McCann executive takes on new role

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McCann WorldGroup last month named Michael McLaren exec VP-director of global accounts on the worldwide Microsoft Corp. business, reflecting the agency group’s expanded relationship with the software giant.

Recently, McCann’s MRM Partners was named one of Microsoft’s two worldwide customer relationship management agencies. It will share CRM assignments with Wunderman.

In addition, McCann WorldGroup handles several other marketing responsibilities for Microsoft through its various businesses, including McCann-Erickson for advertising, FutureBrand for brand strategy, Universal McCann for media planning and Weber Shandwick for PR. In his new role, McLaren will be responsible for overseeing all those businesses, bringing a central organization to the various marketing disciplines.

McLaren was previously exec VP-director of client services and worldwide advertising account director on the Microsoft account at McCann-Erickson.

McLaren spoke to BtoB about the agency restructuring and the changing nature of agency-client relationships.

BtoB: What is driving the restructuring?

McLaren: It reflects the steady growth of the relationship over the last four years. Given the scale and scope of the business, when servicing a client of this size it is important to bring all the assets to bear. We have relationships with Microsoft to varying degrees across all our businesses—McCann-Erickson, MRM, Weber Shandwick and FutureBrand. As the relationship matrix became more complex, a central management function became apparent. Also, when managing a business across many countries, being able to have a geographic overview and discipline overview becomes important.

BtoB: How will your job change?

McLaren: I will continue to stay very involved in what is going on in the businesses and work across the businesses in an orchestration and integration role.

It is really augmenting the role McCann has been doing and advancing the relationship and building on other businesses, such as CRM, online marketing and events.

Another key benefit of having someone overseeing the overall operations is the opportunity to align tighter integration across the different disciplines.

Beyond the operational aspects, it is making sure we are running the financial models efficiently and bringing the best talent to work on Microsoft.

BtoB: Are you hiring?

McLaren: Yes, we are ramping up on the CRM side. [The MRM account] was a pretty significant win.

BtoB: How will your CRM responsibilities change as a result of the expanded MRM relationship?

McLaren: Microsoft is separating CRM along its business groups—MRM will be handling Windows Client, information worker [Office], business applications and some corporate. Wunderman is handling the other half.

BtoB: Will you be working with Wunderman on the business?

McLaren: Yes. With the McCann-Erickson hat, for example, we work with all of Microsoft’s agencies. With the groups MRM doesn’t manage, we need to work very closely with Wunderman to make sure that their marketing programs are also closely aligned. We’ve worked with a number of agencies since we’ve been together [Microsoft awarded McCann its business in 1999].

BtoB: You mentioned a tighter integration of the different disciplines. How will that work?

McLaren: It’s making sure we have the broadest air coverage messaging aligning with ground coverage, which is all activity that isn’t broad based, such as direct, collateral, events and all programs designed to generate demand. With the exception of IBM [Corp.] and to some extent [Hewlett-Packard Co.], technology companies haven’t typically done a good job aligning their different marketing disciplines. We feel very confident we will deliver Microsoft the kind of integration they really need.

BtoB: What are some of Microsoft’s marketing initiatives this year?

McLaren: We are still working through a season-planning cycle. Microsoft works on a fiscal year [beginning in July], so it is premature to talk about specific programs.

We expect to see a continuation of the big brands coming to the fore—for example, ongoing programs for Windows Server, Office and Windows Client.

In terms of overall strategy, it’s making sure the marketing communications plan gets tied to business metrics. We need to look at what is our purpose and what is the metric we are trying to move.

BtoB: What strategies should agencies pursue this year for b-to-b clients?

McLaren: There is a new way of looking at a global client. There are a multiple number of touch points in managing the relationships with [a client’s] customers. Agencies need to maintain quality standards and quality of service. An advertising piece can have a successful run, but that is only one link in the chain. The client needs you to help them integrate their program. Agencies need to step out of the advertising world and into the integrated marketing communications world. Also, don’t look at the world in ad units or ad problems. At McCann, we look at them as communications challenges. You have to disconnect your bias, so you don’t believe you can solve [a communications challenge] with a 30-second TV commercial. You have to understand what will invoke the type of engagement to get your customer or prospect from where they are to where you want them to go.

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