During a deepening recession that has marketers looking for the next place to cut spending, it's handy that the Vidal Partnership keeps coming up with new ideas.
|Illustration: Robin Eley|
The biggest independent U.S. Hispanic agency helped two of its clients, Sprint and JCPenney, drive holiday retail traffic by creating hourlong prime-time specials on Black Friday to showcase their brands. The executive-producer role is familiar to Vidal, the leader in Spanish-language branded entertainment, with series on three different TV networks in 2008.
Also looking for new ideas is Johnson & Johnson, after picking Vidal and a smaller creative shop, La Comunidad, as its first Hispanic agencies of record last year.
"We were looking for a team able to help us develop a brand-portfolio strategy," said Liliana Gil, Johnson & Johnson's director of global marketing services. "It boiled down to not just great creative and innovative campaigns but the way Vidal is packaged. Their mind-set was platform-agnostic. On top of that, they challenge us in how we manage our portfolio."
Each division of the highly decentralized company will choose either Vidal or La Comunidad. Vidal has won the first three divisions assigned: skin care, baby care and McNeil over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Some of the brands haven't done Hispanic marketing before, and Vidal is helping them figure out who should be in the Hispanic market and how much they should spend.
Vidal's most ambitious idea is outside the Hispanic market. Gustavo Carvajal, a Vidal exec unofficially dubbed the agency's "cool hunter," brought home a product invented in Australia that plastered a miniature magazine on a water bottle. Vidal spotted the potential for advertisers to include content on their packaging, even turning the package itself into a media channel, perhaps working with a publishing company. The agency tracked down the Australian company, On Product Packaging, and has formed a joint venture to use the patented technology in the U.S. Throughout 2008, Vidal met with marketers and engineers to explain the technology and brainstorm ideas, ranging from mini-magazines of as many as 32 pages to information about a company's rewards program, in the form of little custom publications that neatly adhere to a pizza box or soft-drink bottle.
"Imagine a Sports Illustrated special issue about March Madness on a Domino's pizza box, or delivering information about 'Gossip Girl' through People magazine on Coke bottles," said Chairman-CEO Manny Vidal. "If the Coke bottle was next to Pepsi, which one would you buy?"
Mr. Vidal said the first executions will hit store shelves in early 2009.
Vidal's new ideas -- along with new-business coups such as J&J and JCPenney, two of the Hispanic market's three biggest account moves in 2008 -- pushed the agency's revenue up 15% to $35 million. Vidal was the incumbent on Nissan, the third major account move, which went into review when the carmaker decided to switch to a single multicultural entity.
New business, including a few smaller wins such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and used-car site AutoTrader, accounted for most of the gains in a year when the agency had to work hard to keep existing clients' budgets from shrinking.
"Clients had the choice of making knee-jerk reactions like walking away from the Hispanic market, cutting budgets or consolidating under the general-market agency," Mr. Vidal said.
About 40% of Vidal's revenue comes from below-the-line services such as direct marketing, digital, public relations and promotions. When the Association of National Advertisers added a digital category this year to its Multicultural Excellence Awards, Vidal was the winner, for a Dentyne campaign with a spectacular website. The creative idea behind the print, radio and online campaign was "Say it close up" ("Dilo de cerca").
"We Hispanics tend to stand closer to people," said Alberto Ferrer, Vidal's managing partner-director of direct and digital. "Our need for Dentyne is higher."
The microsite featured zoom technology used in gaming that layered artwork depicting six different worlds full of tiny, active people standing close to each other. Users could click on a blanket of Dentyne gum pieces to enter the imaginary worlds. Visitors spent an average of four minutes at dilodecerca.com.
"Vidal's greatest strengths are in their knowledge of the Hispanic consumer and that they are not afraid of challenging convention," said Daniel Mandelbaum, Dentyne brand manager at Cadbury. "With Vidal's help, we quickly understood that Hispanics don't need a reminder to stop abusing technology and engage in quality, warm, human connections. Our twist was to use the role of Dentyne as the catalyst for closer human interactions, because things become more interesting when you are closer. When the Vidal creatives presented the campaign idea, we immediately loved it."
Vidal hasn't let any of its 193 staffers go amid the lousy economy, although a few open positions remain unfilled in case the recession worsens.