National Geographic Channels Hires Mullen for Digital, Media

$40M Account Change Comes on Heels of Strategic Moves for Brand

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National Geographic Channels has consolidated its media and digital business at Mediahub, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, Ad Age has learned.

The consolidation comes on the heels of a number of strategic moves for the brand and its two channels, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. Changes include new programming and the addition of Courteney Monroe, CMO of U.S. Channels, in November. Before joining National Geographic Channels, Ms. Monroe was exec VP-consumer marketing and digital platforms at HBO.

"The philosophy I had at HBO and continue to adhere to is marketing should be as fun, entertaining and innovative as the program itself," said Ms. Monroe. "It's hard to break through the clutter. In this instance here, I'm not necessarily in a position to outspend competitors. We need to out-swagger and punch over our weight, and create campaigns that have sizzle and breakthrough from a creative and media perspective."

The budget for the work Mullen has been assigned is around $40 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mullen emerged the winner after a competitive review with four finalists, including traditional media incumbent Allscope, Interpublic Group of Cos' UM and Publicis Groupe 's Spark. Santa Monica, Calif.-based consultancy Select Resources International was the search consultant that guided the review process.

"We're proud of the work we've done since their launch 10 years ago," said an Allscope representative. "We put forth a great pitch and story. We're just disappointed they decided to make a change, but we wish them well going forward."

Before consolidating digital business within Mediahub, National Geographic Channels worked with Mediasmith on digital media and 360i on search. The company did not ask 360i to pitch for the integrated business, and Mediasmith declined to participate.

"We did a lot of great work for them and had a great relationship with them," said Mediasmith CEO David Smith. "It's a complex piece of business. and it was apparent that the client was leaning toward a larger shop. We decided to let our work speak for itself and go with the clients bringing us business."

National Geographic Channels works with some outside firms for creative but handles most of the business in-house.

Part of Mullen's appeal was that the firm "specializes in propelling challenger brands," Ms. Monroe said.

"We see [this win] as being big for this media organization," added John Moore, chief media officer at Mediahub. "Challenger brands are a big part of our secret sauce." Those brands include Barnes & Noble's Nook, Fage Yogurt, Olympus and LivingSocial.

For National Geographic Channels, which competes with the likes of History and Discovery, Mullen will support new programming.

"It's fair to say that we're moving in the direction of creating more series; it's an opportunity to [move beyond] just documentary one-offs," said Ms. Monroe, referring to "Killing Lincoln" and the upcoming series "Wicked Tuna," featuring real fishermen in Massachusetts. "We're doing more with captivating characters and contemporary storytelling. It's a departure from where we've been."

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