BY WENDY CUTHBERT
At Starcom’s two-year anniversary party this past October, Terry Sheehy was heartened by the number of revelers. "I looked around the room and thought ‘Boy, we really are doing well,’" says the chairman (Canada) of Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG). "I see all the new hires and I know they come from growth."
In fact, Starcom hired 19 people in 2001 and now has over 70 media professionals on its roster. In this past year, the agency has managed to land 10 new assignments from both current and new clients, including becoming the buying AOR for the Canadian operations of Old Navy and the Gap, and the Canadian media planning and buying AOR for Guinness. The agency has also worked on some local radio and out-of-home assignments for the Coca-Cola Company, for which it boasts local AOR status on both fronts. Other clients with new assignments include Amurol Confections, Walt Disney World, Disneyland, AOL Canada and Visa International.
Projected media billings for 2001 are up $35 million over 2000, and the total annual media billings for Starcom MediaVest Group Canada (parent to both Starcom and MediaVest), are now over $410 million, placing it firmly within the top five media companies in this country.
"We’re on a two-year roll," says Sheehy. He adds that something rarely discussed is the fact that Starcom isn’t losing any business - no mean feat in today’s competitive environment. Of course, with the dramatic leave-taking of Kellogg back in ’99 - after a 45-year history with Leo Burnett, no less - it could be argued that Starcom has experienced its fair share of loss.
A lot has changed since then. Pre-Starcom, Leo Burnett’s media department didn’t have a research director. It didn’t have an online planning division, nor did it focus on direct response.
This past year, the agency has put much more emphasis on research, according to managing director Scott Neslund. One study it undertook, for example, looked at how moms and kids watch TV together. By combining qualitative phone surveys with People Meter data, the agency put together a recommendation on how to best reach the two groups in a mix that hadn’t been considered before, according to Neslund.
"We showed clients how they can reach both groups and spend less money," he says, adding that the research helped out two clients in particular. "We saved them about 15% of the TV budget with that information."
Research is what defines - and will continue to differentiate - the operation, says Neslund. With the tag "Knowledge and insights ahead of the marketplace," Starcom is promising that it’s "not just talking about buying 10% lower CPMs," he says. "It’s about what we can tell them about the target audience, media habits or a media contact idea that will make them stand out and do a better job communicating."
To better serve clients such as Walt Disney World, Starcom launched its direct response division, Halogen, in October. "Direct response media buying is probably one of the most accountable services an agency can offer," says Sheehy.
Starcom is a full-service brand contact agency providing clients with media planning and investment, sports marketing, entertainment and ethnic media expertise, as well as online buying and strategy via its sister company Starcom IP.
As to the future, Starcom is looking to fill in some of its holes. "There are still a couple of big categories that we’re very interested in pursuing," says Neslund, adding that he hopes to land an automotive client among others. After such a successful year, the agency feels it’s poised to move forward, he says. "We’re kicking ass."
Heading underground for Urban Alphas
Because the Urban Fusion event was going to be a fashion show within a party, the people most likely to attend were not the city’s fashion followers so much as the city’s party-goers.
The key, in other words, was targeting the ultimate cool people. But how to reach so-called Urban Alphas - people the cool people think are cool - who consider fashion, music and clubbing a way of life?
Party magazine editors, DJs, bartenders, club promoters, clubbers and ravers were consulted to determine just what makes these people tick. The result? Media would target Urban Alphas’ passions by being a presence in all aspects of their party lives.
Because music, fashion and partying were the three passions for the group, the agency decided to hit them on all three fronts.
To tie the event in with music, Starcom planners picked radio stations that appealed to the target’s musical interests. Edge 102 and campus stations were chosen, and all produced spots in their own voice to add credibility to the appeal.
Print-wise, research revealed that the target group relies on fairly obscure vehicles for party information, so Starcom bought into non-PMB pubs, such as Klublife, Tribe, Vice and Lola, the latter featuring a front cover splash directing readers inside for more information.
In-bar advertising was another element of the Urban Fusion strategy, with a focus on washroom advertising. An interactive component rounded out the plan with banners and microsites linked to Internet partners such as 1Groove.com, a site dedicated to urban and underground music.
In the end, the proof was in the ticket sales: Buzz was generated and the event sold out.
| 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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