Gold M2 Universal

M2 Universal

"Our key strength is our people"
by patti summerfield

Yes, it's Gold again for M2 Universal, which has been named Best Media Operation for the third consecutive year.

If nothing else, this media machine is steeped in consistency, which is the bedrock of the Toronto-based agency's success, says president Hugh Dow.

"Our key strength is our people base and particularly our senior management team, many of whom have worked with us for between 15 and 25 years now. It's almost the situation where we can complete each other's sentences. We really do work as a great team."

Both Dow and M2's clients are comforted by this continuity. Likewise, the company has earned a reputation for expertise in portfolio management of complicated, multi-brand/multi-region, short-notice type AOR businesses. Nearly 80% of the agency's billings come from such AOR accounts, says Dow.

Over the past few years, the name M2 Universal has been strongly linked with the term convergence. The agency was a pioneer of big cross-platform campaigns, which have become the norm today, says Dow.

The new battleground for the media management goliaths, he says, is proprietary research.

"I think it's becoming very clear that the syndicated research we have essentially acts as the currency trading tool between the buyer and the seller on a fairly superficial basis, with broad demographic breaks on which audience and price are established," says Dow. "We need to develop our own proprietary research to understand consumers' relationships with media and better connect with consumers."

Like its competitors, M2 Universal has been investing in and working with its own consumer research study - Media in Mind. This global tool was pioneered by parent company Universal McCann and is now the template for its agencies in 29 countries. Data is collected through diaries to track consumers' activities on a half-hourly basis during the course of the day. It looks at what media they come in contact with, their degree of involvement with and attention to media, their mood, and other daily activities including work and relaxing.

"This enables us to cover off areas that syndicated data cannot provide - things like media exposure prior to shopping for example, which is very important for application of the recency theory," says Dow. "It's also very important for finding things like multi-tasking. People - especially the younger generation - are increasingly involved with the computer, television, messaging, virtually at one and the same time."

A major priority for M2 Universal in 2003 has been to absorb the new business it won late last year - Wendy's Canada, Maytag Canada, and candy maker Storck Canada. It recently picked up the Staples business, which it will be up and running with by early 2004. Dow is also in final discussions with two other companies and is confident that M2 Universal will have added somewhere between $35 million and $40 million worth of new business this year. Since reporting billings of $596 million last year, M2 Universal has only lost Linen & Things, roughly a $1 million account, which moved back to its U.S. agency. The final 2003 tally is estimated to fall between $635 million and $640 million.

For the year ahead, Dow is optimistic about the general state of the advertising and media business and predicts a pretty solid 2004 for the industry, with research taking centre stage.

"Without question, a high priority for both the buyer and the seller will be to really refine and improve the basic [media] trading currency. Combined with efforts in the proprietary area, research is going to be a key issue as we attempt to better understand consumers and unearth insights that will enable us to better connect with them."

Striking a balance with Canada's gatekeepers

If you were to use only one word to describe the Balance campaign for Johnson & Johnson, that word would be relevant. From the choice of media partners to the creation of content-rich programming and editorial, the campaign was designed to be relevant to both consumers and the client's brands. The program began in February of this year and is currently being renegotiated for 2004.

The goal
To promote the equity of Johnson & Johnson brands with their consumers in a meaningful environment. The campaign also had to meet the following conditions: exclusive to Johnson & Johnson, it had to provide a quality list for future direct-marketing efforts, and it had to stick to limited brand budgets.

The strategy
Women are the gatekeepers of their family's health, but they are overwhelmed by health information and the different choices for personal and family wellbeing. Johnson & Johnson would break through this clutter to bring consumers information they could trust to help them make the right decisions in their lives - and to deliver that information through any media channel that would be relevant to them.

The execution
M2 Universal brought together media suppliers - Bell Globemedia and Transcontinental - to develop tailored content across their properties, including the CTV network, Bell Globemedia specialty channels, Transcontinental publications such as Canadian Living and Coup de Pouce, and Transcontinental Internet sites.

The Balance campaign includes a daily health and lifestyle television show hosted by Dr. Marla Shapiro, primetime television specials, magazine supplements and an extensive Web site presence. Promotional advertising on all the media properties, owned by the two media suppliers, provides support.

Johnson & Johnson brands are the title sponsors of all Balance content with ownership positions for brand commercials and, when possible, brand messages are woven into content. All promotional support is tagged with sponsoring brand messages.

The results
The link between the brand messaging and relevant consumer content has proven to be powerful for the Johnson & Johnson brands and the client is pleased with the results. Audience numbers are tracking higher than original estimates in broadcast, and the Web site now has nearly 400.0M unique visitors. In less than a year, it has ranked number 13 for Canadian women.

Balance was also a finalist at Cannes in 2003. PS

Copyright 2003 Brunico Communications Inc. All rights reserved.