The classic burning yule log becomes a blazing rainforest in PSA
To the tune of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree":
You will get an existential feeling / When you hear / Agencies sinking, clients be folly / Pitch it all but brands won’t be calling / Sulking around the industry / Will you get a holiday? / Agencies fearing bankruptcy / Is the new norm of today.
Happy holidays! This is the last Agency Brief of 2019—one of the worst years we’ve seen agencies endure in a long time. Ad Age provides an overview of it all: shrinking budgets, a shift to a project economy and work-for-free demands are some of the accelerating forces that are threatening to push agencies overboard. The story, from Judy Pollack and I, will appear in Ad Age’s last issue of 2019. Don't forget to pick up a copy on Monday—it's chock-full of content that isn't all doom and gloom, too. Here’s to starting anew in 2020.
A fire worth watching
The Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (ARC) has come out with its first-ever holiday initiative this year—for good reason. As the Amazon Rainforest fires, thought to be started by farmers and loggers, continue to ravage the world's largest tropical rainforest, causing the highest rate of destruction to the region in more than a decade, the conservancy is urging people to pay attention.
A 30-second PSA from agency Zulu Alpha Kilo for the conservancy recreates the classic yule log channel—with the yule log burning bright at first and then slowly fading into real footage of the rainforest engulfed in flames with a message that urges people to “closely” watch the “one fire” that truly matters. As part of the campaign, ARC will be broadcasting the #RainforestFireChannel across social media throughout the remainder of December and will be live-streaming the ongoing destruction to call attention to the fact “that every second, the Amazon still burns.” According to ARC, the fires have caused an increase of 30 percent in damages to the rainforest between August 2018 and July 2019. The PSA is running on TV and in cinema, while the campaign includes out-of-home components and pre-roll on Snapchat. Media for the campaign was handled by Interpublic Group of Cos.’ UM.
What goes around, comes around
Finally, something a bit more uplifting.
Also from Zulu Alpha Kilo: the agency decided to break its 11-year-old tradition of sending out holiday cards this season. Instead, the team took the budget they allotted to producing the cards and gave it to one busker, and his adorable dog Milo (who is dressed up as an elf, which is absolutely worth noting). Zulu Alpha Kilo employees surprised the busker, Mo Guzman, at his spot in King Subway station in downtown Toronto. They filed in one by one, each placing bills inside his guitar case and danced along as the musician played Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” The agency says other passersby joined in. Guzman, as seen in the video, clearly becomes emotional as his audience grows—he informs everyone after the song ends that he recently became a first-time dad, having welcomed his daughter into the world only a few months earlier. So, under the weight of increased expenses as a new parent, the act was that much more significant to Guzman. “When I came into the station today, I was expecting to play a few tunes, make some people happy and make some people smile,” Guzman says. “I feel like years of working on the subway and making people smile is really just paying off in its own way.” Zulu Alpha Kilo is trying to inspire others to make a difference in people’s lives this holiday season with the hashtag #KindnessContagious.
Beefing up Shake Shack
Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl reports: Agency Within might want to celebrate its latest win with glasses of ShackMeister Ale. The agency, which embeds its employees into clients’ organizations, is beefing up Shake Shack’s in-house digital marketing team. The pact expands a partnership that was already in place, as Agency Within is already the AOR for the restaurant chain’s app across search, social and other marketing channels. Agency Within says it will focus on strategic marketing partnerships such as Shake Shack’s launch with Grubhub. Its team reports directly to Shake Shack Chief Marketing Officer Jay Livingston. In August, Livingston told Ad Age that he wanted to bolster Shake Shack’s marketing team while keeping as much of the work internal as possible. Agency Within says its other clients include Nike, Spanx, Acorns, Purple and Hugo Boss.
The greatest thing since sliced bread
Pereira O’Dell is bottling its “creative culture for purchase” in an initiative that the independent shop calls the “most innovative” idea since sliced bread. “Growth” is a little bottle of sourdough bread yeast made from a recipe cooked up by the agency’s San Francisco office and cultivated in its New York hub. Yeast, the agency points out, is made by mixing flour and water and then allowing it to “feed” off the air around it. “By making it in our office, we allow the formula to grow from the same air that sparks out ideas,” says Nick Sonderup, executive creative director at Pereira O’Dell New York. The act of literally consuming creative ideas may seem odd but Pereira O’Dell has prior experience in cuisine, having turned an Italian restaurant into its temporary San Francisco office this year.
