Agency Brief: Former leaders of shuttered M&C Saatchi LA form new agency
The three former leaders of M&C Saatchi L.A., which closed in April due to financial issues caused by the pandemic, have set out on their own. Former M&C Saatchi L.A. Partner and Chief Strategy Officer Kate Bristow, Executive Creative Director Maria Smith and Partner and Managing Director Rebecca McGough have founded My Brilliant Friend, which boasts of being “a more efficient, more personalized and more agile alternative to the traditional ad agency model.”
The three are now partners of the agency while Bristow serves as strategy director, Smith as creative director and McGough as managing director. Bristow says she’s “the happiest I’ve been in a long time” since starting My Brilliant Friend alongside Smith and McGough a few months ago—the culmination of a series of difficult events in her life.
Last September, Bristow took over M&C Saatchi L.A. from her late husband, North America CEO Huw Griffith, after he passed away at the age of 55 from cancer. “I miss Huw every day,” Bristow says. “He died way too young and I will never get over that.”
Then when the pandemic hit, Bristow says M&C Saatchi L.A. was thrust into turmoil after three clients stopped paying the agency, collectively resulting in $1.5 million in owed charges. That experience led Bristow and her partners to form My Brilliant Friend as more of an "ally," hence the name, for clients with a mutual respect for them. My Brilliant Friend has begun working with clients like the San Diego Zoo, which Bristow says has been a strong partner dating back to M&C Saatchi L.A.
Bristow says “clearly” the closing of the office “was quite stressful” but running the agency after Griffith’s death was also difficult. After, she says she and her partners “had a number of soul-searching conversations” and they “put some blue-sky thinking to work” in re-imagining an agency that could benefit everyone involved. She says My Brilliant Friend does not promote “hierarchy or ego”; it does not “put up with” clients that do not treat the agency well; it has a lean model that is led by its hands-on partners and staffs up with freelancers depending on the project; and, even after there is a COVID vaccine, it will remain a remote company to foster a better work-life balance. My Brilliant Friend's focus is in creative and strategy and can serve “a client with an in-house agency that needs a little bit more strategic help with creative” or assisting on smaller projects that wouldn’t necessarily be handled by a big agency of record, Bristow says.
“The three of us, we don’t want to be rich and famous,” she says. “We want to be able to cover our mortgages and be happy. We have this shared vision of enjoying our work lives and having more time with family.”
Advertising Week Europe highlights
Several top names within the agency world took the virtual stage during the first four days of Advertising Week 2020—the first live-streamed iteration of which was catered to the European audience—including MediaMonks Co-Founder and CEO Victor Knapp; S4 Capital Founder and Executive Chairman Martin Sorrell; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Co-Founder, Co-Chairman and Partner Jeff Goodby and Chief Creative Office and Partner Margaret Johnson; McCann Worldgroup Global Creative Chairman Rob Reilly; and Deutsch L.A. Chief Chairman Pete Favat.
Knapp revealed that MediaMonks was the acquisition target of several companies including consulting behemoth Accenture, before he ultimately signed off on a deal with S4, on a panel with his boss Sorrell. “Accenture is very active in our space,” Knapp said, explaining that he ultimately declined the deal, even though “the consultants offered the most money,” because he didn’t feel its integrated technology and creative offering is quite there yet. Knapp said he couldn’t “sell out” and “tell our teams that we are owned by Accenture.” (Who wants to tell David Droga?)
Goodby led a critical discussion warning people of social media’s harmful effects, and advertising’s role in perpetuating them, with Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that educates and advocates for safer technologies and helped form the Stop Hate for Profit coalition. Steyer said parents need to be wary of the algorithms that are designed to monopolize people’s attention, which can be harmful to children's development, and the pervasive bullying and insecurity it's generating among kids. “People don’t understand” that they are being manipulated by their phones “every day,” Goodby said. Steyer added a criticism of Facebook in particular, which he said has waged “a fundamental assault on our democracy” by allowing misinformation to spread on its platform. He noted that advertisers, as well, need to take more accountability in allowing this to happen by continuing to drive dollars to Facebook.
Johnson, Reilly and Favat came together to mull the creative challenges posed by the pandemic, including pitching virtually to clients that keep their videos off and mics muted. “They do that,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to present to nothing; a wall.” Still, Johnson said she’s gotten better at unlocking the chemistry among her team in a remote pitch, and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as a result has won 12 clients during the pandemic. Reilly noted during the discussion the strain the pandemic has had on people’s mental health, urging people to take necessary breaks and PTO. To ease his mind, Favat said he’s taken up the hobby of making furniture during the pandemic. The three also speculated on the future of awards shows, and whether they will be worth the time and money to attend once they can eventually resume in-person again. “I think they matter until they don’t matter,” said Reilly, noting their importance in promoting creativity as a means for solving business problems and blaming the trades for not giving enough coverage to the virtual awards shows and programs.
On Monday, Advertising Week New York kicks off with another four days of content targeted to its U.S. audience.
Agencies celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Various agencies are honoring Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15., through both internal and external efforts.
The Community, a cross-cultural creative agency, launched a new campaign aimed at rallying Latina moms to fight climate change and, in turn, fight for their kids' futures. The agency is encouraging them to “pinky promise” to their kids that they will #votelikeamadre, i.e. vote on Nov. 3 for politicians with aggressive plans to combat climate change. The agency urges them to do so by painting or decorating one of their pinky nails and posting a picture to Instagram while tagging and challenging another mom to do the same. Participating moms will join several celebrity Latina mothers who have taken the pledge including Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek, Zoe Saldana, Jessica Alba, Jordana Brewster, Joy Huerta and Desi Perkins. The campaign is from Latino Victory Project in partnership with nonprofit Potential Energy Action Network. Horizon led media.
