"The future of our business is research into understanding consumers"
"Fueling brand power" is the rallying cry that has driven this year of change and internal focus at Starcom Worldwide. That positioning statement led to a restructuring of the operation and a rejuvenated client-centric consciousness, evident in a major investment in proprietary research tools.
"For us the future of our business, what we're focusing on for today and tomorrow, is research into understanding consumers," says Jeff Marchand, general manager of Starcom in Toronto. "The media business will only grow if it takes on a higher role with clients and their brands. That means creating results by focusing on our clients' businesses and the metrics that make them successful rather than 100 GRP indexes and that sort of thing."
Marchand says that's why the agency has invested so heavily in SMG Insights, its research division. He believes that the research side of the media business must shift its focus onto the consumer, instead of doing the traditional PMB and Nielsen reach/frequency runs.
Reflecting this shift is a new focus on consumer-based tools: Surveillance, SMG Insights' ongoing proprietary consumer panel research, and Consumer Contact Audit (CCA), another proprietary piece that allows the agency to correlate and gauge the awareness and relevance of hundreds of potential media channels against their exposure to consumers.
As part of its restructuring, Starcom has discarded its specialized media investment groups in favour of a new organization that brings buyers and planners back together in Fuel Teams - small groups dedicated to a set roster of clients. These teams are supported by SMG Insights, Imprint, Starcom IP, and Halogen - diversified service divisions with expertise in research, media-neutral innovation, Internet/online and direct marketing, respectively.
Paul Maher, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Canada, says the restructuring has made the entire company much more accountable and responsible to clients. As a result, he adds, plans and recommendations are much more focused around the brand and brand results than in the past. The teams are also more involved in the client's business.
"If you say to a buyer, you're just focusing on buying, that buyer loses sight of the fact that buying is part of what we deliver.... When you break planning and buying apart, there's a break in the link of communications in terms of what are the key drivers for clients to achieve results."
Starcom experienced growth of roughly 3% this year, primarily through increased business from current clients. Maher says now it's time to spread the good word, that the changes of 2003 have set the agency up for a strong future of growth over the next few years.
Total billing expectations for Starcom in 2003 are $245.1 million. While the agency has picked up the Christian Children's Fund direct-response business ($700,000) and Atlantic Canada Tourism planning and buying for the Eastern U.S. ($3 million), the $8 million Minute Maid account moved to Cossette as part of the Coca-Cola/Minute Maid merger.
Maher's next goal is to convince advertisers that they need to start taking greater advantage of the expertise and knowledge their media agencies have to offer. Advertisers spend billions of dollars on media, but treat it almost as an afterthought, he says.
"What I'd like to see is real interest in the area where advertisers spend 90% of their money. There's so little time spent in truly understanding where the money is going. Clients must recognize that their media agencies can play a more significant role than they have in the past in terms of developing communications plans."
Baileys: Making every day sensuous
Starcom brought its SMG Insights research group and Imprint brand-centric solutions division together to create something fresh and relevant for Diageo's Baileys. Existing creative had reached the wear-out point, giving Starcom the opportunity to team up with Alliance Atlantis, the client and its brand agency, J. Walter Thompson, to develop a program that leverages the brand across the broadcaster's properties. The campaign will be continued in 2004 and is expected to branch out to include other media suppliers.
This insight narrowed the choice of media vehicles to home and entertainment programming. The planning and buying team then worked closely with Alliance Atlantis to create an ownable media property to connect Baileys and consumers every day with the overall theme: "Let Baileys be your guide to sensuous connections."
Viewers are directed to the Web sites to find the Baileys logo sponsoring each program schedule and other relevant editorial through customized micro-sites.
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