It's no secret that we live in a huge media fishbowl, rendered bigger and even more full of life with the advent of consumer-generated content. That reality is really starting to spill over into the world of media planners, who we honor and celebrate with this year's installment of our Media Plan of the Year awards. At least three of the winning plans consciously chose the path they did with the hope and expectation that other media would be interested and offer coverage (read: free impressions). Take MediaCom's decision to plaster the front end of a Volkswagen Jetta on a billboard in the outfield at Shea Stadium and other cathedrals of baseball. The MediaCom team estimates that the move yielded some $4 million in free exposure. Both Digital winners (yes, it's an historic year, as we accommodate two standout plans in this red-hot sector) -- Neo@Ogilvy, recognized for its use of widgets to promote the Halloween-themed Fright Fest at client Six Flags, and ZenithOptimedia, honored for creating wikis and egging on bloggers to discuss client Hewlett Packard's new gaming system -- knew they'd get pickup, and counted on it to help deliver results.
The fact is, media planners typically labor behind the plastic seaweed of the fishbowl. But all of this year's winners are Big Fish to us. Congratulations!
Spending Over $25 Million: PHD
Spending $10-25 Million: Carat
Spending Under $10 Million: MediaHub/Mullen
Spending $1 Million or Less: Spark Communications
Best Use of National TV and Cable: Deutsch
Best Use of Local TV and Cable: Media Kitchen
Best Use of Print: Maxus
Best Use of Radio: Horizon Media
Best Use of Out-of-Home: MediaCom
Best Use of Digital: Neo@Ogilvy
Best Use of Digital: ZenithOptimedia
Best Use of Mobile: GSD&M
Best Use of Nontraditional: Starcom
Spending Over $25 Million: PHD
By Anthony Crupi
The human tendency to anthropomorphize the creatures that share the world with us, to project our own behaviors and motives onto the furry beasts that roam the plains and scuttle around the jungle floor, probably has its roots in the development of the neocortex. In imagining how other species experienced their environment, Homo sapiens were able to anticipate animal behavior, which, in turn, allowed early man to assume his place at the top of the food chain.
Today, there are more than six billion higher brains mucking around the planet, and while relatively few of them are engaged in any sort of predator-prey dynamic, human fascination with the animal kingdom remains steadfast. Last spring, Discovery Channel stirred that age-old affinity with its 11-hour documentary series Planet Earth, a transformative introduction to the wonders of the natural world that is at once epic in its scope and jaw-dropping in its evocation of tellurian splendor.
Eggheaded exegesis aside, Planet Earth certainly excites a wealth of visceral responses as well. Cute things romp. Monstrous things chomp.
Inevitably, because nature is more bloody-minded than fair, the cute gets chomped by the monstrous. And as the backdrop to all the struggle, there's always the Northern Lights or the vast expanse of Antarctic ice to make the observer feel at once a part of the tableau and yet wholly alien to the scene and what takes place there.
Try getting all that in a 30-second spot.
Remarkably, the keen (and not at all predatory) neocortices at PHD managed that unlikely feat, one reason they've earned the Media Plan of the Year in Spending $25 Million or more. Because the pictures Planet Earth filmmakers were able to capture over the course of their five-year shoot could speak far more eloquently than any mere ad copy, the PHD team allowed those visuals to do all the heavy lifting. But it is how they deployed those load-bearing images that took the campaign to the next level.
First, a little back-story. As the millennium dawned, Discovery founder and chairman John Hendricks conceived of a wildly ambitious project to document animal activity across the globe, using the most advanced high-definition technology available. The cost, shouldered by Discovery and the BBC, totaled some $25 million.
Because shooting started in 2002, Discovery's marketing team had a sizeable head start when it came time to hashing out the early consumer-targeting strategy. "We started working on this three years in advance of the premiere, when the first footage started coming in," says Marina Anglim, svp, media planning and partnerships for Discovery Communications. "This was going to be the biggest show we'd ever done, and so it was going to call for an equally ambitious marketing effort in terms of scale."
