VaynerMedia’s most memorable campaign of 2020 was a Super Bowl ad backing Planters, which Kraft Heinz sold a year later. Gary Vaynerchuk sees that as unqualified success.
The death of Mr. Peanut and his resurrection as Baby Nut, besides being arguably the most talked-about campaign of the Super Bowl, helped land Kraft Heinz a $3 billion haul from Hormel at a good price—more than three times brand revenue.
“I think they did extremely well,” says the VaynerMedia CEO and founder. “That business turned significantly under our AOR watch, which gave them leverage to move a product that is off strategy.” That VaynerMedia is making Super Bowl ads at all–three just in 2020–is remarkable. Vaynerchuk became notorious for foul-mouthed tirades at industry events advocating social media and decrying marketers plowing too much money into TV. (He notes that he’s always argued for the Super Bowl being the exception—a TV buy that works largely because of social media impact.)
VaynerMedia for years got social media assignments and small projects, but seldom AORs. But now it increasingly sits at marketing’s adult table. In a pandemic-ravaged 2020, the shop eked out 2% revenue growth and 25 new business wins, including TikTok, O-I Glass and Panera, while growing with existing clients ScottsMiracle-Gro, Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft-Heinz. VaynerMedia added media duties to a growing number of accounts and began building its e-commerce and consulting units.
Just a couple years ago, Rob Lenois knew little about Vaynerchuk. Then the former Grey creative, while on the subway, read a post from him about creating a culture that can thrive. That led him to talk to a former Saatchi & Saatchi colleague who’d moved to VaynerMedia, then to Vaynerchuk. They clicked. He got hired as chief creative officer. And almost immediately Lenois was birthing Baby Nut.
Lenois says he wants to win creative awards, but appreciates the shop’s primary focus on business results.
Wanda Pogue, former Saatchi, New York, chief strategy officer who took the same role at VaynerMedia the same time as Lenois joined, agrees. “Because Gary is a successful businessman, he challenges us to run our business through the lens of the client,” with a focus on results, she says. “That’s really what gets celebrated within the agency.”