Media Plan of the Year

Adweek names the most effective and innovative media planning work from leading agencies

The medium is the message—and never before has there been so much different media and, hence, so many ways to shade, inflect, blow out, or screw up your message. Marshall McLuhan’s formulation, more than half a century old, is more relevant now to the advertising business than ever before. The choice of media is the most complex, strategic, and formative part of any campaign. In many ways, media choice and strategy defines the brand. What’s more, the difficulties of achieving mindshare (not coincidentally the name of one major media buyer), once accomplished by mere repetition, have expanded exponentially. This issue celebrates the brains behind media planning. While often thought of as mere administrative function, as the winners of Adweek’s media planning competition show, the men and women who choose the space are some of the advertising business’s truly creative and innovative people.

Adweek this year selected 30 leading media agencies and asked them to submit their best TV, print, and integrated planning work across four dollar thresholds. The agencies were also asked to submit plans in three open categories: mobile, branded entertainment, and alternative. The following selections represent, in the estimation of Adweek’s editors, the most strategic use of media to best define message and maximize mindshare.

Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Electronic Arts ‘Hell in all its infernal glory’

$1 Million – $10 Million

Street teams “protested” the game at E3 

When Wieden + Kennedy began its campaign for the Electronic Arts video game Dante’s Inferno, the agency knew it would have to put EA through hell if the game was going to compete with genre giant God of War from Sony.

Launched nine months before the game’s debut, the campaign’s first phase focused on hard-core gamers, with a “Highway to Hell” theme keying on a different circle of hell (and associated sin) each month. That involved sending bloggers $200 checks during “greed” month and stunts like staged religious protests at the E3 games confab. Second phase? Reach. The agency bought the first Super Bowl spot for a video game in 20 years, which was watched by 115 million people and led to a huge spike of online interest. “Big, impactful cultural moments are viable, and mass media can still make a huge statement,” says Wieden group media director Kelly Muller.

As launch neared, Dante’s Inferno had 100,000 preorders, and the demo had been downloaded 4 million times. And despite mixed reviews, both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions broke into NPD’s top 10 sales list for February. —Anthony Ha

1 ASCII art hidden in source codes depicted game characters



2 Bloggers were sent $200 checks to showcase the concept of greed—with consequences for either cashing or keeping the check.


3 It was the first Super Bowl ad for a video game in 20 years. Gamers got a sneak peak at the spot the day before on Xbox Live.


KSL Media

Newegg ‘Mancave Madness’

Less Than $1 Million


Seizing on 2010’s March NCAA basketball frenzy, KSL Media, in its campaign for online tech-electronic retailer Newegg, created the “Mancave Madness” sweepstakes, which gave guys shiny entertainment gear to trick out their sports sanctuaries.

To expand beyond its main customer base of hard-core geeks and draw a wider swath of electronics enthusiasts into the contest, the KSL campaign, created by goodness Mfg, placed sponsorships on scoreboards in select cities while airing satellite and nationally syndicated radio promotions, and running banner advertising on websites like ESPN. “[The Man Cave] is the place for all your toys,” explains Michael Oddi, KSL’s chief marketing officer. “Men are into sports, and they’re also into electronics.”

The campaign’s centerpiece came with the integration of social media tool Dukky, which let track and analyze in real time as contestants shared word of the sweepstakes with friends and followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign resulted in a flood of entries. “We drove over 200,000 submissions,” says Oddi. “Thirty-two percent of those sign-ups were a result of adding social-media sharing.” For, that helped fuel a double-digit sales jump in March 2010 over the previous year.

Perhaps the best part? The media spend was a relative bargain, costing the client under $1 million. —Gabriel Beltrone

Carat USA

Gillette Fusion ‘ProGlide Launch’

$25 Million +

Guys know a razor is pretty much just a razor, whether it has three blades or five. So when Gillette wanted to drum up buzz for its Fusion ProGlide, the P&G brand and its agency Carat USA had to convince men thoroughly bored by shaving marketing that the product was worth its higher price tag.

“Everything we did was guided by this mantra of turning skeptics into believers,” says Adrian Heney, vp, communications planning director at Carat. How? Largely by turning regular dudes into salesmen. Gillette wooed grooming bloggers and Facebook fans with free samples. It dispatched a truck to roam key markets and offer Joe Schmo a shave in exchange for a testimonial. As the blitz progressed, Gillette promoted reviews through search and on YouTube. “We created a program whereby we’d put the razor in the hands of people, then capture their reactions, then amplify them out,” says Heney.

