iMedia Connection

MediaVest's agency score card

Leah Messinger

"We have a rich portfolio of experimentation."

When MediaVest Director of Digital Connections and Senior Vice President Amanda Richman makes this kind of statement, she's not exaggerating. To date, the New York-headquartered media agency has dropped more than $17 million on targeting and media usage research alone. That's a lot of tinkering, including working with digital content site Hulu, in the mobile space, and across social networks, games and virtual worlds. Of course, that's all to the benefit of new 2007 MediaVest clients Wal-Mart and Wendy's, as well as old clients such as Proctor and Gamble (on most of its North American brands, including Vicks, Prilosec, Clairol Herbal Essences, Crest, CoverGirl and Tampax), Coca-Cola and Mars (Pedigree).

Despite its vast research, MediaVest, which also has offices in Los Angeles, doesn't play favorites with technology. While others may intend to go whole-hog for mobile in 2008, Richman says MediaVest plans to remain tech-neutral. Whether focusing on mobile or social networks, "We need to understand and embrace all technologies, including being knowledgeable about traditional media as it evolves," Richman says.

Of course, digital is still the core of MediaVest's Digital Connections business. Richman says all client teams include digital experts who provide input throughout a campaign's conception and execution stages; these experts help interpret consumer behavior, gain customer insight and work with media across all channels. "Versus the traditional approach, where digital is just an extension of initiatives happening across traditional media, here there really is integration of it from the start of the consumer experience," Richman says. 

Clients in 2008 can expect to see MediaVest's digital and metrics accountability practices continue to expand. The idea, Richman says, is to focus less on traditional impression measurements and more on the actions consumers take after viewing a campaign.

Founded in 1929 as Benton & Bowles with a focus on radio broadcasting, the company was renamed MediaVest in 1999. MediaVest formed its digital practice in 2003 and last year the digital team grew from 60 to 90 people. MediaVest does not reveal its revenue numbers, but Richman describes the increase in employees as a "direct reflection of business growth" over the past year.

Agency highlights from 2007 include: Creative Media Award in New/Emerging/Experimental Media (Coca-Cola/Sprite Obey); MIXX Silver Award in Mobile Platforms (Coca-Cola/Sprite Obey); Google Marketing Machine Award; Vice President, Digital Director Mohan Renganathan dubbed an OMMA "rising star" of the digital media world; MediaVest named co-winner, with sister agency Starcom, of OMMA's Media Agency of the Year designation.

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Some Innovative Campaigns:

Client: Coca-Cola
Media: internet/interactive/mobile
Campaign: Sprite Obey

Coca-Cola approached MediaVest for its Sprite brand with the goal of staying relevant to teens in an increasingly competitive soft drink market. Richman says MediaVest's research showed that the experiences of teens, rather than their possessions, help determine their social status and currency. Armed with these findings, MediaVest developed what it calls "the world's first mobile scavenger hunt." Each week during the campaign Sprite sent a three-word text message to teens and asked them to take a picture interpreting the text message. Participants submitted their photos to obey.msn.com for peer scoring; high scores translated into vibrant social currency.

MediaVest reports 1.5 million teens participated and spent more than 3.1 million minutes online with the brand during the campaign, in addition to time spent scavenging for photos and encouraging peers to participate. Campaign analysis shows Sprite Obey resulted in a 26 percent increase in teens' weekly consumption of the soft drink.

Client: Wendy's
Media: internet/interactive
Campaign: Wendy's Heavy Takeover

Wendy's approached MediaVest with a similar directive as Sprite: keep the fast food brand relevant and relatable to a younger audience. The agency decided to play on the iconography of the Wendy's red wig through a 12-hour takeover of video site Heavy, which caters to the demographic Wendy's was seeking to reach.

Not only did MediaVest add red wigs to videos on Heavy during the takeover, but it also procured all ad units and impressions during the takeover. Users could upload their own photos and overlay a red wig; these photos became part of a banner ad across multiple sites. The Heavy takeover resulted in more than 10MM impressions and contributed to a surge in Heavy photo uploads and community sign-ups.

Client: P&G
Media: internet/interactive
Campaign: Prilosec Bunco

Unlike the Sprite and Wendy's campaigns, P&G aimed to draw an older demographic for a positive group experience around a not-so-positive health affliction: heartburn. With its Prilosec Bunco campaign, MediaVest courted females between 25 and 54 for a gaming experience on MSN.

