New direction, new handle

The name is gone, but the influence - not to mention the man, himself - remains. After more than 40 years of having the name Wunderman eponymously associated with that of the organization - most recently as Wunderman Cato Johnson -...

The name is gone, but the influence – not to mention the man, himself – remains.

After more than 40 years of having the name Wunderman eponymously associated with that of the organization – most recently as Wunderman Cato Johnson – the global direct marketing agency has renamed itself in a bid to better reflect new service offerings and research and development capability.

Trish Wheaton, managing director of the Toronto office of the newly named Impiric, admits the change is heavy with significance – especially considering founder Lester Wunderman is still actively involved at Impiric’s headquarters in New York.

‘I’ve known Lester for years, and I had a very interesting moment with him recently,’ Wheaton recounts. ‘I looked at him and said, ‘So, are you really OK with this?’ And he just looked me in the eye and said he was more energized about this company now than when he founded it, and it’s exactly what we should be doing.

‘We’ve all been very sensitive about the man whose name is on the door. It’s a big moment when it comes down.’

Impiric was actually the second name chosen for the company. The first selection was ‘~ology,’ but it was nixed by corporate parent Young & Rubicam before it could be unveiled.

Wheaton insists the name change is not merely cosmetic.

‘It’s significant on several fronts,’ she explains. ‘First of all, changing a name with that much heritage to something totally different certainly is a seismic action, both on the part of this company and how much it resonates in the marketplace. Wunderman has always been the sine qua non of traditional direct marketing. What makes this more significant is that it represents how much this company has changed in the past 20 months.’

Those changes include John Bingle taking over as CEO in summer 1998, and the broadening of the scope of the former WCJ’s capabilities to include customer relationship management, teleservices and sales promotion, along with database marketing and traditional direct marketing services.

‘The market has changed fundamentally, and it’s changed forever,’ Wheaton says. ‘One narrow bandwidth solution doesn’t work for anybody anymore. You have to manage all the different marketing activities and bring them together in a very thoughtful way.

‘The Wunderman name telegraphed traditional, below-the-line direct marketing to current clients and prospective clients so much that it was something – as great as it has been and as proud as we are of it – that we had to change to really get clients to look at us in a new way.’

Lester Wunderman will serve as worldwide director of the Impiric Marketing Lab, a research and development facility concentrating on proprietary solutions in CRM, smart card technology, interactive television and Web-based marketing.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group