“We were able to show Nike that we can integrate these two parts of media and marketing; that they could find that under one roof,” Maex said.
The changes not only won Initiative the sportswear titan's business outside of North America but also led to the agency taking the Amazon Web Services global performance marketing business from Dentsu’s Merkle.
At the same time, the agency defended more than $1 billion in annual billings with major client reviews including Liberty Mutual, Merck and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Initiative did not lose a single client in 2022.
Initiative went on to hit more than $1 billion in revenue last year, reporting between $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in 2022 revenue. That's up from $850 million to $900 million the year before.
Perhaps more than the wins, Maex said he was very proud of the agency’s ability to defend its accounts. “Our clients clearly want to stay with us, and that’s testament to the great relationships we have with them,” he said.
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Putting data to work
All of the agency’s campaigns are backed by data and analytics unit Acxiom, which the agency said compiles consumer insights from 60% of the world’s adult population across more than 60 markets.
It’s up to the Initiative team to uncover from all that data a sometimes a single insight that will drive an effective media plan.
For example, for client Gilead Sciences, which markets HIV therapies and medications, Initiative was tasked with increasing HIV testing consideration among Black and Latino men who have sex with men in the southern U.S. but who avoid testing due to the stigma. The assignment was part of the marketer's promotional efforts last year for its HIV docuseries “Blind Angels.”
The agency zeroed in on one key insight: Men who have sex with men in the South find comfort in shared experiences but are often too scared to share their own. Initiative set out to give these men a discreet safe space to share their stories through a custom eight-episode podcast, “In the Deep,” which had private access.
It then further destigmatized the conversation by integrating the importance of HIV testing into mass programming including “All American: Homecoming,” a sports drama on Netflix.
The campaign led to 30 million people tuning into “Blind Angels," along with 100 million impressions and nearly 500,000 downloads for “In the Deep,” with an impressive 75% completion rate. The campaign more importantly drove 48,000 sexual health visits and 8,000 HIV tests (which was twice the goal) among Gilead's target audience.