Meanwhile, Chemistry kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month last month with an inspirational content series on Instagram. The series amplified the voices of its Hispanic and Latinx employees at cross-cultural marketing shop Pinta, in which Chemistry bought a majority stake last year. Throughout the month, the agency is highlighting three to four employees who will share their backgrounds, experiences in advertising and the connections they have to creativity and culture.
Wavemaker, part of WPP, is also hosting two virtual events via Zoom for its staff to celebrate the month. The first was held on Thursday and featured intimate and personal readings from Latinx poets Melanie Shaw, Mildred Fuentes-Chung and Susana Marcelo. The second event, to be held on Tuesday Oct. 6, will feature a discussion with Gonzalo del Fa, president of multicultural at GroupM, on the roles both culture and language play in reaching Hispanic audiences. Wavemaker’s Sylvia Feliz, senior director of planning at L'Oreal, will moderate.
Vote It Over
Madison, Wisconsin-based Planet Propaganda teamed up with its home swing state’s Outrider Foundation—it's mission is to inspire votes for environmental and social issues—to mobilize young voters on Nov. 3 to #VoteItOverWith. The highly targeted campaign, geared toward college students and young professionals between the ages of 18 and 30, includes hand-drawn motion graphics that will run on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. The graphics lean on dry humor to get out useful information. For example, one execution is “2020 Time Management” and another is “Easing the Pain of 2020." The graphics drive traffic directly to the official MyVote Wisconsin page, where people can register to vote and request an absentee ballot. The campaign runs through Election Day.
In tandem with the campaign, Planet Propaganda also created an interactive mural (below) in the heart of Madison showing a pie chart with a spinner titled: “Why I Vote.” Possible responses for the spinner to land on include “founding daddy issues,” “cancel out uncle’s vote,” and “swing state (kinda important).” Local businesses including Collectivo Coffee Roasters and Ian’s Pizza are participating by handing out #VoteItOverWith postcards.
“We’re longtime fans of Outrider’s efforts to protect our country and the world’s future, and as Wisconsinites, we’re well aware of how important the 2020 election will be,” says Jeremy Cesarec, strategy director at Planet Propaganda. “It’s crucial that young voters cast what could be the deciding votes, and our message is simple and motivating: in a year where you may feel helpless and defeated, there’s still time to make a real difference by voting.”
Dentsu Aegis Network is now just Dentsu. The international agency business of Japan’s Dentsu Group will encompass 66,000 people globally within the new brand. The move comes as the agency network has continued to work to simplify its offering and follows Wendy Clark officially joining as global CEO from Omnicom’s DDB in September.
Havas Creative North America poached Claire Telling, former North America CEO of executive search firm Grace Blue, as its first chief people officer. In the role, she serves as the strategic leader of recruitment, brand and culture. Havas says a critical part of the position will be ensuring “that the lifecycle of each new employee is an exceptional one.” Telling will partner with global talent and human recourses to develop an onboarding process that “sets up new hires for a fast start and longer-term success,” according to Havas. Before Grace Blue, Telling spent time at agencies including BBH, TBWA\Chiat\Day and 72andSunny.
Deutsch L.A. added Powdr to its roster of clients following a review. The adventure lifestyle company is one of the largest operators of ski resorts in North America, owning destinations such as Copper Mountain in Colorado, Killington Resort in Vermont, Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Snowbird and Woodward Park City in Utah. Powdr also owns Woodward experiential action sports company Powderbird and active adventure cable network Outside TV. Deutsch will handle business intelligence and media responsibilities for a number of its brands.
Horizon Next, part of Horizon Media, was awarded media agency-of-record duties for online mortgage lender AmeriSave Mortgage. The business will be led out of Horizon Next’s New York office. The agency’s scope includes performance, linear TV, OTT, search, social and programmatic. Horizon Media’s data platform Blu will play a key role in the partnership, and Horizon Next says its appointment comes as AmeriSave looks to drive sales and brand awareness in a moment when homeowners are seeking online options to refinance their homes.
Motion picked up two new clients: Prevent Child Abuse America and Illinois Soybean Association. For Prevent Child Abuse America, which works to promote the healthy development of children and prevent child abuse before it occurs, the Chicago-based full-service marketing agency will spearhead its 2021 national campaign and develop its brand messaging spanning targeted research, creative, strategy, social, content and public relations services. For Illinois Soybean Association, which services the state’s soybean producers, the agency will develop a series of integrated educational campaigns highlighting the importance of the Illinois Inland Waterways as a transportation route and the environmental and economic benefits of biodiesel, created using soybean oil.
Secret Weapon Marketing was named agency-of-record for The San Diego Honda Dealers, a collection of 10 local dealerships. Part of the partnership will involve the Culver City, California-based shop helping bring the Helpful Honda campaign to San Diego. The campaign, involving people in blue shirts surprising others with random acts of “helpfulness,” was first launched in southern California in 2007 and expanded to northern Texas in 2017. Secret Weapon Marketing’s efforts will span TV and radio spots, online and out-of-home advertising, as well as real world engagements in local communities with the Helpful Honda representatives.
David Miami is bolstering its team with the hiring of Alex Fox and Chris Serrano as associate creative directors, Vanessa de Beaumont as senior copywriter and Whitney Easom as associate director of talent management. Fox and Serrano join the Miami office from Lucky Generals New York, where they were behind creative for clients like Kellogg's, NutriGrain, and Amnesty International. De Beaumont hails from MullenLowe Boston, where she worked across Jack Daniels, JetBlue and Century21. Easom comes from AKQA in Atlanta, where she was manager of human resources.