MediaCom named Marketing media agency of the year

Smart pitching and innovation helped to give this shining star of client satisfaction the edge over its rivals in 2004, writes Colin Grimshaw.

For the media world, 2004 had a slow start before roaring into life with the award of the year's mega-account reviews -- Unilever's 1bn euro pan-European business and Nestle's $1.5bn global account. These put MindShare, which won Unilever and shared Nestle with ZenithOptimedia, on top, but MediaCom's overall performance gave it the edge to become Marketing's Media Agency of the Year.

Conflicts with existing clients precluded MediaCom from pitching for the two mega-reviews. Nevertheless, business wins totalling £194m, including £21m of direct work, demonstrate that the agency has been no slouch in picking up new business.

Twenty-three clients joined MediaCom's roster in 2004, with the £71m BSkyB account, £23m T-Mobile business and Entertainment Film Distributors' £26m work filling gaps in its sector coverage. The addition of Churchill Insurance's £12m account consolidated its grip on financial services.

Picking up BSkyB, confounding all predictions, was the year's highlight. MindShare's close ties with Sky bosses seemed to make it a shoo-in, but MediaCom proved why it is the agency rivals fear most by out-gunning MindShare with a smarter pitch.

A commendable reputation for client service saw MediaCom retain its existing clients. GlaxoSmithKline is one such happy customer. Its UK advertising director, Andy Bolden, says MediaCom has been instrumental in challenging the way GSK's marketing function views media. 'It is not only a quality buyer of advertising space but an integral partner in our business, and involved in every way that our consumers engage with our 31 brands,' he adds.

Horlicks was one GSK brand to be given a MediaCom overhaul in 2004. The brief was to find a new market for a brand consumed almost entirely by geriatrics. A target audience of stressed 35-plus women juggling family with careers was identified. Monday was found to be their most sleepless night, so, with a limited media budget, MediaCom hijacked Monday night TV for 13 weeks with targeted ads running through to the end-of-evening 'wind-down ritual.' In the first month of the campaign, sales increased by 28% year on year. The settle-down increase was 10% and the consumer age profile was lowered significantly.

Another challenge for MediaCom was to increase shoppers' visits to IKEA's London stores. Londoners are less likely to engage in DIY, and people for whom home decor is not a priority were targeted. MediaCom's

Consumer Insight team interviewed the target group and had them assess interiors on neutral ground so they did not fear being criticised and were not influenced by their own interiors.

The interviews revealed that TV, the medium of choice for furniture advertisers, would not work with this group, as it is viewed in their homes -- their comfort zone. TV was replaced with Tube and bus activity, eroding the group's inertia daily. The campaign generated a 700% sales uplift in the three London stores, with an increase in return on investment to £6 for every £1 spent - 30% higher than other stores.

Innovation through collaboration with media owners was shown by MediaCom's link-up with Clear Channel to create a street sports and music event, Download, for Snickers. It attracted 103,000 enthusiasts, and was carried through to all the brand's communications. Snickers is to repeat the event, which will fundamentally influence its European strategy next year.

Client service levels are enhanced by the ability of the agency to retain its staff, epitomised by chief executive Stephen Allan and deputy managing directors Nick Lawson and Jane Ratcliffe, who possess 50 years of combined service to the agency.

Client service was widened in 2004 with RWC Plus, extending its Real World Communications integrated communications planning service, which delivers joined-up thinking on strategic client issues. RWC Plus provides the service to other agencies such as Karmarama, which can offer it as an own-branded solution.

With clients in most sectors, MediaCom's future lies in organic growth and converting UK clients into global ones. Part of WPP, following the acquisition of its parent, Grey, it will also contribute further to WPP's Group M power-buying offer, joining MindShare and Mediaedge:cia.

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