Powering a culture of innovation

Fueled by its fierce commitment to culture, UM works to future-proof its people, clients and community.
UM helped BMO launch a global first, the BMO NXT LVL stream on Twitch in partnership with FCB. The campaign featured three episodes on BMO’s new Twitch channel with BMO “gaming relations specialist” Sean Frame playing live games and talking financial literacy.

UM helped BMO launch a global first, the BMO NXT LVL stream on Twitch in partnership with FCB. The campaign featured three episodes on BMO’s new Twitch channel with BMO “gaming relations specialist” Sean Frame playing live games and talking financial literacy.

On paper, UM might describe itself as a full-service media agency and marketing consultancy, but that doesn’t entirely capture it. It sees itself in the business of future-proofing both its clients and its people – and that has been particularly useful of late.

“The last two years have been about learning and evolving,” says Toronto-based UM CEO Shelley Smit. “In this environment of continuous change, our commitment to nurturing a culture of innovation is more important than ever. We’ve had to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, taking risks and exploring new ways to succeed.”

Levi’s Canada partnered with UM on a global-first, immersive brand and e-commerce experience. The agency collaborated with Snapchat to build an AI-powered, double-portal camera lens activation that allowed Gen Z to explore, try on and purchase Levi’s clothing.

Levi’s Canada partnered with UM on a global-first, immersive brand and e-commerce experience. The agency collaborated with Snapchat to build an AI-powered, double-portal camera lens activation that allowed Gen Z to explore, try on and purchase Levi’s clothing.

She says the success of the agency – with offices and about 340 employees in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary as part of the global firm – has come down to its core values of candour, courage and community. “We strive to create an environment where our people feel supported and trusted to stretch their thinking and be more creative,” she adds.

That approach has resulted in a talent turnover rate about one third the industry average, and goes a long way in explaining why Smit was named Media Leader of the Year at the 2021 Media Innovation Awards.

Hershey Canada’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups asked consumers how they felt about the smudge of chocolate and peanut butter left behind in the wrapper. Do they prefer their wrapper clean or sticky? For this UM-led media campaign, the brand leveraged TV, OOH, and an industry-first social media engagement to fuel a national debate.

Hershey Canada’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups asked consumers how they felt about the smudge of chocolate and peanut butter left behind in the wrapper. Do they prefer their wrapper clean or sticky? For this UM-led media campaign, the brand leveraged TV, OOH, and an industry-first social media engagement to fuel a national debate.

UM wants every team member to feel like they can contribute and make a difference. To that end, it makes a point of celebrating innovative and creative work internally – and offering plenty of opportunities for skills building.

Consider the in-house BETTER U development platform, which includes modules on planning, creativity, and insights discovery; and the Futureproof Certified program, which offers advanced skills certification intended to build business acumen.

With patios re-opening, Boston Pizza wanted to break through the clutter and boost sales. To retrain Canadians on how to get back to “patio-ing,” UM created a media-powered, illustrative guide that was brought to life across multiple media touchpoints, including Pinterest and Instagram stories.

With patios re-opening, Boston Pizza wanted to break through the clutter and boost sales. To retrain Canadians on how to get back to “patio-ing,” UM created a media-powered, illustrative guide that was brought to life across multiple media touchpoints, including Pinterest and Instagram stories.

“There’s a phrase we use: ‘Act like an owner,’” adds Richard Fofana, EVP strategy, UM. “We want our clients’ brands to thrive and we want our people and teams to do the same.”

UM encourages its people to expand their skill sets and perspectives to more deeply support clients as business partners – including having clients at the table throughout the process.

To strengthen Neutrogena Make-up Removing Cleansing Wipes’ brand position, UM developed a branded content strategy through a partnership with Bell Media to make them the official make-up remover for Canada’s Drag Race. Neutrogena was integrated through in-show placement and product usage, earning high impression levels.

To strengthen Neutrogena Make-up Removing Cleansing Wipes’ brand position, UM developed a branded content strategy through a partnership with Bell Media to make them the official make-up remover for Canada’s Drag Race. Neutrogena was integrated through in-show placement and product usage, earning high impression levels.

“Clients have to be more involved,” says Smit. “Their business is moving faster, and we have to move faster, too. We don’t have the luxury of time to wait and do the big reveal, and clients are enjoying being part of the phases.”

UM is being proactive. The Futureproof Growth Audit allows it to better understand a client’s business and anticipate what’s coming. UM’s Futurecaster tool, meanwhile, offers a deep dive into a client’s audience, identifying and quantifying emerging media and tech opportunities by segment.

Case in point: BMO NXT LVL, a Twitch channel recently launched with help from UM and FCB that livestreams gaming and throws in doses of financial advice for gamers – a first for a financial institution.

On the social responsibility side, UM has its annual Impact Day, when the team gathers to support local communities. Last year, UM partnered with BIPOC-owned businesses to offer media consulting to help them optimize their media spend while sourcing over $225,000 of media for them.

 

“We’re creating new ways to connect with consumers and new content that builds off what we do,” sums Fofana. Some of those connections in the last year were on behalf of new clients SkipTheDishes, PokerStars, HelloFresh, Mark Anthony and Activision.

In response to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on small businesses, Amex and UM launched a campaign to encourage Canadians to “Shop Small” and to make a purchase with purpose. To drive action, the agency created the #ShopSmallStories video series, launched virtual Twitter pop-up shops profiling owners, collaborated with local influencers and invited cardmembers to act through a social media-driven incentive program.

In response to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on small businesses, Amex and UM launched a campaign to encourage Canadians to “Shop Small” and to make a purchase with purpose. To drive action, the agency created the #ShopSmallStories video series, launched virtual Twitter pop-up shops profiling owners, collaborated with local influencers and invited cardmembers to act through a social media-driven incentive program.

And the results are garnering industry acclaim with the agency pulling in 79 awards in 2021, earning the “most awarded” media agency title for the second year in a row at both the CMA Awards and the Media Innovation Awards, with a pack-leading 18 wins at the MIAs.

“We start every client conversation with: How’s your business doing? What are the drivers? What does success look like?” Smit says. “So, when we talk about innovation, it’s not just about doing fun, interesting things. We’re trying to find new ways to drive better business results for clients – and nothing excites us more.”

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

The 2022 A-Listers:

Intro

Zulu Alpha Kilo: Firing on all cylinders

Initiative: Reinventing the rules of media

Media Experts: An audience tailored approach to brand and client growth

123W: One team, One mission

Zerotrillion: All-or-nothing approach to brand realization

Leo Burnett: Redesigning the consumer-brand relationship

Dentsu: A long-term view

Pomp & Circumstance: A grander vision

Elemental: Finding meaninful connections

Anomaly: Solutions designed for good

Camp Jefferson: Designing choice