Starcom MediaVest Group Photo

Innovation with integration

If integration is the name of the game this year, then Starcom MediaVest Group gets top marks. Headed by Lauren Richards, the agency set the bar for intelligent and innovative content integration initiatives by partnering Nintendo Wii’s Big Brain Academy with Canwest’s Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? for an initiative that was shortlisted at Cannes this year.

“The strategic fit was fantastic,” explains Richards. “I don’t believe in integrating by banging people over the head and doing it for the sake of it.”

SMG’s key to success is creative partnering, given the limited content available in the Canadian marketplace. “They continue to bring the opportunity — and the desire — to be more innovative,” says Gaye McDonald, former VP marketing ventures/brand partnership, Canwest MediaWorks. “Sometimes you need your partner to challenge you.”

Starcom’s momentum in 2008 was helped by significant new business wins, including the repatriation of Kellogg’s and the addition of names like RIM, Samsung and WSPCA to its client roster. The agency also brought in some noteworthy talent, including Anne Myers, formerly of OMD, as EVP managing director and Joy Sanguedoce as innovation director.

Last year marked a reinvention process for the agency. “There’s a lot we’re doing differently, and a lot of new talent. We’re really seeing the fruits of our labour,” says Richards, who has been with SMG since July 2006. “I was thrilled with the product, the direction, where we’ve come from and where we’re going with it, and the new business momentum that we have.”

Another new venture for the agency was the launch of a Canadian captivation study that quantifies the ability of TV programming to deliver highly engaged viewers and drive recall. The index, borrowed from similar studies south of the border, aims to create greater value for SMG’s TV buying clients.

And given the state of the economy, value is growing even more important for marketers. Richards says it comes down to being inventive, and now that throwing money at a problem is no longer an option, that means original ideas. “That kind of thinking is where we want to push our agency more and more,” she says.

Vital stats

Number of employees:100
New hires:
  • Anne Myers, EVP, managing director
  • Alexandra Panousis, SVP, group strategy director
  • Chris Saunders, SVP, group strategy director
  • Joy Sanguedoce, innovation director
New business:Kellogg’s, GM Search, RIM, Samsung, WSPCA, Flow, Bass Pro Shops, Chinese Lantern Festival