UM’s Global Brand Keys on Curiosity

NEW YORK In his first five months on the job, Universal McCann worldwide CEO Matt Seiler has quickly put his stamp on the Interpublic media shop, restructuring the U.S. operation, solidifying his senior global management team and instituting a new global brand position.

Mary Gerzema, president of UM’s U.S. operation, left the shop at year’s end and the position has been eliminated. Seiler said he considered Gerzema a “real asset” during her tenure at the agency, but “we just didn’t end up having a role that made sense for her and us,” given the new structure of the North American operation, where the leaders of the global Microsoft, Sony and Johnson & Johnson accounts, based in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, report to him.

Instead of a U.S. president, Seiler is hiring an executive to head the New York office, who will have oversight of a number of key U.S. accounts and capabilities including the national broadcast and print buying operations and business development.

With the new structure,  “North America looks like a mini world with Canada, New York, L.A., San Francisco and J3 (the stand-alone J&J operation within UM) as sort of full service entities reporting into global with the other geographical regions,” Seiler said.

UM currently has an estimated $15 billion in annual billings worldwide. Seiler describes 2008 as a year that turned out well due to  “terrific organic growth” from existing clients. He declined to be more specific,but sources said it was between 15 and 20 percent. Going forward, said Seiler, new business development, lacking in ’08, will be a top priority.

Meanwhile, Seiler’s global management team, including three new positions, is in place. Veteran agency and search consultant Jan Boyle has joined the shop in the new role of global managing partners lead. Boyle will work with the agency’s account heads (although they will report to Seiler) on major global and multiregional clients to insure they have the tools and resources to fully serve those clients and to maximize opportunities for organic growth with those accounts. Boyle will also serve as chief liaison with the McCann World Group, which houses sister creative and diversified service agencies such as McCann Erickson, in order to, as Seiler puts it, “insure we’re getting the most out of each other in critical markets around the world.”

Seiler and Boyle have known each other since the late 1980s, when Boyle, who ran the BMW assignment at Ammirati & Puris, hired Seiler to work on the car account. In 2000, Boyle co-founded the search consultancy MatchWorks. With her return to the agency world, Boyle has closed the consultancy.

Boyle said she was happy running MatchWorks with no thought to rejoining an ad shop. But after a chance encounter with Seiler at an Ammirati reunion dinner in October, Seiler said of Boyle, “You’re exactly what I want,” for one of the new global roles.  After further meetings to discuss the position, Boyle said, “It was just something I couldn’t refuse.”

Seiler has also created a worldwide chief marketing officer position and appointed Scott Tegethoff to fill it. Tegethoff will continue to oversee the shop’s global Coca-Cola account across 49 markets.

Huw Griffiths has been promoted to global director of research, a new post. Daryl Lee, president of global strategy, and Quentin George, president of digital and new media, retain their roles while joining the global management team.

UM has also launched its new brand position, with the tagline, “Curious minds for surprising results,” which replaces, “The next thing now.”

One of the problems with the latter slogan, said Seiler, was “what that actually redounded to for clients. If you’re just bringing them new stuff all the time, so what? Particularly in an economy such as this where clients are saying ‘I’m not sure. I just want to be aware of all the cool things I might do one day. I’d really much rather know what you’re going to do for me today and how that is going to beat my expectations for what success looks like.'”

UM clients agree. Jack Kennard, svp, global director of marketing services for wine and spirits marketer Brown-Forman, describes the new positioning as a “welcome rebalancing of the role of art and science in media planning and buying.” The old slogan was good for its time, said Kennard, when marketers were initially learning about new digital platforms, but it “focused rather exclusively on science, technology, the new and the novel. The new positioning reinforces the importance of human nature and the creative power of curiosity.” He added, “My idea of great reach and frequency are emotional bonds sustained over time,” which is what media shops help create between their clients and consumers.

The curiosity theme has been a key component of the UM communications planning offering, whose development has been overseen by Lee since he joined the agency as lead strategist two years ago. At UM, Lee said, the communications planning offering is “specifically about insights and the source of all insights is curiosity,” he said.

But Seiler has taken the theme and made it the core tenet of the agency, going so far as to develop a “curiosity quotient,” to assess new hires. Even the company Intranet is now curiosity themed, with a question of the day that is answered the following day.  Compensation to some extent will now be linked to curiosity, said Seiler.

“We’re fundamentally overhauling the training to insure that new people coming in have a certain level of curiosity and that the people that are here are kept fresh on what being curious is,” Seiler said. “We define it as open-mindedness that leads to unexpected or surprising results.”