumption habits closely mirror the world’s largest consumer market.
  • Much of our population is concentrated in high-density pockets, making test campaigns more cost-effective.

This positions us as a transformative land of opportunity through our ability to enable access to many different variants and cross-sections of people. If anything, we as Canadian marketers have been too lax in seizing the opportunity. There are so many ways to capitalize on our rich and beautiful populous, expand our efforts, and learn more about how to communicate and connect with every Canadian in effective ways.

Building a start-up within a global organization

We have re-built dentsu Canada to think, act and work like a start-up, and lean into the innovation opportunity that Canada has to offer. Our company is built on entrepreneurial foundations embedded with innovative thinking and nimble processes. We take an agile yet mindful approach to design thinking, creative process, and product development while always measuring business innovation against impact and feasibility. We also focus on bringing innovation from the market into our organization. Not only through talent, but through the dentsu Innovation Initiative — partnerships with start-ups that are already disrupting their respective spaces. For example, we work with ODAIA to harness AI-powered technology to better predict consumer behaviour and with Kinetic Commerce to digitize and revolutionize the in-store and online connected retail experience. We’ve also built a robust partnership with Shopify to be more agile and nimble in how we empower commerce – rather than only focusing on the larger tech companies.

To put it simply, it’s okay to be big if you can still move fast. However, for many organizations this statement can quickly turn from a well-intentioned aspiration to a complete and utter fallacy. The start-up mentality must be culturally embedded throughout the organization. It must push it forward and upend stagnant processes with new ways of working. Building a start-up inside of a network is a complete reengineering of its DNA and how we invest our dollars. Canada provides us with a broad range of talent and technology to make that a reality. Now, we as brands, businesses and agencies must step up to take advantage of the opportunity at scale; and government must invest to ensure we continue to be at the forefront of global innovation.

Cultivating innovation through collaboration

An agency network is, by design, structured to offer both broad and deep capabilities. At dentsu Canada, we strengthen that structure by building out horizontally and stitching together capabilities and solutions from throughout our network. Why? To find the most innovative ways to solve real business problems and ultimately accelerate the growth of brands – no matter how big and global, or local and niche.

Of course, this is all meaningless if we don’t have a system in place to turn this idea into a reality. The key is stitching together the most relevant capabilities and the most effective solutions for whatever business problem, or more importantly, consumer need is at hand – or ripe for innovation.

Imagine it like a puzzle. You have to find all the right pieces to get the final result you’re looking for. In Canada, we are equipped with the tools and blessed with a market ripe for innovation through measured experimentation. For us, it starts with dreaming big and asking that simple question "what if...?"

Now, all we have left to do is get puzzling.