The A-List: UM

Futureproofing business for a world of uncertainty
‘Impact Day’: UM closes one day each year to give employees time to volunteer and support their community. “Small businesses have been hit hard,” says Shelley Smit, president, UM Canada. “And if you’re Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour, as an owner, there may be the added challenge of being under-funded and under-represented.” So to support BIPOC businesses, employees shared their skills to create media playbooks and offer pro-bono consultation, research and best practices.

‘Impact Day’: UM closes one day a year so employees can volunteer and support their community. “Small businesses have been hit hard,” says Shelley Smit, president, UM Canada. “And if you’re Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour, as an owner, there may be the added challenge of being under-funded and under-represented.” To support BIPOC businesses, employees created media playbooks and offered pro-bono consultation, research and best practices.

If the relentless pace of digital transformation hasn’t created enough uncertainty, count on a pandemic to up the ante. UM chose to confront the unknown with forward thinking initiatives including data-driven learning, a commitment to training and a robust kit of new media innovation tools. It’s all part of what the agency calls its ‘futureproofing’ of people, culture and work.

Let’s start with people. Last year UM invested in an ambitious training program, focused on transforming specialists into ‘investment professionals’ who are better equipped to act on their clients’ strategic business challenges. With clients scratching their heads about the next “normal,” the program could not have been more timely.

To launch Sobeys’ new grocery delivery service and gain a deeper understanding of the target shopper, UM built a consumer-focused messaging engine fueled by full-funnel datapoints at every moment along the eGrocery journey. Voilà By Sobeys saw an 11% month-over-month increase in new customers, doubling the conversion rate and reducing CPA by 65% over the campaign.

To launch Sobeys’ new grocery delivery service and gain a deeper understanding of the target shopper, UM built a consumer-focused messaging engine fueled by full-funnel datapoints at every moment along the eGrocery journey. Voilà By Sobeys saw significant month-over-month increases in new customers, doubling the conversion rate and substantially reducing CPA.

It also paid off in terms of employee retention and job satisfaction. UM’s turnover rate is under 10%, compared to an industry average of 30%, according to UM Canada president Shelley Smit. “This chronic industry problem has now become a client concern,” she says. “In pitches we are routinely asked about our retention rates, and contracts often include retention-based KPIs.”

Then there’s the culture. With the pandemic, UM’s challenge has been building culture remotely. “We have new hires who have never been to our office and never met colleagues in person, so how do you communicate your culture and what it’s like to be part of the UM team?” says Smit. Her solution is a multipronged approach involving weekly check-in emails, a “Curiosity Connects” program which arranges 30-minute connects between random people across the company, and a peer-to-peer recognition initiative called “Better Thank U,” a small way for people to acknowledge a colleague who went above and beyond.

To support Sinai Health’s first-ever public fundraising campaign, UM aired powerfully emotional documentary videos of real patient stories that boosted awareness +16% (vs target of +4%), increased email sign-ups 49% (vs target of +8%) and drove donations +78%, far exceeding goals

To support Sinai Health’s first-ever public fundraising campaign, UM aired powerfully emotional documentary videos of real patient stories that boosted awareness +16% (vs target of +4%), increased email sign-ups 49% (vs target of +8%) and drove donations +78%, far exceeding goals

As for the work, innovation is the key. Take the recent launch of the BMO eclipse VISA Infinite card, specifically designed for millennials. To reach a demographic that has little love for bank advertising, UM deployed an inclusive, multiinfluencer strategy and engaged RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Priyanka to act as lead spokesperson. In a global first, 281 pieces of content were created via the YouTube Director Mix using influencers.

The results? Ad recall at 3X category norms, +650% in site traffic vs. pre-campaign, increase in total card applications of 350% vs. previous period and a remarkable boost in BMO purchase intent – 40X the category launch average.

Flipping the script is another way to futureproof work. If you think millennials hate ads, Gen Zers hate them even more, with 82% skipping past them. So for McCain, Canada’s leading brand of fries, UM took the format Gen Z hates the most – pre-roll – and turned it into a lottery in which getting served a winning ad could earn the viewer a prize. To win, they had to watch a video of fries baking in an oven until it “dinged.” Videos of various lengths were produced, some as long as 10 minutes.

