Best full-service agency with b-to-b emphasis

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Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos Inc., Boston, is in a unique position among full-service ad agencies, placing roughly half of its efforts into prospecting and building campaigns for b-to-b clients. In fact, about 50% of its 2000 revenue of $145 million came from b-to-b advertising.

The agency’s roots are in the b-to-b space. Its very first ad was for food broker W.E. Klein & Co. Inc. Since then, Hill Holliday has achieved other firsts in the world of b-to-b advertising, including put-ting the first technology commercial on the Super Bowl in 1978 for Wang Laboratories.

"The language [of that ad] was very directly b-to-b, and the critique was that some of the target audience didn’t understand it," said Jean Manasian, exec VP-technology at Hill Holliday. "That is a debate that continues to this day," she said, referring to the use of mass television to reach a targeted b-to-b audience.

But the strategy seems to be paying off for the agency. Its commitment to pioneering strategies and campaigns for b-to-b has brought in a strong roster of clients, including Fleet Financial Group Inc., John Hancock Financial Services Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Broadwing Inc.

"They came in and blew everyone away from a creative standpoint," said Tom Osha, chief of staff at Broadwing, a fiber optic network provider that selected Hill Holliday when it relaunched in October 1999 after a merger between Cincinnati Bell and fiber provider IXC Communications, both in Cincinnati.

Osha said the pitch was particu-larly challenging because the company had not selected a name for the new entity, so the agencies in the review had to create a campaign around Newco—standard in pitches for companies with no name. Hill Holliday was the only agency that made up three names for the company (none of which were used) and developed three separate campaigns around the names. "It was not a contest," Osha said. "We wanted solid, creative, smart thinkers, and they fell right in that area."

Raving spokesman

Since then, Hill Holliday has continued to impress Broadwing with its work, Osha said, the latest of which was an integrated campaign featuring celebrity Dennis Hopper to communicate the message "The world’s first beautiful network." It’s running on TV, print and online.

The high-profile campaign, which shows Hopper ranting and raving about intellectual property and bandwidth, launched earlier this year, and Osha said the company is already seeing dramatic results in several areas. He said about half of the prospects called on by the sales team became aware of Broadwing through the Hopper commercials. "We’ve gone from being a new company to one that’s on par with anyone in the business," Osha said. "Hill Holliday is a large component of that."

The agency believes firmly in fully integrated campaigns, using a range of media with particular emphasis on the Internet to deliver clients’ messages.

"A lot of clients say they’re looking for a brand [campaign], but a brand doesn’t work unless you’re hitting potential customers at every level every day," said Mike Sheehan, president and chief creative officer of Hill Holliday. "If it’s not integrated, everything ends up being the same."

The agency also uses cutting-edge technology to take campaigns to a new level. For example, in a Fidelity campaign that ran last year, Hill Holliday used digital cameras to shoot seven commercials, then converted the digital images to film to convey a sense of realism. "When you’re shooting on digital tape, you can shoot all day and the editor has more options to work from," Sheehan said.

Another client is PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P., for which Hill Holliday launched a communications program for the combined company that cut across eight lines of business operating in 49 different countries.

The integrated advertising campaign and new Web site for PWC were designed not only to communicate the new company positioning, but also to lure customers and recruit employees. "Fully integrated is the only way to do it," Sheehan said.

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