McCann-Erickson offers b-to-b clients the world

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McCann-Erickson's Nick Bishop knows just about everything, short of the secret formula, about what it takes to market Coca-Cola. He worked on the international Coke account from 1985 through last year.

"Sydney, New York, Madrid, Amsterdam, Sydney, then to San Francisco to do the Anderson & Lembke gig," Mr. Bishop says, describing his hopscotching around the globe for McCann and Coke.

Now he is exec VP-managing director of Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson/A&L, San Francisco. More to the point, he heads the McCann office that handles Microsoft Corp., arguably the premier business-to-business brand of our times.

So how in the name of Bill Gates did a Coca-Cola ad man become a Microsoft ad man? And how in the name of Bill Marsteller did a famed consumer agency like McCann-Erickson Worldwide win out over a host of traditional b-to-b agencies to become Business Marketing's 1999 Agency of the Year?

Well, those questions can best be answered by examining four McCann b-to-b clients--Microsoft, DuPont, Agilent Technologies and Gateway--that launched ambitious campaigns with the agency within the past 12 months.

The answer is that these b-to-b marketing giants came to the agency for precisely the skills that Mr. Bishop, and countless others at McCann, learned by marketing carbonated sugar water, credit cards and other consumer goods all over the planet. B-to-b marketers want McCann's international network, branding capabilities and ability to produce creative for that increasingly important b-to-b marketing format: the TV spot.

McCann's Coca-Cola experience was critical when DuPont selected the agency in January 1999. "They worked on a multinational product before they got to us," says Carol Gee, DuPont's corporate brand manager.

Ironically, McCann wasn't initially invited to the DuPont pitch. Donald Dillon, regional director of Europe/Africa/Middle East at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, tells the story: "Someone from DuPont called us by mistake. They called a guy who used to work at another agency. They thought they were calling him at a different agency. He said, `I'm at McCann and we really ought to be in this pitch.' "

DuPont eventually agreed. McCann won the review with its "The miracles of science" tagline. It replaced "Better things for better living through chemistry," which had run since 1935. Ms. Gee says it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the new campaign, which includes the "To do list for the planet" ads, but she says the early returns were "on target."

Although McCann's participation in the DuPont pitch came about through happenstance, its victory was anything but. The agency chases b-to-b accounts by design. Mr. Dillon estimates that b-to-b revenue will make up nearly 20% of total revenue when the final tabulations are in for 1999, up from just 4% in 1996.

Wall Street apparently hasn't looked askance as McCann has accumulated b-to-b accounts. The agency's parent, Interpublic Group, saw its share price soar from a split-adjusted $39.68 on Jan. 4, 1999, to $57.69 on Dec. 31, a 45% increase.

Part of the reason McCann--like other multinational consumer agencies such as Grey Advertising, which netted Oracle Corp. this year--are increasingly pursuing b-to-b accounts is because b-to-b ad budgets are much bigger these days.

The rise of technology and the Internet explains a large part of the growth in b-to-b budgets.

Additionally, as businesses increasingly want to drive customers and prospects to their Web sites, off-line branding has become more important. While McCann offers Web site design and consulting through its Zentropy unit, the agency's b-to-b clients are for now more interested in off-line branding aid.

And in the era of cable TV--with news networks such as CNN and business channels such as CNBC--this branding can be accomplished efficiently through television. This has led b-to-b marketers to seek out consumer agencies with broadcast experience--ideally, broadcast experience around the world.


Until last April, Microsoft had a large share of its account with Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., which made its name building the Nike brand. The software giant, however, shifted its U.S. Windows business to McCann, in part because of the agency's more complete global network.

"McCann is truly a global agency," says Mike Delman, Microsoft's general manager-messaging and communications strategies.

McCann solidified its hold on the account by merging its San Francisco office with its sister Interpublic agency, Anderson & Lembke. A&L, also based in San Francisco, has handled Microsoft's more technically oriented advertising aimed at software developers and computer programmers since before it was acquired by McCann-Erickson in 1995.

Industry observers say that when McCann acquired A&L, it was with an eye toward landing the main Microsoft b-to-b account.

If it was a long time in the plotting, Mr. Delman appears satisfied with the outcome. "We thought it was a natural marriage between the bigness and brand sophistication of McCann and the technological understanding of Anderson & Lembke," he says.

McCann's first branding campaign for Microsoft, which features the tagline "The business Internet," debuted late last year. In introducing the words "e-anything" and "e-nough" to the corporate vernacular, the campaign demonstrates that Microsoft understands the confusion existing in the marketplace about the Internet, electronic commerce and e-business, Mr. Delman says.

"We don't look at this as a one-month-and-quit campaign, but as something that will evolve over years and years with one central agency, as something that will have longevity and consistency," he says.


While the breadth of McCann's business-to-business account roster is as large as it has ever been, the agency is no stranger to business marketing.

Between 1982 and 1997, McCann handled the b-to-b segment of AT&T Corp., then the largest business-to-business advertiser. McCann lost the business when AT&T consolidated its business at Young & Rubicam and Foote, Cone & Belding. McCann handled AT&T's spin-off of Lucent Technologies, creating the indelible launch campaign, which featured a computer screen where words were typed explaining why businesses will want to work with the new company.

This launch, which helped contribute to the biggest initial public offering up to that point, was influential in McCann's appointment to handle the advertising for the spin-off of Agilent, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s test and measurement business. McCann launched Agilent with the tagline "Dreams made real."

The results were similar to the Lucent launch: Agilent was the largest IPO in history up to that time.

McCann executives point to these success stories as proof that consumer agencies can handle b-to-b accounts. The knock on consumer shops has been that they don't understand the complexities of b-to-b advertising, of selling to buying teams and to multiple audiences of customers and prospects, employees and investors.

Eric Keshin, general manager-COO of McCann-Erickson, New York, worked the duration on the AT&T account. He says consumer and b-to-b advertising are converging. "It's very much like any other advertising," he says. "You have to convince people of something."

Nina DiSesa, chairwoman-chief creative officer of McCann-Erickson, New York, worked with Mr. Keshin on the AT&T account and was behind the creative for the Lucent launch. She says b-to-b advertising should be more like consumer advertising.

"People forget that the business customers that they're talking to are not different from the people you sell soap to or sell a MasterCard to," she says. "They just compartmentalize their life a little differently."

She also insists that b-to-b accounts don't get short shrift at McCann. "We find people who love it," she says. "We put them on it and they thrive."

Mr. Keshin says: "B-to-b isn't viewed as a side play; it's mainstream. The Lucent work, the Agilent work--that's on the agency reel."

It's instructive that he and Ms. DiSesa, both of whom have strong b-to-b backgrounds, are the top executives at McCann's New York offices. It also speaks volumes about McCann's commitment to b-to-b that Mr. Keshin spends a great deal of time on the Gateway account, particularly its new b-to-b campaign, "Gateway@work," which launched in early January.

"We're going to take it to Dell," Mr. Keshin says. "Sign me up. I love a good fight."

Which hardly sounds like the words of a man running an agency where b-to-b is an afterthought.

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