The early rough-cut screenings were by all accounts extraordinary and the Discovery marketing team took little time to develop an overarching media strategy. "Our mantra literally was seeing is believing. That was the filter through which we approached this," Anglim says. "What we were seeing was so cinematic, we realized that we had to generate the same kind of consumer anticipation for this show that a studio generates in the run-up to the release of a major motion picture...This was our blockbuster."
While national TV, spot cable and magazine placement would play their respective parts, Planet Earth's spine-tingling HD presentation screamed out for a big-screen media push. Fortuitously enough, just months before the debut of Planet Earth, Discovery had nailed down a marketing pact with National CineMedia, which would give the TV conglomerate the opportunity to run promotional spots on some 11,000 theater screens nationwide, via NCM's FirstLook platform.
"We really blew out the cinema realm," says Wistar Dean, associate media director at PHD. "So much of what was up on the screen was never-before-seen footage, previously unobserved animal behavior, so the idea was to bring some of that to a movie audience." Other key players on the campaign at PHD included Jennifer Neal, executive vp, managing partner, PHD East; Anita Cheung, associate media director, digital; Bettina Gallo, supervisor; Heather Gregg, vp, account director; Tal Burgan, planner; Sean McGarr, planner; Tanya Zvonkin, vp, supervisor, national broadcast; Paul Simon, buyer; Thomas Wright, assistant buyer; Aileen Larsen, vp, associate broadcast director/radio; and Deirdre D'Attoma, supervisor/radio.
Clearly, Planet Earth was not just another natural-history show, and as such, it had the potential to reach a broad, demographically diverse audience. To reach the usual suspects, PHD targeted art-house theaters, but it also hit the multiplexes in order to touch down with consumers who, perhaps, were not regular Discovery viewers. In addition to a trailer-length preview, PHD encouraged further sampling by providing Planet Earth DVDs in select theatres.
While the cinematic approach was inspired, PHD's outdoor campaign was a greater triumph still. In the first such execution of its kind, the agency deployed high-def video screens on bus kiosks in strategic locations throughout New York City. Not only were passersby treated to the sights and sounds of Planet Earth, but clips from the series could also be streamed to any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. To protect the investment, each screen was sealed between plates of bullet-proof plastic, a polymer that also was hardy enough to withstand blows from baseball bats and crowbars. (This is New York we're talking about.) The sets were also wired with security alarms and GPS tracking devices.
"With a typical out-of-home buy, you are limited by having to get your message across with a static image," Dean says. "We blew two-dimensional creative out of the water."
In a sense, that innovative approach echoed the unofficial Discovery manifesto, the guiding principle behind the world's largest nonfiction media company. "The campaign was like Discovery when we're at our very best," Anglim says. "Like Planet Earth itself, it was all about showing you stuff in ways you've never seen before."
As a television event, Planet Earth got a lift from its home medium as well. PHD picked up off-net time on the broadcast networks in the week leading up to the series premiere, buying time on Fox's American Idol, CBS' Survivor, NBC's Heroes and ABC's Grey's Anatomy. At a cool $1.7 million, a 30-second spot also ran during ABC's presentation of the 79th annual Academy Awards.
Magazines also played a role. Most significantly, perhaps, for the first time ever, Discovery bought space in National Geographic. "We worked on that one for quite a while," Dean says.
When all was said and done, the media buy brought viewers to Discovery in droves. Over the course of its run, Planet Earth reached 65 million viewers, or 5.1 million per episode. Excluding sports or news specials, it was the most-watched cable event of the century.
"We got everything and more out of the campaign," Anglim says. "Even though we're in that $25 million category, our exposure was worth twice that. We were everywhere."
Anthony Crupi is a senior editor covering cable TV for Mediaweek.
Spending $10-25 Million: Carat
By Steve McClellan
A couple of years ago, Reebok realized it had a problem. It wasn't that consumers disliked the athletic-shoe brand. It was worse: people didn't care about it one way or another. "They didn't love us or hate us," says Keith Lusby, global account director over the brand at media shop Aegis Media North America/Carat. "They didn't know what we stood for."
