M2 Universal


If you want something done right, do it yourself.

While that might sound like the interior monologue of a control freak, itís also the sentiment behind the decision by M2 Universal this past year to conduct its own newspaper study. Deciding that NADbank figures did not provide the solid, long-term information on the all-important Toronto market that its media planners needed, the media agency conducted its own study. And it plans to do so again this coming year, says Hugh Dow, president of Toronto-based M2 Universal. "Weíre a major player in the newspaper area and weíre not prepared to move forward unless we have an understanding of the current situation in the Toronto market."

Understanding the current situation - and foretelling what it might be like a year hence - is what keeps the 115 media professionals at this yearís Best Media Operation busy. Dow says that the pace of change in the media landscape, always stimulating, has been accelerating over the past year, with significant changes in ownership, thanks to convergence. "Itís had an enormous impact on the way we go to market, particularly in terms of the media owners we deal with," he says. "Itís a challenge to keep on top of what those changes are and, more importantly, their impact."

Client interest in convergence and how that will work for a media plan has been a preoccupation at M2 this past year, he says. Thatís one of the reasons why proprietary research has become such a critical tool, differentiating media operations and what they can offer clients, says Dow. The days of focusing solely on low CPMs are over. "Itís a much more complicated requirement in terms of understanding what makes consumers work and what media they relate to," he says.

Understanding that mindset is what drives M2. Besides the newspaper study, M2 participated in a "Media in Mind" study, a worldwide research program that is trying to go beyond syndicated research into the minds of consumers and their relationship to the media. "It enables us to explore information and data that is simply not available anywhere else," Dow says.

The hard work seems to be paying off. While it lost AOL Canada in June, M2 landed its best win - Microsoft - soon after. Itís an exciting piece of business, but itís also complicated and the agency is working hard at getting up to speed. Other clients include Royal Bank Financial Group, General Motors, Labatt, Kellogg, Johnson & Johnson McNeil, Nestlť and the National Post.

Billings, meanwhile, are up slightly from last year, with projections hovering around the $500-million mark, compared to $495 million in 2000, he says. "Itís been a healthy year."

Dow expects this coming year to be next to impossible to predict, thanks to the rocky economy. He says that attitudes towards convergence will likely change as well, as media owners re-evaluate just what makes convergence work - and discover just how few advertisers can take advantage of multi-media properties. "Many of them jumped on the bandwagon without assessing what convergence was," he says. "I think weíll see some re-assessment as some realities set in."

Defining the state of convergence

State of the NationCreating and executing true convergence programs - those that take full advantage of media partnerships - is harder than you might think.

Thatís the opinion of Hugh Dow, president of M2 Universal. The agency worked nine months on such a program with CanWest Global for client Royal Bank Financial Group.

"These are not for the faint of heart," he says. "They are very challenging assignments - they take enormous amounts of time and theyíre very complicated."

This past year, Royal Bank challenged M2 to develop a program that would take advantage of the one-stop shopping that media owners are so eager to espouse. Rather than simply buying a bunch of TV spots and magazine pages, the agency decided to take the project one step further. It went about creating content that was relevant to Royal Bank customers and, at the same time, could be used in all the communication channels a media owner harnessed.

Three months of think-tanks ensued wherein it was decided that a quarterly "State of..." survey would be conducted. The results were then taken and used in the various CanWest concerns. The first survey was a comparison of Canadaís economy with that of the U.S., called "State of the Nation." The results were spun into a half-hour program on Prime, and vignettes from the poll findings were packaged for CanWest news programming. Meanwhile, a 12-page supplement, reaching 2.2 million readers, was created for the National Post and other Hollinger-owned papers. Content was also created for various magazine properties (Saturday Night and several business publications) as well as for the Internet.

"It was an interesting challenge in terms of taking that content and creating appropriate content for each of the media and then tying them together to take advantage of cross-promotion activities," Dow says. The client has since followed with "State of Education" and "State of Health Care" surveys, and will be completing at least one more survey over the next six months.

The effort turned the traditional process on its head. Rather than following the creative process, the media function led, he says. "Thatís a dramatic change." Added pressure aside, the results made the project more than worthwhile. "Weíre absolutely convinced that this is how the powers of one media owner can be harnessed and capitalized on to create something very, very powerful for an advertiser."

| Agency of the Year |
| Gold: Palmer Jarvis DDB   Silver: Ammirati Puris   Bronze: Taxi |
| Honourable Mention: BBDO Canada |
| Finalists: J. Walter Thompson   Ogilvy & Mather |
| Best Media Operation |
| Gold: M2 Universal   Silver: Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell   Bronze: Starcom Worldwide |
| Best Media Director: Hugh Dow, M2 Universal |
| Judges: Creative   Strategic |
| How do you get to be Agency of the Year, Best Media Operation, and Best Media Director |

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