On the global stage, MindShare is equally at home transforming Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s lackluster image by producing the smash hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" reality show in the U.S. or dining, as CEO Dominic Proctor recently did, with the reclusive president of China's gigantic national TV network CCTV in Beijing.
MindShare won an unmatched $3.4 billion in new business in 2004. As the media engine of WPP Group, MindShare was an enticing part of WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell's offering in the year's two big global pitches at the holding company level, HSBC and Samsung Electronics. On its own, MindShare won the largest European media review, for Unilever's $1.2 billion media business, and picked up $500 million in Nestle's rolling global review of its biggest markets.
In a complex media world, MindShare reassures the biggest multinational marketers that they can be visionary, innovative and connect with consumers-with MindShare's help.
MindShare "is very good at demonstrating what they think the future will be, what it can be and what it should be for clients like us," says Tom Freitag, Nestle's Geneva-based VP-media. "So a company as diverse as Nestle can be at the leading edge of development in media as opposed to being reactive."
Those new-business coups alone might have been enough to persuade Advertising Age to tap MindShare as Global Media Agency of the Year for the second year running. But MindShare's senior staff also exhibit a broad understanding of the industry's evolution into developing markets as well as new areas like branded content.
SECOND ONLY TO U.S.
"The direction of change is much easier to predict than the pace of change, but certainly India and China will become overwhelmingly important businesses for us. In terms of the scale, I think they will become second only to the U.S. in the next five years," says Mr. Proctor.
Mr. Proctor officially splits his time between New York and London, but his frequent visits to Asia are increasingly noticed by local players, who appreciate MindShare's growing clout. His last stop in Beijing, for example, included a lavish dinner at the China Club with Luo Ming, deputy station chief for CCTV, China's national TV network. "It was a real honor, Mr. Luo never met with foreign advertisers in the past," recalls one of the agency's Beijing-based executives, "but MindShare has become an important client for CCTV."
MindShare's innovative approach to media buying has won marketer attention. MindShare realized early on, Mr. Proctor says, the most creative elements of successful marketing programs are now media-driven. That awareness "provides unique opportunities to better serve our clients' evolving marketing needs and allows us to differentiate ourselves. We have a broader strategy than most media agencies. We do a lot of work in Hollywood, for example."
In the U.S., for instance, MindShare produced "Extreme Makeover" on ABC for Sears. The reality show revamps homes owned by disadvantaged families using tools and equipment from Sears. The program not only helped the department store transform the way American consumers view its long-faded brand, it also revitalized employee morale across the country.
INUNDATED WITH CALLS
"The show had a remarkably good effect," says Mr. Proctor. "The head office was inundated with calls from store managers and employees who were proud to be with the company."
Through a new division called MindShare Entertainment, run by TV programming veteran Peter Tortorici, the media agency is finding other avenues into the programming arena. MindShare recently produced a six-part drama series called "The Days" with ABC for Unilever and Sears, and future series are in the works. During its initial six-week run, it attracted 5.5 million viewers a week on average, namely teens and young women.
Outside the U.S., MindShare has found unusual but equally innovative media solutions. In India, for instance, it raised the profile of Unilever's Ponds skincare brand by tapping into a national affection for beauty pageants. It associated Ponds with the annual Miss India contest and even gave the event greater audience participation by inviting Indian viewers to submit questions that would help select the winner.
MindShare launched its own cable channel in India, called T Matrix, featuring serials/series and blockbuster movies. The channel offers an advertising platform for MindShare's clients, but, more importantly, it helps the agency carry out localized marketing programs.
The media agency is also quickening its pace in fields like research. Last year, MindShare rolled out MindSet to provide an understanding of consumer channel usage by time of day. MindSet measures respondents' media usage and reactions at the moment messages are received in real time via PDA devices, improving its understanding of non-traditional media.
MindShare also developed a Print Passion survey to improve its media planning among print titles in India. The survey, which will be rolled out globally, goes beyond traditional, average issue readership statistics. Instead, it establishes audience involvement with specific publications, probing questions on behavior, attitudes and perceptions about publications.
