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Dow Jones, parent company of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Barron’s, MarketWatch brands, among others, has selected three new agency partners—Mother, Mediahub and TBWA Worldwide subsidiary EG+–following a review it launched in March.
The review spanned all Dow Jones’ consumer brands, plus its business intelligence assets, including Factiva, Risk & Compliance and OPIS. Its outcome puts an end to the publisher’s almost decade-long partnership with The&Partnership and mSix&Partners, the media agency backed by both The&Partnership and WPP’s GroupM.
Creative agency Mother is now the publisher’s partner lead and will manage its creative, brand and design strategy. IPG Mediabrands agency Mediahub, for its part, will manage Dow Jones’ media strategy and media innovation initiatives, while a new in-house team will activate media. TBWA Worldwide-owned production house EG+ Worldwide will manage production and content creation.
The publisher’s total estimated media spend for 2023 sits at $95 million, with 96% allocated to digital spend, according to COMvergence, though the brand declined to confirm those numbers.
With its new agency partners, Dow Jones is better equipped to market at the speed of news, said Sherry Weiss, chief marketing officer of Dow Jones and WSJ. Weiss took the job in September 2022, upon stepping down as Citi’s mar tech lead.
Her goal is simple: grow digital subscriptions across Dow Jones properties and increase its digital revenue. Weiss is also tracking noticeable changes in its brand health as it endeavors to create a cohesive Dow Jones brand—a collective of interconnected media entities that each support business and finance professionals in their own ways.
“We support news organizations that are breaking news by the second. Previously, our ability to move at speed to support that was constrained,” she told Adweek. Weiss declined to name which agencies she invited to pitch but did say the list was broad and included the incumbents. The&Partnership and mSix did not defend the business, according to a representative, who declined to specify why.
Not an average pitch process
When she joined the company, Weiss knew that Dow Jones had partnered with its now-former agencies for almost a decade. Having never before run an agency review through Oystercatchers, which managed the unique review process, Weiss wanted to better understand the agency market and then consider options. “Any new CMO coming in needs to take that chance to evaluate partnerships,” she told Adweek.
Usually, pitching requires each contender to respond to a client-provided brief, and more often than not culminates in agencies flaunting the best they can offer during a single, immersive pitch.
“You give them your brief, they go away, and then they come back after a certain amount of time and pitch their ideas. This is very different,” Weiss said.
Instead, Oystercatchers broke its process into three stages spanning production, media and creative.
Weiss and her team scheduled what she called “fit sessions” with several agencies. By the fifth session, Weiss’ team had already determined which agencies it wanted to pitch.
Oystercatchers supported a “co-creation pitch,” Weiss said. Instead of providing agencies with a brief and expecting they present a single big idea, it incorporated touch points into the process, allowing agency talent to showcase how feedback from the Dow Jones team impacted its strategic vision along the way.
“What we were evaluating was not just the work that was coming out, but how all the teams engaged with each other. Because it’s really about the work and the partnership,” she added.
The new relationship with EG+ in particular, Weiss said, means Dow Jones can create more, faster. Supplemented by the Omnicom network, the production agency can tap into global resources, while relying on AI automations to create multiple content iterations. “They were able to meet us where we are in our transformation journey,” she said of the agency.
EG+ will partner with the newsroom to amplify its coverage, like college rankings, supplement imagery and ensure those images meet quality standards. Editorial leaders can sometimes, without sacrificing confidentiality, let the marketing team know an important story is coming up soon and should be promoted. But, Weiss stressed, the news organization continues to draw clear lines between its marketing and editorial operations.
The smooth process capped a transformative year, in which Weiss overhauled Dow Jones’ old marketing organizational structure and scrutinized brand partnerships, including the brand’s marketing technology stack and in-house talent.
Before, there were different marketing strategies in place for each Dow Jones brand, and a siloed subscription strategy. The organizational structure needed to change, the CMO told Adweek, so that marketing teams could learn from each other and more quickly tweak strategies. Plus, cutting down to a single practice opened up previously nonexistent growth opportunities for marketing employees who previously serviced specific Dow Jones brands.
Amidst the agency changes, Dow Jones is also formally launching its in-house media team, a once-small and now-scaled practice founded prior to Weiss’ arrival. The new in-house function executes performance marketing, acquisition and media, and outsources strategy to Mediahub.
A history of change
The agency change follows Dow Jones’ premiere brand, The Wall Street Journal, implementing numerous changes to make the brand more salient to readers. In 2021, WSJ redesigned its site, and it introduces new taglines every few years. See: “Make Time” in 2015, “Read Ambitiously” in 2017, “Read Yourself Better” in 2019 and “Trust Your Decisions” in 2021.
The&Partnership, helped develop those slogans. The independent agency is known for its work on publisher rebrands, and its other clients include PBS and the New York Stock Exchange. Dow Jones’ relationship with it and mSix goes back to 2014.