Internal agency goes external
In an unusual twist, one agency network is buying an in-house marketing team, versus the other way around—which is still rare but does happen (i.e. Target is in talks to buy WPP’s Triad). Dawn—the collective of specialist agencies recently formed by ex-MDC Partners Global Chief Marketing Officer Bob Kantor—announced that it has added Bleacher Report’s in-house creative agency, Playmaker, to its growing network. Sport media’s Bleacher Report only founded Playmaker this year, in an effort to help marketers better craft branded content that resonates with Gen Z and millennials. The agency works with tech company QuickFrame to analyze the performance of the videos and has counted brands like Google, Adidas and PlayStation as clients so far. Playmaker claims to have created eight of the 10 highest-performing branded content videos across Instagram since its founding. “We wanted the top sports marketing agency within our modern portfolio,” Kantor says. “Consistently, we found Playmaker was behind the industry’s best work.”
Wins of the week
Cosmetics company Mary Kay named independent full-service agency Slingshot as its national advertising agency of record across media strategy, planning, buying and analytics. The Dallas-based agency is located just 15 miles from its new client’s headquarters in Addison, Texas. “The team at Slingshot will be pivotal in reaching and engaging our audience in innovative ways,” says Regena Pipkin, director of U.S. marketing for Mary Kay. The company that gives pink Cadillacs to overachieving reps—and which Harper’s Magazine called a “pink pyramid scheme” in 2012—spends an average of $80 million on measured media in the U.S. annually, according to R3 estimates.
Another win for the independents: Barkley was hired to lead all online and offline creative duties for Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. The Kansas City-based shop will also work on the company’s design systems across all of the brand’s communication outlets including digital and social media, web, email and promotions. Barkley expects to debut its first work for the company in spring of 2020. Founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo de Chão is currently based in Plano, Texas, and operates 56 locations in Brazil, the U.S., Mexico and the Middle East. Jason Parks, Barkley chief growth officer, says the agency “had to bring to the pitch a whole brand approach that would resonate with today’s modern consumer.”
GKV, a Baltimore-based marketing firm, was named agency of record for Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, behind coffee brands like Chock full O’Nuts, Hills Bros. and Kauai Coffee. GKV won creative, paid digital media, social media and web responsibilities under the partnership. The agency says it is working with the company’s in-house marketing teams to create campaigns, primarily for digital and social. Work is expected to launch in early 2020.
The hires, moves and promotions
Publicis Communications East, run by CEO Jem Ripley, brings on Nicholas Kim as chief strategy officer, Cynthia McIntyre as chief growth officer and Lauren DeGeorge as executive VP and head of client services. All are new positions. Kim most recently was the managing director for West (not Publicis Communications West; a venture capital and strategic services firm based in San Francisco). McIntyre moves from Publicis Sapient in Atlanta, where she was managing partner of the office. DeGeorge joins from Edelman Digital in New York, where she was senior VP of client services. Publicis Communications East—formed as part of a regional restructuring in the U.S. in July—is comprised of agencies Publicis in New York; Saatchi & Saatchi in New York; Rokkan in New York; Saatchi X in Cincinnati and Springdale, Arkansas; and P&G One in New York and Cincinnati.
Will Graves has been named chief financial officer of WPP’s Mindshare North America. He joins from Dentsu Aegis Network, where he was executive VP of commercial finance in the U.S. Prior to that, Graves was chief financial officer of Vizeum and senior VP of finance at IPG’s Initiative. Graves replaces Joe Scangamor, who was promoted to chief financial officer of GroupM North America in September.
Full-service independent agency Walrus named Ryan Gordon as head of media. He replaces Kevin Porter, who previously led the media department as media communications director. Porter left Walrus after two years with the agency in October. Gordon will now head up the media department, which was established in 2016 and services clients like Lowes Food, Smith & Wollensky, PayPal and Colace. Before Walrus, Gordon was executive VP of performance media at MDC Partners’ Assembly, where he oversaw planning, buying and analytics for brands like Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Elevate and Wordpress.
Abbey Berryman, former president of global business operations at Dentsu Aegis Network, has gone client-side. NBCUniversal has named Berryman senior VP of client partnerships, specializing in automotive and insurance. In the role, she will act as a liaison between the company’s automotive and insurance brand partners and NBCUniversal’s portfolio of advertising offerings. She reports to Karen Kovacs, executive VP of client partnerships. At Dentsu, Berryman was the principal executive on the General Motors account and before that she spent five years at Publicis Groupe’s Starcom Worldwide.
Roger Reierson, CEO of agency collective RR46, is passing the torch onto his son, Andy Reierson. The older Reierson, who has served in the chief executive role since 1983, says he is “confident” that the younger Reierson “will take us to new levels of expertise.” Roger Reierson moves into the role of executive chairman. Andy Reierson will now oversee the company’s operations and management as CEO. He joined Flint Group, one of RR46’s owned entities, in 2006 and became chief operating officer of the larger holding company in 2016. RR46 has a presence in North America and Ghana, Africa, housing companies including AdFarm, Giant Goat, Media Productions, Prime46, Super Studio, Street Smart and Flint.