The agency looks to beef up its strategy chops by acquiring Bright Blue Wave and making a handful of senior appointments.

Originally published on

A number of changes have come to agency Colour Creative Persuasion in recent months, including an acquisition and the appointment of a president and chief creative officer.

Most recently, Martha Stevens joined the agency as VP of strategy in Halifax. She will provide strategic counsel and lead client relationships for Colour’s clients across Atlantic Canada, including Nova Scotia-based neutraceutical company Nature’s Way and New Brunswick-based bakery Fancy Pokket.

Her appointment follows other significant hires at Colour. About a month ago, it hired Paul Lockhard as president and Julie Martinson as chief creative officer. The pair have stepped into the newly created roles and will be based out of Toronto.

Lockhard (with whom Colour CEO Chris Keevill had a pre-existing working relationship) will lead strategic initiatives for clients, while focusing on strengthening industry partnerships and building out the agency’s CRM and data insights capabilities, according to Keevill. He joins Colour after serving as president of Proof, where he led a brand repositioning and was responsible for growing revenue and expanding the communication agency’s creative and digital capabilities. He has also worked on digital and CRM initiatives at Labatt.

Martinson follows Lockhard from Proof, where she was creative director (with prior experience in CPG marketing at Union Creative) and will lead creative across Colour’s Toronto, Halifax and New York offices. Keevill, who says the pair wanted to continue working together, describes their hiring as a “two for one deal” for Colour.

The new hires are the result of a shift in client needs, according to Keevill. “More of the complex work that our clients are looking for requires deep strategy work,” he says. “So strategic creative through Julie and strategic planning and digital through Paul is further developing and strengthening our strategic consulting practice.”

Colour refers to that planning work as system planning. “We’re taking the complexity of the customer journey across fragmented channels and we’re distilling that complexity into a synthesized system plan, which then maps the customer journey against media and against storytelling,” Keevill says. “Baked into that sometimes is advertising, so we can still look like an ad agency. But it’s not the biggest piece any more by a long shot.”

In recent years, Colour has added a programmatic media planning and buying department that operates out of the New York office.

A recent acquisition also speaks to the shop’s evolving priorities.

In March, Colour expanded its strategic capabilities with the acquisition of Toronto-based social media agency Bright Blue Wave. As part of the agreement, it now works with Bright Blue Wave’s roster of clients, including Mercer, EQ Bank, Embark Health, Parkin and Knowledge First Financial. Meanwhile, the acquired company’s founders, Sharad Verma and Brenda Verma, were appointed to senior roles within the agency.

Until around 2007, Colour partnered with Radian6 (which was acquired by cloud computing giant Salesforce in 2011), on social listening, according to Keevill. From there, it developed a community management and content marketing practices.

Bright Blue Wave operates in similar spaces, but with more of a focus on content and social media strategy for B2B clients, he says. “We just added the heft and the scale of their clients to our roster, and just grew the business that way.”

The acquisition has already helped Colour pitch and win the business of Canada 411. In addition, the agency is continuing to develop its cannabis practice, having already served as AOR for Aurora Cannabis for a few years.

Following the acquisition, Sharad Verma was named VP of strategy and Brenda Verma as VP of social media within the parent agency. Prior to Sharad’s arrival, strategy was led by other senior strategists within the agency’s consulting practice.

Both Sharad and Brenda started their careers as consultants at PwC prior to launching Bright Blue Wave, and Sharad had prior experience as president of Digital Cement, the former creative and advertising arm of tech company Pitney Bowes.

Meanwhile, VP of strategy Stevens was previously VP of sales and marketing at Atlantic Lottery Corporation and acting CEO and director or marketing at Tourism Nova Scotia. She got her start at Hawk Communications and has held various marketing roles at telco NBTel, Aliant and Bell in both Canada and the U.S., through which she previously worked with Keevill.

Individual Photo: Martha (Marty) Stevens, (VP Strategy)

Group Photo: From left to right, Paul Lockhard (President), Julie Martinson (Chief Creative Officer), Sharad Verma (VP Strategy), Brenda Verma (VP Social Media)