When Mediahub won Ad Age’s Media Agency of the Year for 2018, the Interpublic Group of Cos.’ shop had picked up Dropbox, Bloomin’ Brands, New Balance and Staples. The next month, it swept up the $200 million Fox Sports and Fox Entertainment account.
Since then, Mediahub went on to see its best new business performance in its 15-year history—winning 12 accounts alongside Fox, including Navy Federal Credit Union, Pinterest, Twitch, Hawaiian Airlines, At Home, Formula E, Fujifilm INSTAX and Pluto TV. The agency ratcheted up revenue by 36 percent and its headcount jumped to 500 people domestically and 800 globally.
The agency was so successful in 2019 that leadership put in place a new-business moratorium from September through November, turning down several new opportunities to focus on work for existing clients.
It was a tough call that led to impressive results. By tapping into the creative chops it’s known for within the media sphere, Mediahub enticed Gen Z to engage with New Balance within Fortnite; got adult animation fans of Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” pumped for his new Netflix medieval times-era fantastical series, “Disenchantment”; and even tackled Major League Baseball fans’ biggest complaint with the MLB.TV app (that it runs a “commercial break in progress” static ad for two minutes during live games) while promoting Outback Steakhouse’s home delivery offering in the process.
“Success begets success is probably the easiest way for us to explain it,” says Global CEO John Moore. “We were coming off 2018, had a really good year, and thought ‘How can we set ourselves up for an even better, more successful 2019?’”
Part of setting Mediahub up for the long haul involved separating from MullenLowe and taking ownership of its own P&L, which it did quietly last year.
“The challenges for media agencies and the challenges for creative agencies are similar but different,” Moore says. “We needed to be able to invest in the things that make Mediahub the best media shop and not invest in things that have nothing to do with being the best media shop. We really just wanted to control our own manifest destiny.”
So last October, Interpublic Group of Cos. agreed to spin Mediahub off from MullenLowe—a recognition by the holding company that the shop had reached the scale and visibility of the other entities within its portfolio. Moore moved from global president to global CEO. Sean Corcoran, who has been with the company since 2011, most recently as executive VP and director, became U.S. president.
Mediahub was then able to solidify its mission as “the media agency for challenger brands” through a few key efforts. The shop challenged conventional ways of conducting research through its insights-generating tool, Scout. It challenged conventional ways of measuring effectiveness through efforts like basing the success of an L.L. Bean ad buy across Disney last year on revenue increases for the client, not cost per impression.
The shop says in its entry that it challenges “cringeworthy” phrases like “data at the core” by empowering real people to do real things through the development of a tool that generates emotional value scores (called “EV grades”) for every media investment it makes. “Mediahub is dedicated to understanding our brand and business goals,” says Larisa Johnson, senior director and head of brand and influencer media at Twitch. “They’ve been great partners in bringing real-time insights, which is not easy to do when running brand campaigns at a tech-driven company that expects immediate ROI.”
For Outback Steakhouse, Mediahub replaced slates with steaks—aka that dreaded “commercial break in progress” ad that MLB.TV app users detest—with an image of a sizzling rib eye to promote its home delivery. Conversation about Outback jumped 146 percent the month the ad was live.
For New Balance, Mediahub enlisted popular gamer Jack “Cizzorz” Cizek to help create a difficult racecourse within Fortnite inspired by the Boston Marathon, the hometown race of the athletic brand’s headquarters. Winning times received cash, shoes, charitable donations and exclusive apparel from New Balance. The Fortnite stream received 35 million views (only 2.5 million were guaranteed) while 1 million gamers attempted the course themselves, creating a 6 percent engagement rate that is more than six times brand benchmarks.
Moore says Mediahub has grown from about 85 people to 145 in its LA office; from about 75 to 80 in New York to 130; and is now up to 65 staffers in its London office. “The one thing Mediahub has is a certain amount of grit and tenacity,” Moore says. “No one will outwork us. Grit and tenacity are really important. Every one of our leaders brings that to work every day.”