by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) LOS ANGELES: Day 4 of AdForum Worldwide Summit Los Angeles was very varied and a chance to see much more of LA. One of the special things about these trips are the cities we visit, and LA is no exception. It is a sprawling city, quite flat apart from the hills surrounding it. It also has the largest port in the US, which we saw later in the day when we went aboard the 1935-built liner, The Queen Mary, now retired from service and used for events, hotel stays and conferences.

MullenLowe Group LA

We saw this agency three years back when we visited LA on the second leg of the 2016 AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York, and it is even better and has grown a great deal since then. It’s a smart agency that provides a “cheat sheet” at the start of the meeting so that we know the agenda and the people who will be speaking to us, etc —an obvious communication piece that so many agencies forget.

In the US, MullenLowe has grown from US$80m to US$186m in the past 10 years. It believes in:

  • Culture
  • Craft
  • Clients who become partners

We were shown some wonderful creative work for American Greeting Cards, Burger King (asking Wendy to the Prom), and The Hidden Flag, the LGBTQ social campaign in Russia.

MullenLowe’s commitment to hyper-bundling has paid off, especially with its Media Hub — bearing in mind that 67% of clients (globally) wants to see media back in the creative agencies, according to the AgencyScope study. Media Hub has really pushed MullenLowe forward in this area.

[Full disclosure: Scopen Africa was launched in South Africa in 2016 in partnership with the Independent Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS). IAS now owns 26% of Scopen Africa (Grupo Consultores Africa). The IAS, in association with the AAR Group (UK), was founded in SA in 2006.*]

With creativity in media being more important than ever before, MullenLowe Media Hub deviates from traditional media talent to harness unique perspectives. Its goal is to “pierce culture”.

It went into some detail around its methodologies, which have all been tried and tested and its examples of Netflix (Santa Clarita Diet) and female affluents in US and China were proof-points.

Popping Culture — where PR comes in via the hyperbundling with SALT. We heard about “cultural news jacking” and the case study of Jet Blue’s Pie in the Sky campaign.

We also heard about the car brand, Acura: launching a luxe brand to millennials while being outspent 5:1.

Profero, the digital arm of MullenLowe, was founded in London in 1997 and has 11 offices in the world, alongside some of the MullenLowe offices.

YETI is the production studio that was set up by MullenLowe and it provides full production facilities for the agency in-house. A whole floor is devoted to production and it has succeeded in producing top-quality work on all platforms at speed and at prices that clients welcome, especially given the amount of content that’s needed these days. It’s also built a test kitchen within the studio which can accommodate all its food clients’ photographic needs.

An excellent first start to the day, with nothing left to chance, including a wonderful breakfast!

The Shipyard

This is an agency with offices in Columbus, Ohio, and in Southern California. Appropriately, this took place on the Queen Mary — a clever choice of venue for this meeting — well done to the agency for stepping out.

Focused on data and creativity, the agency is results-driven, to the extent of including the results highlights in its “cheat sheet”. An important insight: “In the end, data is only valuable if it is organised.” We have heard this said before and we do wonder how much data has been organised over the years — biggest headache.

Interestingly, its client service lead is an ex-client from a financial services organisation, who shared some insights from that experience of having a large in-house marketing department plus agency relationships.

Agency Mania and Scopen workshops

We had a brief interlude between agencies with some input from Bruno Galpois of Agency Mania and César Vacchiano of Scopen, who shared data with us about clients and what they are looking for with agencies, where the relationships matter, etc. All of this data and learnings really helps us as consultants to navigate the agency/client world more efficiently.

And then there was another long drive back to the final destination of the day in Venice, LA: a charmingly pretty place next to Santa Monica. More on that tomorrow.

See also

*Disclosure updated at 2pm on 16 April 2019.


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. She will be presenting detailed and in-depth reports and case studies on each agency from this 2019 AdForum Summit at her masterclass presentation in Johannesburg in May.

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