Why Hill Holliday Spun Off Its Media Operations as Trilia

Cindy Stockwell keeps it real in a social world


Specs
Current gig President, Trilia Media (stand-alone agency inside IPG's Hill Holliday)
Previous gig Evp, chief media officer, Hill Holliday
Twitter @CindyMStockwell
Age 51

Adweek: Can you explain the Trilia name?
Cindy Stockwell: Trilia is a mashup of "true" and "real." It reflects how we approach every relationship we have—with clients, with tech and content partners and with each other. The open triangle reflects our belief that pricing transparency is absolutely critical to a solid relationship with our clients. If you look at the conversation in our industry in the last few months, we see a general lack of transparency that we think is bad for business.

Why a stand-alone agency?
We had one primary objective in mind when launching Trilia. We wanted to be able to invest in tools, technology and data sets to give our current clients an edge in the marketplace. To do that, we needed to be in a position to create a revenue stream. We talked to a few key search consultants who felt that media creativity was really lacking in the rush to data and low CPM, and that clients were hungering for a partner that could provide both.

In a way, "media creativity" defines the era.
The industry is starting to recognize that there needs to be a true blurring of the lines between media and creative. Because of our heritage as a full-service agency, we naturally work that way. Media buys complemented by social programs that amplify the creative message are so much more effective at driving up time spent with that message. But the media team needs to understand the brand positioning, and needs to work very closely with their creative partners to make sure the message is actually amplified. Conversely, creatives should be using data to inform their campaigns.

Can you give us some examples?
A great example is work we do every year with TJX and their creative partners around their holiday campaign. For the past five years, we've created social engagement programs as diverse as social influencer programs to a custom gift recommendation engine. The goal is to get on the target's holiday shopping list by leveraging their social and technology behaviors to amplify the holiday campaign and share their experience within their social networks.

"We can drive the overall CPM of the buy down by more than 25 percent—while driving up the time spent with our client's message." You said that when you launched Trilia. Can you prove it?
There are a number of ways we do this. For John Hancock, it's about using data to find pockets of opportunity that are more cost-efficient than standard media buys, to supplement big tent-pole opportunities and stretch their budget. For Dunkin' Donuts, it is about creating first-to-market experiences—like the first Vine used on TV—that get tons of earned media through organic sharing and press coverage.

When you give a set number, won't all clients then demand that kind of performance?
Using data and consumer insights, and pairing paid media with social experiences, can drive those kinds of numbers for any client, at least on a portion of their budget.

What pisses you off the most about the media business today?
There's not a lot of transparency around pricing despite what's being said. We made a very conscious decision to tell our clients exactly what fees they are paying in the programmatic space. We have also very publicly said that we don't engage in any pricing schemes that steer revenue to our bottom line.

In your 20 years in the business, what was your toughest challenge?
The speed with which change occurs has been a big challenge. Two years ago, we reorganized to integrate all planning and buying across screens and channels. We did this to better reflect consumer behavior and ensure that dollars could move more rapidly between channels as we saw results. We also tripled the sizes of our platform and analytics teams.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 7 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.