“We resonated with the measurable impact of their [Grey] creative work, which is where we're taking our brand right now,” Halloran tells Ad Age. “Brands are putting all a lot of onus on our media and network partners to help us with proprietary data-driven type of insights, and the work that Grey came to us with around their data, research, strategy and customer perspective was really powerful for us, and was a gap that we have with our internal teams.”
Another aspect that resonated with the 170-year-old company was Grey’s experience working with heritage brands and businesses that are moving at the same “maturity level” as MassMutual, five years after its brand relaunch.
While a four-week review might seem a short turnaround for some companies, this isn’t the first time MassMutual has undertaken an expedited search. In 2017, MassMutual, with the help of Sunday Dinner founder Lindsey Slaby, conducted a three-month review, eliminating RFPs altogether, and eventually choosing Johannes Leonardo. Similarly, this time around the company worked with Slaby to create an extensive brief about its brand before reaching out to agencies.
“We do a full brief on everything you need to know about the business,” Slaby says. “We get really clear, ‘This is what it's going to take for us to make a decision.’ We don't do creative. We're not asking for spec work.”
Halloran inherited MassMutual’s in-house marketing team when she joined in 2016 and has been working towards building a creative team to align with its brand needs moving forward. She’s been making progress by hiring creative talent with external agency experience that would know how to work “closely, hand in hand” with agency partners.
“Our internal team strengths right now are definitely around the volume work related to brand governance and building out the way to translate the brand across the different distribution channels,” Halloran says. “We’re looking for Grey to help us take our brand strategy and creative vision to the next level.”
This is a big win for Grey after losing AARP’s brand AOR last year to BBDO, which it had for nine years (Grey remains AARP’s social media AOR). It is also the second big win of the day for a WPP agency, after it was reported earlier that U.S. Navy has retained VMLY&R for five more years.
“We learned a lot about the team at MassMutual simply by how they conducted this review, so it’s easy to see why they are consistently ranked among the world’s most admired companies,” says Cory Berger, global chief marketing officer of Grey. “We’re thrilled to add this iconic brand to the Grey family and look forward to partnering with Jennifer and her team to enhance their growth and success in the years ahead.”
Grey’s first work for MassMutual will be released this summer.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the insurer and its incumbent agency remains good. “We are incredibly proud of our longstanding partnership with MassMutual and what we were able to accomplish together over the last 4+ years,” said Johannes Leonardo in a statement. “From the creation of the Live Mutual platform to the creative work it inspired, we are proud to have been given the opportunity to define the brand's story and have such an impact on an important business.”