As Chipotle struggled to regain momentum following several years of foodborne illness issues and bad press, its media agency, MullenLowe Mediahub, got creative: It tapped Foursquare mobile location data to figure out how to intercept “lapsers” during key moments with out-of-home advertising featuring visual reminders of the fast-casual chain.
It worked: During an eight-week test, the shop says, all three markets exceeded sales goals by 82 percent and saw an overall lift of 14 percent compared with a control group.
The Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned media agency has always thought a little bit outside the burrito wrapper, and last year was no different. For Netflix, the agency placed fake listings from Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet”—the main characters play real estate agents—on Realtor.com and Zillow, and put life-size sculptures of people that looked real and seemed to breathe in bus-stop ads for Netflix sci-fi thriller “Altered Carbon.” It also helped Nuveen do a takeover of the Forbes 400; to highlight Nuveen’s focus on “responsible investing, viewers could rearrange the list not by wealth, but by the impact those individuals have had on the world—which garnered a handwritten note complimenting the campaign from none other than Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
“We’re inventing new canvases,” says Laurel Boyd, senior VP and director of media content for MullenLowe Mediahub. She also runs the agency’s R&D (radical and disruptive) lab, a group of digital, social and technology experts that work with clients and media partners to infuse creativity into media. “When we work with a publisher like Forbes, it’s not just about sponsoring the Forbes 400. Anyone would do that,” she says.
Boyd gives another example: Instead of buying sponsorships for client Harley Davidson, it created an actual Winter X Games event. The Snow Hill Climb was a series of drag races up a frozen half-pipe. The client saw three times its riding academy sign-ups over the prior year and reported its best sales in 10 years, the agency says.
The industry took note: In Forrester Research’s recent media agency “Wave” report, Mediahub was named a “leader” in the group of agencies evaluated for its innovative creative approach to media in 2018.
“So many of the media agencies now are talking about data, data, data,” says Mediahub Global President John Moore. “What we always try to do, even though data is incredibly important, is [be] human at the core versus data at the core. Even when I talk to prospective clients, they feel that data at the core gets very trite, no matter how important that is. It doesn’t sound original anymore. … We talk about how humans are really powered by emotion and not reason.”
The media agency, part of MullenLowe Group, went eight and one for new business in 2018, seeing a 25 percent increase in revenue to an estimated $75 million, and $500 million in new billings. New wins included Dropbox, Bloomin’ Brands, New Balance, Staples and Century 21. The shop also saw a 10 percent increase in organic growth. It has 425 U.S. employees in its domestic offices in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Another internal group, the Insight and Action department, uses a tool called ScoutTM to take the media pulse of 5,500 consumers to help its media plans “stay human.”
Chipotle appreciated that deep focus on increased relevance, says the chain’s CMO Chris Brandt. “They’ve done a great job of really shifting gears on a dime,” he says. The result: bigger media plans on more visible and relevant shows as the restaurant shifts from decentralized efforts to become more unified. “They’ve been able to adapt to maybe a more progressive, energetic, centralized marketing style than Chipotle had in the past in a really effective way.”
Chipotle also worked with Mediahub to strike a deal with Turner to guarantee commercials that run on its networks would generate a sales lift, an acknowledgement that marketers are increasingly wanting proof that their commercials work. The agency built out a custom target with Turner and Nielsen Buyer Insights based on card transactions, tapped into Turner’s AudienceNow tool to understand what that target was viewing across Turner’s properties, and built a media plan from there.
Brandt says, “We saw it produced a lift. I’m excited to continue the partnership and to see what else we can do, because we’re encouraged by the early results.”