MAOY Gold: Starcom MediaVest Group breaks ground

No, you're not experiencing déjà vu. Starcom MediaVest Group has again exhibited the golden touch, clinching back-to-back strategy Media Agency of the Year titles, a feat achieved by virtue of its ability to break new media ground.

No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. Starcom MediaVest Group has again exhibited the golden touch, clinching back-to-back strategy Media Agency of the Year titles, a feat achieved by virtue of its ability to break new media ground.

A major part of the Toronto-based agency’s success is the creative, never-say-die attitude embraced by its staff, a way of thinking nurtured by CEO Lauren Richards, and one she’s worked hard to keep prevalent within the agency since taking command three years ago.

‘Curiosity is one of the most important characteristics, and an attitude of not taking no for an answer at the entry level, because if you don’t have the right people starting out, then you don’t have people who are promotable into the vision of what you’re trying to accomplish,’ says Richards.

That approach extends to hires at any level, and is reflected in the new talent Starcom brought in this year. Anna Wells – formerly of Canwest’s marketing ventures group where she was responsible for developing integrated marketing programs spanning the company’s media assets – joined the team to head up its Kraft business as VP group media director.

Clearly, the doctrine has taken root, given the slate of inventive work that SMG has pulled off. Recently, the agency orchestrated a multi-platform campaign for Nintendo Canada with CTV to promote the ‘Wii Get Up and Play Challenge.’ It involves a series of customized 30-second spots that connect the promotion to the content of high-profile shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Amazing Race.

Campaigns for P&G’s Swiffer brand and Kraft’s Tassimo coffeemaker (see next page) are both examples of mold-breaking, negotiation-intensive print executions. SMG’s spirit of innovation has also extended to applying practical utility to new technologies. It used alternate reality to plug Tassimo into tech-savvy coffee drinkers with a virtual brewing demo. Richards credits close working relations with creative agencies as a catalyst for its successful executions.

‘I’m a strong believer in huge collaboration with creative agencies,’ she says. ‘I generally think [they] really appreciate working with media agencies that are unorthodox and have people that are more interested in the total communications impact and being creative. The best creative agencies are very [open to] ideas coming from anywhere.’

Starcom’s achievements have been duly noted in accolades. It was named Media Innovation Agency of 2008 by The Internationalist, a U.S.-based global industry pub, after taking home four of its awards for innovation in media, including a Grand Prix for Johnnie Walker’s campaign celebrating Chinese New Year. It won Gold in the newspaper category and a Finalist trophy in the best media plan category for Swiffer, as well as two more Finalist trophies for Tassimo in the creative and consumer magazine categories at MediaPost’s Creative Media Awards (the only Canadian wins). And SMG was named Media Agency Network of the Year at the Festival of Media Awards in Valencia.

Among the 14 or 15 pieces of new business won this year – there were no losses – are RIM, Jim Beam, Samsung and Globalive Wireless’ Wind Mobile. ‘It’s a run I’ve never experienced to this degree, we’ve been very fortunate,’ Richards told strategy on the news of her nomination as Media Director of the Year.

‘I was pretty intrigued by the innovative nature of their work,’ says Will Novosedlik, VP, brand and communication for Globalive Wireless. ‘They showed us some stuff that clearly demonstrated that they could put us in places where you wouldn’t think to see us.’

The facts:

Location: Toronto

Staff: 145

New business: Avon, Boehringer Ingelheim, Globalive, GMAC, Jim Beam, Purity Life, Royal Sun Alliance, TD Bank Financial Group, University of Toronto, White Wave, WSPA

New hires: Claus Burmeister, strategy director; Susan Courtney, VP group media; Robin Hassan, digital director; Todd Patersen, investment director; Anna Wells, VP group media director


Kraft Tassimo makes a kitchen cameo

Television has the reputation for ad avoidance, but print advertising has long suffered the same fate. When reaching out to time-starved, Starbucks-loving, middle- and high-income women to build awareness of the Bosch Tassimo hot beverage brewer, Starcom MediaVest knew the target could hypothetically be reached by magazine, but didn’t think the planned creative would break through the mass of holiday clutter and functional appliance ads.

