Timberland Taps MDC's Assembly as Its New Media Agency

Shop Began Pitch as TargetCast, Ended as Assembly After MDC Reorganization

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Timberland has tapped MDC agency Assembly to handle media as the company assumes a more digital-centric strategy.

"We realized the best storytelling in our category is probably in the digital space and really recognized that our future model will be a content-times-distribution model," said Jim Davey, VP-global marketing, Timberland. "You're going to see the bulk of our spending now in the digital space. The ability to find consumers where they are online with targeted messaging will have a bigger return-on-investment, versus a shotgun approach of sending broad messages to a large group."

The win for Assembly comes on the heels of the brand's repositioning last fall. At the heart of the repositioning was a campaign dubbed "Best Then. Better Now," meant to highlight the brand's heritage but also a more modern lifestyle appeal.

Mullen's Media Hub group was the incumbent on the media business but did not participate in the pitch. "They've been a fantastic partner for us for a number of years," Mr. Davey said. Mullen, part of Interpublic Group, declined to comment.

Assembly will support media planning and buying, as well as the overall brand picture.

"We wanted someone who could come in with a new frame of reference and look at the brand and story we're telling and give us brand new ideas," said Mr. Davey. "We had the sense we were on the right track, but the fall 2013 [initiative] gave us the confidence that we were really on the right track with real numbers." Those numbers, he said, showed a lift in sales and brand affinity following the introduction of the campaign.

With that confidence, the marketing team conducted an "informal" agency review early this year, starting with a long list of 8 to 10 agencies and a short, two-and-a-half-page RFP. In the document was Timberland's consumer data from the past two years, a list of its top goals and a brief asking agencies to "combine those things and tell a story that makes sense," Mr. Davey said.

"We wanted them to have a broad ability and leeway over what they thought the best direction was," he added. "A lot of times you have to do things without every bit of information dictated to you."

It wouldn't be considered a traditional pitch format for most brands, including Timberland. And MDC's overhaul of its media agency operation, mid-pitch, added yet another non-traditional element to the process.

The shop started the pitch early this year under the TargetCast name. Months later, MDC merged its media agencies -- TargetCast and RJ Palmer -- to create a larger agency under a new brand, Assembly. Media agency vet Martin Cass joined early on to lead the charge, and the Timberland pitch.

Timberland works with various creative shops on a project basis but does the bulk of the creative work in-house.

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