Case study provided by the Superbrands organisation.
An organisation willing to spend many thousands of pounds on promoting its brand needs to know that, especially in economically challenging times, its advertising agency will do absolutely everything in its power to make that brand sell.
The expansiveness of the late 1990s is now a thing of the past and the advertising industry is as exposed to the economic downturn as any other. However, the sheer range and expertise of its communications companies, plus a determination to achieve highly effective advertising, place McCann-Erickson, and its clients, in a strong position when facing an uncertain future.
McCann-Erickson is, by a wide margin, the UK's leading agency with an income of £74m (Source: Campaign magazine April 2001). It is also fourth largest by billings in a market full of world-class players such as Saatchi & Saatchi, J Walter Thompson,TBWA Group and AMV BBDO.
McCann-Erickson is part of the McCann-Erickson UK and Ireland Group, which in turn is part of the giant McCann-Erickson WorldGroup -- one of the world's leading multinational communications networks with operations in 131 countries and billings of $26bn. The UK and Ireland Group is the UK's leading communications group, with billings of more than £1.2bn in 2000. The group, which employs 2,000 staff in 32 offices, consists of eight core companies, each a leader in its own specialist communications discipline.
These achievements are in tandem with notable improvements in the agency's creative output, and its reputation has been enhanced by award-winning work for Bacardi, Nescafé, Camel and Durex. Further assignments from clients such as Norwich Union, Greene King and P&O Portsmouth boosted business to record levels.
The agency was voted AdWeek's Global Agency of the Year for three years running. Its campaigns for Nescafe Gold Blend and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, among many others, means that McCann-Erickson along with McCann-Erickson Europe has won twice as many Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) effectiveness awards as any other agency across Europe, boasting 42 effectiveness awards in just four years. The agency continued its success by winning the prestigious Media & Marketing (M&M) award for European Agency of the Year in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001. It was the fourth time in five years that McCann had taken the title -- an all time record. Universal McCann, the media planning and buying agency that is sister to McCann, took the Media Agency of the Year Award in 1996 and 1999 and shared it with McCann in 2000. The sponsor of the award, The Economist magazine, praised McCann-Erickson's might on the European stage and commended its persuasive work for Bacardi, the launches of Walls Solero Ice and Microsoft's MSN.
Further accolades include various Cannes Lions, the British Craft Awards, the Clio Awards, the Cresta Awards and the Drami Awards.
A genuine passion and commitment to effectiveness which, the agency admits, can border on the aggressive is, it feels, acceptable as long as clients are reassured that McCann-Erickson will work extremely hard for them and produce truly memorable advertising as well as memorable sales sheets. The agency is particularly proud of its campaign for Bacardi Breezer. This brand did not exist five years ago, but is now the fastest selling, low-proof spirit brand in the UK.
Nestle has been a prized client since 1940 and McCann-Erickson has been responsible for work such as the Nescafe Gold Blend soap opera campaign -- the most effective coffee campaign ever.
McCann-Erickson has consistently proved itself one of the best at helping clients build successful brands. Work for L'Oreal, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Air Canada, UPS and Mastercard has in each case delivered real, quantifiable results. This success is the result of a highly sophisticated planning approach based on turning consumer insights and market understanding into actionable and effective media solutions, and the agency has invested heavily in bespoke research to aid this.
Universal McCann's "Media in Mind" study is the largest ongoing quantitative media study in the world and involves the use of neural network modelling (which studies the brain of the consumer and how it can be appealed to) in order to optimise return on investment from every media pound spent by a client.
The group's media-buying reputation is unrivalled and specialist teams dedicated to sponsorship, interactive media, direct response and research are constantly developing new opportunities as both the media environment and the consumer evolve. Nescafe's sponsorship of 'Friends', organised by Universal McCann, has been one of the most successful TV sponsorships of recent years.
The agency has grown consistently since it opened its doors in 1927 and is now the largest agency by income, at £74m, in the UK (Source: Campaign 2000). Its core aim is to create advertising that effectively influences people and sells products and services. As the company's founder Harrison McCann once said, "If we don't move people to move goods out of the store, we have failed you."
McCann-Erickson advertising has nine agencies throughout the UK with 1,075 staff and billings of over £429m. The London-based agency acts as the central strategic resource for the UK Group as well as housing the company's European headquarters. It has 353 staff and its client list of 88 includes many blue-chip multinationals.