After months of planning with Carat and the brand's creative agency, independent mcgarrybowen, Reebok unveiled its hoped-for solution in April 2007: a repositioning campaign that wasn't so much about any one product as about a new point of view about running, one in direct contrast to the elite-focused, run-your-hardest-and-sweat-blood-doing-it position Nike had carved out years earlier.
The campaign takes this year's Media Plan of the Year for Spending $10 Million to $25 Million. Other key players at Carat included Steve Ustaris, group media director; Erin Wilkinson, account director; Jeff Zannella, media supervisor; Nidhi Modi, group director, search engine marketing; and Renee Robertson, senior associate, search engine marketing.
Through its research, the agency found that the optimal pace for most joggers lets them to have a conversation while running-without gasping for every breath. "Keeping a light pace actually makes running more fun," Lusby says. "So we had this insight around which we created a point of view to challenge the category norm: you don't have to run to kill to yourself, that everybody has their own pace. Essentially, run easy."
Carat devised an innovative mix of digital and traditional media counter to "a media plan in the traditional sense of 'let's spend money, go out and find people and tell them something'," says David Stopforth, head of global media at Reebok. "We weren't trying to bend [consumers] to our will. Instead, it was about letting them take our brand and helping us build our point of view with the tools and technology available today."
The challenge for Carat was selecting just the right media to break through to the core target of casual runners in their twenties. Out-of-home and Internet made up the lion's share of the nearly $18 million budget, says Wilkinson.
"Online really drove the national conversation," says Wilkinson, while out-of-home executions were launched in key markets including New York, San Francisco, Miami, Boston and Los Angeles. The campaign also employed some spot TV later on.
Out-of-home was executed at the "street level, in sort of a guerrilla approach," says Wilkinson. Some boards featured "high-impact" images like a 50-foot, black-and-white poster of a vomiting marathoner, plastered at the entrance to New York's Holland Tunnel. Other outdoor executions were copy-centric, and their messages super-local. San Francisco signage advised passersby: "These hills will chew you up and spit you out. Run Easy."
After the initial outdoor rollout, a second phase was launched, designed to look like consumer reaction to the initial messages. In graffiti-style type, the copy "run + puke = crazy"-was scrawled across the Holland Tunnel poster, which drove consumers to the site goruneasy.com.
Other posters engaged consumers by "asking" what scenery they come across or what music they listen to while running. Consumers were invited to respond via text message; those who did got a reply directing them to the site, which enabled users to create jogging routes using Google Maps. The shop struck a deal with photo-sharing site Flickr that let users upload photos of scenes along their routes and post their favorite exercise tunes. Via the site, they also could form groups to compare notes with other users about running techniques. "We didn't think of it so much as a campaign but as a movement, and the Web site was the hub of the movement," Lusby says. Carat set up profiles on social networks like Facebook, which alone attracted 14,000 friends.
Another winning result: Long after the campaign officially wrapped in June 2007, the movement continued to grow. Lusby estimates that 20 percent of traffic to the Reebok site (to date totaling more than 1.7 million visitors) came after June. And visitors came from places as far-flung as Australia, where the brand didn't run the "Run Easy" campaign. With brand awareness, likability and purchase intent all spiking, plans call for the site goruneasy.com to remain active indefinitely.
Another boost from the campaign: Reebok's Stopforth says the company has reestablished ties with retailers that had been dormant -- this, even though the campaign did not target them.
So, one might say, not a bad run.
Steve McClellan is the media editor of Adweek.
Spending Under $10 Million: MediaHub/Mullen
By Shahnaz Mahmud
For apparel giant Timberland, the concept of eco-friendliness is hardly new. For four years, the tagline "Make It Better" has emphasized the company's love-mother-earth message. And with a collection of waterproof totes introduced last year, crafted from recycled billboards promoting the company's new Earthkeepers boot -- a product that itself is made from repurposed materials -- the brand continued to make the statement that it's most fashionable to be green.