To launch the BMO eclipse VISA Infinite Card, UM needed to drive awareness and purchase intent among ad-averse millennials. Built around principal spokesperson Priyanka, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Canada, and supported by other key influencers, the campaign created 281 pieces of content via Google's YouTube Director Mix to drive a sense of personal connection and inclusion. The result? Category-defying conversion and brand-affinity levels.

To launch the BMO eclipse VISA Infinite Card, UM needed to drive awareness and purchase intent among ad-averse millennials. Built around principal spokesperson Priyanka, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Canada, and supported by other key influencers, the campaign created 281 pieces of content via Google’s YouTube Director Mix to drive a sense of personal connection and inclusion. The result? Category-defying conversion and brand-affinity levels.

UM reached 77% of the Gen Z target with over 50 million campaign impressions. The campaign extended the average Gen Z attention span from eight seconds to 64 seconds. And while YouTube’s engagement benchmark is 20% completion for :30 ads, UM’s significantly longer pre-roll baking videos had a 25% completion rate.

UM’s approach is garnering acclaim. Over the past two years, they have received more industry awards for client work than any other media agency in Canada. UM was the most awarded media agency at the Media Innovation Awards and the CMAs, WARC’s #1 Canadian agency for effectiveness, RECMA’s top-ranked agency in terms of vitality and growth and the #1 media agency on strategy’s Creative Report Card. Futureproofing has also meant rolling out new tools.

In response to pandemic lockdowns, UM helped the annual Reese Easter Egg Hunt pivot to virtual with an augmented reality experience through a new Snapchat Lens. Users could search around a room, apartment or house to find the virtual eggs. By catching all 10 Reese Easter Eggs, players had a chance to win free Reese Mini 3D Eggs shipped directly to their home.

In response to pandemic lockdowns, UM helped the annual Reese Easter Egg Hunt pivot to virtual with an augmented reality experience through a new Snapchat Lens. Users could search around a room, apartment or house to find the virtual eggs. By catching all 10 Reese Easter Eggs, players had a chance to win free Reese Mini 3D Eggs shipped directly to their home.

“Our Growth Accelerator is a cross-suite toolkit that covers everything from data mining high-value audiences to activating and tracking those audiences across the right channels.” explains Richard Fofana, VP strategy at UM. “We use Demand Forecaster to carry out predictive modeling by category to help clients anticipate changes in consumer demand and inform scenario-planning. And our Media Futurecaster allows us to map audiences to emerging media and partnership growth opportunities.”

McCain’s “Golden Oven” campaign, aimed at Gen Z, the most ad-avoiding demo of all, took hated pre-roll ads and turned them into pre-roll lottery tickets. Viewers could win simply by watching an ad. The videos were so effective that while the typical Gen Z attention span is only 8 seconds, UM was able to hold it for an average of 64 seconds.

McCain’s “Golden Oven” campaign, aimed at Gen Z, the most ad-avoiding demo of all, took hated pre-roll ads and turned them into pre-roll lottery tickets. Viewers could win simply by watching an ad. The videos were so effective that while the typical Gen Z attention span is only 8 seconds, UM was able to hold it for an average of 64 seconds.

While all these initiatives are designed to help clients grow their businesses, they also help UM team members grow their skills and confidence, resulting in the kind of strategic smarts required to navigate what lies ahead. All of which helps make the future look a little brighter.

CONTACT:
Shelley Smit
President
Shelley.Smit@umww.com

The 2021 A-Listers:

Intro

Zulu Alpha Kilo: from strength to strength

Target: natural born storytellers

doug&partners: ready for whatever’s next

C&B: connecting on a deeper level

Initiative: doubling down on innovation and creating cultural velocity

Media Experts: shaping what’s next

Giants & Gentlemen: the power of unwavering philosophy

Wunderman Thompson: a multidisciplinary service offering

DDB: the power of informed creative

Citizen Relations: making every conversation count