These research tools have led to highly effective media campaigns such as a low-budget effort to help Volvo market its new S40 model in Europe via an 8-minute pseudo-documentary. The film cleverly blurred the lines between reality and entertainment to position the S40 sedan as a cool car for urban sophisticates, also bringing younger consumers to the brand.
MindShare's "The Mystery of Dalaro" campaign for Volvo's S40 produced 12 million Web exposures and more than 1 million visits to Volvo sites in key markets, which helped European sales exceed targets by as much as 40%. About half of the Web visitors watched the documentary and 20% requested an S40 brochure.
And MindShare helped Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies diapers defeat Procter & Gamble. Co.'s Pampers in a $300 million battle in Europe. Pampers' above-the-line media expenditure was between two and three times that of Huggies in the key markets, and it led Huggies both as a brand and in creative ad executions, making it the default choice for mothers.
MindShare developed a communication strategy for new creative featuring a baby-centric view of the world that increased value share points by 6.5% across Europe, accounting for an incremental $90 million in revenue.
Besides its creative success stories, MindShare cushioned WPP's financial standing by picking up $3.4 billion in new business in 2004. The new assignments include two sizable accounts won through group pitches, HSBC and Samsung Electronics.
"There are the normal arguments of scale and resources. They have depth and breadth and a great network of offices," Matt Rayner, global media director at Cheil Communications, says about MindShare's appointment by Samsung last year. Seoul-based Cheil is Samsung's in-house agency that oversees its marketing.
In addition, MindShare has made "great leaps and bounds in creativity, strength in media innovation in the way they reach consumers," says Mr. Rayner. "Our markets are immensely competitive-just recently Nokia and Motorola have started to innovate again, so we need to break through. We're targeting the same consumers, and we need an agency that can really deliver."
But most of MindShare's new business came through independent pitches. For example, it recently picked up Nestle's $500 million global media account, Unilever's $1.2 billion European assignment, the $150 million planning assignment for Vodafone in Japan and Danone's $100 million account in Italy. During the same period, the agency's biggest loss was the ONDCP work in the U.S.
"It's a good strategic thinking company combined with the accountability, efficiency, benchmarking and return on investment that go with managing vast amounts of Unilever's money as our media partners," says Alan Rutherford, Unilever's global media director in London.
The agency created "great multichannel work on Axe in the U.S., such as sponsorship of a pre-MTV Awards concert at a pier in New York, and in-store Wal-Mart ads," Mr. Rutherford adds.
However, MindShare is unlikely to save one of its largest accounts, Gillette Co., which spends more than $900 million in global media. In late January, P&G announced plans to acquire Gillette for $57 billion in stock, and P&G does most of its $5.5 billion in marketing spending through Publicis Groupe.
Given P&G's policy of consolidated media buying and a potential conflict with Unilever, Gillette's media business may move to a Publicis media shop after the deal closes. Gillette has grown its media spending with MindShare over the past two years.
"Of course I'm concerned [about MindShare's Gillette work], but we've had no formal conversations with Gillette or P&G so far," Mr. Proctor told Ad Age early this month.
Still, MindShare predicts continued growth in 2005, thanks largely to the network's stable management team. The agency's top executives, including Nick Emery, chief strategy officer; Kelly Clark, CEO of its U.K. operation; David Byles, president-CEO, Latin America; and John Steedman, chairman, Asia/Pacific, have worked at MindShare since it launched seven years ago.
MindShare Activity in 2004
Vodafone Japan (Japan) (planning)
News Ltd. (Australia)
Belgium Lottery (Belgium)
* A spoof documentary called "The Mystery of Dalaro" helped celebrate the launch of Volvo's S40.
* Cravings Men caused mischief in nine U.K. cities for Pfizer's Nicorette as a part of National No Smoking Day.
* Nike's Football Zero Four, an online game played via MSN Instant Messenger, was a hit with soccer fans.
* Steaming mugs on Taiwanese taxi signs help GlaxoSmithKline attract attention for its Panadol cold remedy.
* This European ad for Sony PlayStation's "Mountain" campaign was presented in a cinema style.