Bronze – M2 Universal

Bronze - M2 Universal

It’s been a challenging, demanding, tumultuous year for M2 Universal, says president Hugh Dow. One factor has been the agency’s involvement in a number of reviews, both as incumbent and in new business pitches, all of which netted the shop about another $50 million in billings.

The year started with the CBC win and was followed by other key wins, including additional business from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the entire planning and buying business for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and work for the Canadian Ministry of Health. On the down side, it lost Staples Business Depot business to MediaCom as part of a global assignment.

Perhaps most significantly, M2 Universal has been thrust into the global media operation’s inner circle, thanks to the additional responsibilities accorded Dow as EVP/director of global operations for Universal McCann.

‘Canada was often left on the periphery, but that’s not happening anymore,’ he says. ‘I’m part of the inner circle, which means I know what’s going on, and in many cases I am asked to make things happen globally. Obviously Canada is right in the thick of it, so it’s great.’

Dow’s beefed-up workload and heavy travel schedule have left the agency’s seasoned management team in charge of day-to-day business. Many of the key players have worked with Dow for 10 years, and in the case of Sarah Hill, SVP group manager, 25 years. Others include senior account managers Andrea Parnell, Nancy Surphlis, Christine Saunders and Dennis Dinga, who heads up the broadcast buying group.

Part of the management team’s focus this year has been to build on the agency’s brand expression – Next Thing Now – by zeroing in on six areas of interest: digital integration, product and content integration, developing new communications channels, forming strong partnerships with relevant media owners, experiential media and engagement.

Product and content integration played a role in the Cadillac campaign for GM, which included prominent branding on ROBTv and product placement in CBC’s Dragons’ Den. For RBC and Intel, ambient media was a key tactic. The Intel execution, for instance, involved domination of four major airports and the creation of new media forms in off-limit gate areas such as construction hoardings, along with innovative use of existing structures including pillars and column wraps.

Experiential efforts were developed for both GM and Sony. The latter’s, for example, surrounded the launch of the Talladega Nights DVD which was boosted in the Toronto market by a partnership with The Toronto Sun and 24 Hours. Along with teaser and banner ads, the movie’s main character, Ricky Bobby, took over the covers of both papers. There was also a contest awarding the winner a day at the NASCAR SpeedPark with 20 friends.

On the engagement front, work included a game card campaign for CBC’s Test the Nation; a foray into the blog environment, SMS and mobile ads for Microsoft; and an online game for Cadbury Maynards.

Dow says his global involvement has added an important dimension to these new efforts, particularly in the area of digital and mobile communications.

‘In Canada we’re relatively backward in terms of mobile communications, so being able to bring best practices, experiences and cases from around the globe and learn from them are really important. It’s a great opportunity to capitalize on a global network.’

But Dow says that for him the most difficult challenge was participating in a version of CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance during the Canadian upfronts, doing the cha-cha in front of 2,000 people. ‘I didn’t win, but the fact I did it was an achievement,’ he jokes.

Locations: Toronto, St. John’s, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver

Number of employees: 185

Notable clients: Blockbuster, Cadbury Adams, The Dairy Farmers of Canada, General Motors, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Royal Bank Financial Group, Sleep Country Canada, Sony