Even without a major account win, 2008 will no doubt go down as the most significant of Mindshare's 10-plus years, a year when the WPP-backed agency established itself as one of the most progressive and forward-thinking media agencies in the business. The agency restructured itself; took one step closer to becoming a full-service marketing agency driven by media services; and took a stand against one of the industry's longstanding traditions, integration fees.
|Illustration: Robin Eley|
Simon McPhillips, media director at client Sprint, said the restructuring has given Mindshare the ability to go beyond the standard media-agency realm of planning and buying. Mindshare's Invention team produces "genuine standout" ideas, which are vital in the highly competitive telecommunications sector, he said. Along with an interactive web series called "In the Motherhood," created for Sprint and Unilever's Suave, Mindshare did a campaign for Sprint connected to the TV show "Heroes."
"What we charge them with is to go beyond all typical media and say, from a portfolio-management perspective, what understandings can you get and what insights can you give us in terms of optimizing our portfolio of brands?" Mr. McPhillips said. "So they have gone beyond the traditional, and quite frankly I think a lot of agencies will just come up with a glorified media-mix optimization."
Mr. McPhillips said Mindshare has been able to deliver on challenging briefs and "tough" deadlines, and the volume of resources "it has in terms of talent, in addition to the buying power and clout it has in the marketplace, has enabled them to get some massive efficiencies, and that has set them apart from the rest."
Mindshare's goal with the restructuring was to integrate traditional and digital services into a new, model, full-service marketing agency. Scott Neslund, North America CEO of Mindshare, said the agency is not looking to create 30-second TV spots or print ads, but he wants to be considered for expanded services.
"We recognize that in the future media landscape, there will be other ways to communicate with consumers beyond a 30-second TV spot and a page in the magazine," Mr. Neslund said. "So we want to have a hand in developing that content, because we believe media's involvement is necessary in order to do it right."
The work Mindshare's Invention unit turned out this past year for Sprint and Suave is what really helped separate the agency from its contemporaries. "In the Motherhood" combines consumer-generated storylines with professional production and is being turned into a prime-time sitcom for ABC.
Rob Master, North American media director at Unilever, said in the past year Mindshare has played a key role in helping Unilever innovate and drive brand messaging in a changing media landscape through a number of different tactics, such as developing a "comprehensive and rigorous" look at how to attack digital.
"And certainly in the branded-entertainment space they have a whole new dimension that they have brought to their agency that links media and entertainment with our brand," Mr. Master said.
"Branded entertainment is an important part of what they offer, but certainly a critical part of how they have changed is their massive reorganization, and we are certainly seeing the benefits of that."
Mindshare also produced a branded-entertainment piece for Unilever called "Dove Go Fresh," featuring Alicia Keys.
"Having our brand break through and developing content that best portrays our brand and the story we want to tell in an engaging and entertaining fashion for the consumer is paramount," Mr. Master said. Other branded-entertainment projects produced by Mindshare in 2008 include "The Rookie" for Degree and "Plum Card" for American Express.
Eliminating integration fees
Mindshare used its clout to establish itself as an industry leader in 2008 when it became the first agency to eliminate integration fees, a longstanding charge broadcasters used to hit marketers with for physically placing ads on the airwaves, despite the fact that technology has steadily decreased the labor involved.
Mr. Neslund said the agency's reinvention plan was driven by the mission statement "No rules. Just results," and integration fees were a rule it was time to break.
"We recognize the marketplace and our business in general has many standard rules," Mr. Neslund said. "And our job as a business partner for our clients is to look at those rules and determine which ones should be broken and which ones make sense. And we just thought that the day had finally come when that rule of integration fees needed to be broken."
The agency didn't lose any accounts in 2008 and had a number of wins, including the $165 million Est�e Lauder account and the $90 million American Family Insurance contract. It also experienced organic growth with a number of marketers.