To stand out and help readers imagine the Tassimo in their kitchens, the agency inserted a clear acetate page with an image of the appliance in front of an editorial page featuring an image of a kitchen countertop. The result was a composite image which positioned the advertised product on the counter in the editorial spread.

SMG executed nine different Tassimo kitchen advertorials in English and French to connect with different readerships. For example, Toronto Life placed the product ‘in’ an urban condo kitchen; for Canadian House & Home, it was a designer kitchen.

To negotiate the church/state divide between advertising and editorial content took dozens of meetings with publishers, editors and agency executives. But efforts paid off as a 42% lift in purchase intent and a 46% lift in brand favourability scores were measured amongst readers. This resulted in a 45% increase in sales in the month of November, followed by a 22% increase in December. All this resulted in a year-over-year increase of 18% in total sales, well above the 3 to 5% goal.

Swiffer cleans up condos

Starcom MediaVest Group went to Procter & Gamble with a growth opportunity based on the burgeoning Canadian condo market. The first-time homeowners and older retired and nearly-retired downsizers driving the condo boom were a new, needs-based segment requiring compact, easy-to-use household equipment. Swiffer was just the brand to fit their new lifestyle.

Starcom worked closely with media partners to create customized creative for the ‘small space’ message and get consumers interested in a low-interest category. The agency set out to reach them with media placements throughout their day. Knowing that many condo-dwellers take public transit to work, Swiffer dominated subway cars with door cards and frames. In a first for commuter newspaper Metro, Swiffer created its own space on the front page by wiping or ‘Swiffering’ editorial content off the page onto the back page ad and through the pages of the newspaper.


In a Canadian magazine industry first, SMG convinced Canadian House & Home to modify an editorial page to include ad content. In the March issue, readers were presented with muddy footprints on the floor in an editorial spread. When they turned the page they saw that same editorial image, but with the muddy foot prints Swiffered out.

Finally, SMG welcomed them home in the evening with a complimentary Swiffer-sponsored newspaper subscription and coupon delivered to their doorstep. Consumers took notice, with a 15% increase in purchase intent. For the Canadian House & Home magazine integration, overall brand awareness reached 64%.

Kellogg’s Special K earns women’s trust

Women between 25 and 49 who are actively managing their shape are looking for quick and simple real food options. Faced with temptation and cravings, they often look for support from their trusted circle to help them stay in control. Special K wanted to establish a relationship with these consumers as their weight management partner.

Starcom MediaVest developed a program timed to coincide with New Year’s resolution season. The agency engaged Yahoo! Canada to host a branded Special K Diet & Fitness channel within the portal. The hub provided tips, tricks, tools and inspiration, as well as connection with other women through Yahoo! Groups. No ads appeared on the home page; content was the only pathway into the hub, including related feature articles, Explore Yahoo information spotlights and a permanent link within the Yahoo Services menu.


A Sunday night/Monday morning offline blitz ran based on the insight that 80% of diets start Monday morning. Rather than a typical throw to URL, offline media – TV, print, digital, PR, in-store and on-pack – invited consumers to ‘Search Special K at Yahoo to create your own program.’

Extensive testing was negotiated with Yahoo. Over 70% of visitors to the Yahoo hub fell within the target demo, and Special K Groups membership grew by more than 415% over Q4 2008. Unique visitors to increased 109% from Q1 2008 to Q1 ’09. A combination of paid and organic search efforts raised the site to the number one organic position on Google and Yahoo.

After the first four weeks of the integrated program launch, Special K saw a 12% increase in volume, gaining 0.2 share points in the cereal category. Purchase intent and brand favourability increased dramatically among consumers who had interacted with the hub.

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Media Director of the Year: Starcom’s Lauren Richards

Next Media Star: J3′s Trevor Bozyk

Silver: OMD

Bronze: Cossette

Honourable Mention: Media Experts

Judging panel