MediaVest determined that a large segment of the target demographic plays the game Bunco, so the agency developed an online version of the game that incorporates conversation around food, wine, and -- of course -- the heartburn that results from the consumption of these products. 

Approximately 340,000 players have signed up for 3MM game plays and 35 million in-game chats on the Prilosec site, according to MediaVest. Richman says the average 46 minutes users spent on the site went well beyond MSN's previous record with branded games. As a result of the campaign, Prilosec sales increased by 7 percent.

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Agency Stars

Amanda Richman
SVP, Director of Digital Connections

Amanda Richman oversees MediaVest campaigns for more than 20 clients, including Coca-Cola, Continental, Mattel, P&G, Wal-Mart and Wendy's. Prior to joining MediaVest in 2005, Richman held several senior development and management positions at The Interpublic Group's interactive firms, where she worked with a broad spectrum of clients, including Microsoft (Xbox Live launch), Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Unilever, L'Oreal and MasterCard.

James Kiernan
VP, Digital Director

James Kiernan oversees digital activation for P&G. Before coming to MediaVest in 2004, he was digital media incubator at DRAFTFCB. He holds an M.B.A. from Pace University's Lubin School of Business.

Chris Actis
VP, Digital Director

Chris Actis has 11 years of experience in media and oversees digital activation for Wal-Mart at MediaVest. Prior to joining MediaVest, he was VP, account director, at MRM Partners Interactive.

Yolanda Lam
VP, Digital Director

Yolanda Lam oversees digital planning for a multi-client group that includes Abbott and Avaya. She has 11 years of media experience. Prior to MediaVest, Lam was VP, associate media director, at Universal McCann.

Mohan Renganathan
VP, Digital Director

Mohan Renganathan oversees MediaVest's Digital Connections' Multi-Client group, working with such brands as Mattel, Heineken and Continental Airlines across all different types of messaging, including branding, direct reports, Business-to-Business and customer acquisition. Prior to joining MediaVest in 2004, Renganathan was senior manager/associate media director with Modem Media, where he directed and developed interactive marketing strategies for Delta Air Lines and Song Airways.

Samantha Voisin
Digital Director

Samantha Voisin provides senior management and drives strategy development for MediaVest's Los Angeles-based accounts: Activision, Mattel and the E!, Style, and G4 networks. Voisin has 21 years of experience in advertising and media.

Damon Bethel
Digital Director

Damon Bethel leads digital media activation for Coca-Cola, as well as new systems development for Coca-Cola and MediaVest. Before joining MediaVest two years ago, he oversaw the launch of Real Branding's East Coast operations.

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What clients say:
Past and present MediaVest clients describe the company as easy to work with in both the traditional and digital spaces. One client noted a marked improvement in the company's digital practice over the past several years. "They're where we need them to be now," the client said. Others described MediaVest as good at meeting deadlines and budgets, as well as communicating effectively and developing integrated campaigns. Others highlighted MediaVest's metrics-tracking abilities and long-established relationships with suppliers on the web and in the traditional TV space as key benefits of working with the agency.

"The agency's people work with us in emails and in person, and over the phone as needed. They accommodate what works for us."

"We keep piling more and more things on them and we have to keep prioritizing. Once we do that, they do pretty well after that."

"We have ideas; MediaVest helps us to implement them."

"Given our budget levels, I guess they're doing as much as they can do."

"They're always looking for new solutions for us."

"We see the benefits of having all the planning from one agency."

"As digital has become more prevalent, it has become more integrated into the overall efforts of the company. And it seems like MediaVest is one of the groups that realized that earlier on and has changed its structure to make sure resources are more integrated."

“They meet, usually exceed, occasionally disappoint our expectations. It's a pretty good relationship we have with them."

"We get feedback all the time by suppliers that they really know the industry."

"The stewardship and accountability they have in place is probably the best in the industry."

Suggested areas for improvement include increasing efficiency on campaigns and paying appropriate attention to hiring enough staff to meet the demands of clients in this growing industry.

"Just being able to keep talent in this high demand new area is tricky."

"We're pushing them on as our business continues to grow, how do we have them do more?"

Average grade from clients: A-.

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Leah Messinger is a freelance writer. Read full bio.