The other companies in the UK and Ireland Group are: Universal McCann, the fourth-largest media planning and buying operation in the UK; McCann Relationship Marketing (MRM), the fastest growing relationship marketing company in the UK which incorporates Zentropy Partners, a leader in the building and marketing of digital businesses worldwide; Momentum, the UK's leading Experiential Marketeers; Future Brand, a global brand consultancy, ranked number three in the UK; Weber Shandwick, the UK's number one public relations company which represents 32% of The Times Top 50 organisations; and McCann-Erickson Healthcare, the UK's number one healthcare agency.
A key element of this construct is the ability to provide integrated communications solutions for clients. McCann believes that the main challenge for clients over the next few years will be to build greater depth relationships with brand customers, and that linking communications, strategically and executionally is the key to delivering brand building programmes.
The group prides itself on having the best and therefore the most experienced people, the most sophisticated strategic tools and the richest resources in order to formulate the most compelling messages, which are then integrated into highly effective and efficient communications plans on behalf of clients.
All nine advertising agencies also have unique skills of their own which can be brought together to create a formidable combination. McCann-Erickson Birmingham for example is the largest B2B agency in the UK and the Manchester-based agency is one of the top five in the below-the-line arena.
One of McCann's key strengths is its investment in proprietary strategic tools. The "Brand Optimisation Map" is used to optimise and simplify the huge task of creating integrated marketing communications. The map analyses the brand's "footprint" or core essence, to allow marketers to assess the risks that stem from the need to retain and highlight a brand's heritage with product innovation. The analysis provides a clear understanding of which values need to be protected and promoted as the brand moves into new territories.
"Brand Health Check" assesses the strength of a brand by seeing how it measures up to what the company has identified as seven "universal marketing drivers", or core reasons why people select and consume brands.
Other important assets include "Pulse", the world's largest ongoing consumer research project, monitoring consumer habits and trends in 131 countries.
Client involvement is paramount to McCann-Erickson. In fact, the agency has observed that its best work is done when the client has input. Consequently, the strategic planning process starts with this collaboration and the client is actively encouraged to talk about their business problems at every stage.
The agency's motto, "Truth Well Told", is also its mantra and has several strands of meaning. One aspect is that part of its culture is "inclusiveness", being honest and direct with a client. But the phrase also has at its core a ringing truth about what the agency does: the interrogation of a product to find something within it that can overcome a marketing or communication problem, and in finding that "truth" to produce better, more effective and longer-lasting advertising.
Winning is crucial to McCann-Erickson and it is this ethos that has driven it to become the fastest growing agency in the UK since the mid 1990s.The dramatic improvement which has taken place in recent years is perhaps best illustrated by a Marketing Week survey, which ranked it 30th in terms of value for money in 1996 and second in 2000. The quality of its account managers jumped from 30th to first and its overall ranking went from 13th to second, for providing "best in class" service. The same survey of marketing directors named McCann-Erickson as the agency that had gained most esteem within one year (Source: Marketing Week, November 1999). From number 14 in the late 1990s, McCann-Erickson London has risen in rank to become the fourth largest agency in the UK by income (Source: Campaign magazine).
The company also continues to develop, or acquire, new capabilities. For example, Magic Hat is a specialist youth communications agency within McCann-Erickson that is dedicated to understanding and communicating with the youth market. Founded in 1995 and combining strong strategic planning and digital creative content, Magic Hat advises clients on how to target their brands at an increasingly complex and important audience.
McCann-Erickson has a business development and corporate communications department that is responsible for internal and external communications.
It runs an issue-led marketing programme aimed at existing and potential clients, which highlights the agency's commitment to thought leadership, creativity and effectiveness. The programme is supported by public relations and mailing activity.
In addition, McCann-Erickson produces a range of materials to keep clients and prospects informed of agency developments. These include a website, regularly updated showreels and award mailings.
McCann-Erickson also enters all the major award schemes and has been extremely successful in these, as detailed earlier.
McCann-Erickson believes that simple ideas have the greatest longevity because they contain a clarity and strength of thinking that is not clouded by showy cleverness. McCann-Erickson WorldGroup believes that effective communications build both value and customers for the brand. Thus the agency intends to continue using its successful combination of strategic rigour and creative flair to increase its clients' market share. Its policy is to eschew marketing "babble" and instead rely on real consumer insight. McCann-Erickson is a proud organisation, and its staff believe in what they do on behalf of their clients. The company recognises that it will only be successful if its clients are also successful.
Things you didn't know
© 2002 Superbrands Ltd
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com