But Timberland's commitment doesn't end with its products. The company also set out to leave the smallest footprint possible in its marketing efforts. For its newly hired media agency, Wenham, Mass.-based MediaHub at Mullen, part of IPG, that meant creating what was dubbed the first carbon-neutral media plan around the launch of Earthkeepers. The campaign captures this year's Media Plan of the Year in the Spending Less Than $10 Million category.
"Being able to push the envelope in marketing is a great thing to be a part of-in delivering RoI and also moving the environmental agenda," says Charlie Raynes, senior manager, global marketing at Timberland. "It's being a part of the answer, not the problem."
Tested in the Boston market from mid-October through December, the earth-friendly campaign emerged from measuring the energy required to power TV, radio and Web ad executions. Carbon dioxide emissions associated with the campaign were offset with wind power generated by the Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Western Massachusetts. "We wanted to donate the assets back into the market we were running the campaign in," says associate media director Erin Bilenchi.
Others at MediaHub behind the award-winning plan include Steve Calder, chief media officer; Shea Kelly, group media director; Kaitlin Bonner, media supervisor; Marianne King, media supervisor; Steve Kalb, director of broadcast; Kim Best, associate broadcast director; Bill Fusco, senior marketing analyst; Meghan Finneran, media supervisor; Nick Iuliano, media planner; Gina Preziosa, associate media director, Interactive Media; and Katie Thompson, senior media planner, Interactive Media.
In keeping with Timberland's core values, the plan incorporated earth-conscious elements throughout, right down to soy-based inks for the print portion. The radio push included an element dependent upon, well, the elements -- that is, Timberland promos would run only when rain or heavy winds were in the forecast.
Early-morning TV spots targeted consumers drawn to local weather reports, while ambient media saw the creation of five-foot-by-five-foot glass cubes filled with post-consumer waste including water bottles, plastic bags and other recylcables that go into making Earthkeepers.
Out-of-home executions included ads on subways and buses promoting the use of mass transit, as well as the domination of Boston's South Station rotunda. Emphasizing the footwear's use of recycled materials, the outdoor pieces featured eye-catching visuals like recycled bottles and tires in the shape of a boot. Ads placed throughout shopping malls were "a real opportunity to get people when they were in a retail mindset," says Bilenchi.
The agency also created a Timberland pop-up store, where consumers could interact with brand reps.
And tapping into Boston's famously rabid base of sports fans, Timberland ran TV spots during Boston Celtics games, as well as the emotionally charged Boston Red Sox World Series and the face-off between the New England Patriots and New York Giants.
After the plan's run, Timberland continued its resolve to create as little waste as possible with the creation of the billboard bags. Consider this: Each 14x18 bulletin produced 150 totes-700 in total-which meant less landfill fodder and also offset the use of countless throw-away paper and plastic bags. All other print pieces, including banners, trolley kings and pillars, were also recycled.
The campaign brought smashing results, driving Boston-area retail sales 30 percent. And online retailers reported selling out of Earthkeepers, despite the fact that the new line was promoted in just 2.1 percent of the country. The plan also generated a 55 percent bump in daily e-mail registration.
The client was so happy with the results that this fall the eco-centric plan will be extended to global markets including France, Italy and China.
Shahnaz Mahmud is media reporter for Adweek.
Spending $1 Million or Less: Spark Communications
By Bill Gloede
What do sports fans and investors in the equity markets have in common? Both tend to be competitive, they want to win, and some, by nature, like to gamble.
The Spark Agency's media plan on behalf of client E*Trade, the online brokerage, turned out to be that rare thing: a safe bet.
Part of Starcom MediaVest Group, Spark conducted proprietary research into a range of sports and their fans, turning up a match with E*Trade customers, particularly pro-football fantasy leagues. The campaign takes this year's Media Plan of the Year in the $1 Million Spending or Less category.
"The folks that they [E*Trade] tend to attract are