It wasn’t just a Web campaign, though. Cable spots featured celebrity endorsers like Yankees icon Derek Jeter and wrestler John Cena urging men to try out the Fusion ProGlide. After launch, Jimmy Fallon lathered up for a shave during an episode of his show. And the brand repurposed its everyman plaudits into creative for print and TV buys.

The numbers speak for themselves. “We hit close to 60 percent awareness before the actual launch [June 6] last year,” says Michelle Potorski, associate director, marketing at Gillette’s male shave division. “We’re now over 80 percent.” When the razor hit shelves, sales beat projections by four times. And, fine, for those keeping score: the thing has five blades. –Gabriel Beltrone

Testimonial truck Real people were invited to try the new razor in a mobile studio outfitted with video cameras to record their reactions.





Mindshare Dove’s Men+Care

“Journey to Comfort”

$10 Million – $25 Million


The natural affinity between sports and men’s grooming, which filled in spending gaps left by auto and financial during the recession, made Mindshare’s integrated plan for Dove’s Men+Care line a natural fit. Launched in conjunction with the 2010 Major League Baseball season, the campaign migrated to the hardcourt in the spring, as a series of 30-second spots and vignettes ran throughout Turner Sports’ and CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The “Journey to Comfort” campaign uncovered some off-the-court moments in the lives of Magic Johnson and two other familiar faces—Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley. By allowing them to speak candidly about family and fatherhood, the spots made it clear that the men are “truly comfortable in their own skin,” says Cindy Gustafson, managing director, Mindshare. Because they aired during the first year of the CBS-Turner NCAA pact, the in-game spots were seen on four networks: CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV.

“We don’t have the luxury of avoiding our competition, so our job is to really carve out that engagement space,” says Gustafson. “The brand stands out because the commercials are contextually relevant.” Web buys were made around relevant NCAA content. All told, the campaign served up more than 400 million Web and TV impressions. That’s not bad skin to be in. –Anthony Crupi

Illustration: Kyle T. Webster; Graphic: Carlos Monteiro; Previous spread: Protest Illustration: João Maio Pinto; Graphic: Carlos Monteiro; Mancave illustration: Jorge Coelho; Illustration: Jorge Coelho

Starcom USA

Chevrolet ‘Glee-mercial’

$10 Million–$25 Million

In the pantheon of great ad jingles, “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” enjoys a fairly secure perch. And yet, there’s a whole generation of young people who’ve never heard the tune. Or, as it turns out, who are not all that interested in Chevrolets—the median age of its buyers is 57.

This was the problem GM was grappling with in 2010 when the automaker teamed up with Starcom USA (along with creative agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) to come up with a campaign that could help age down the Chevy brand and pitch the vehicles to a younger audience. What resulted was a two-minute spot that followed the Super Bowl last January, in which the cast of Fox’s Glee offered its own rendition of the classic jingle. “Glee has done a terrific job of uniting music lovers across generations, and that is what Chevrolet has done with the generations of auto consumer,” says Mike Rosen, president, director of activation at Starcom USA.

The spot, which ran immediately after the game and led into a new episode of the musical show, featured a rendition of the tune by the show’s cast, who sang and danced in a massive, choreographed number.

According to Starcom, Nielsen IAG research showed a 38 percent spike in favorable opinion of the Chevy brand in the wake of the Glee commercial. And while not directly attributable to the Glee-mercial, year-over-year Chevy sales increased 42.9 percent (Feb. 2010-Feb. 2011). —D.M. Levine

MediaVest (buying) and Carat (strategy and planning)

P&G ‘Charmin bio breaks’

$1 Million – $10 Million

The precommercial graphic, on-screen overlays were used to alert viewers to upcoming bathroom breaks and reminded them about Charmin.

MediaVest’s unconventional TV buying for Procter & Gamble’s Charmin suggests that if you can’t keep viewers from exiting during commercial breaks, you might as well go with them.

The agency converted “bugs”—the bottom screen space previously reserved for network promo messages in the 10 seconds before a commercial break—into ad space, filling them with snappy copy such as, “Pit stop? Enjoy the go,” and “Don’t just enjoy the show. Enjoy the go.” The messages incorporated the toilet tissue’s logo and animated bear mascot. Carat is the lead strategy and planning agency on the Charmin account.

To reach the brand’s core target of moms shopping for their families, the ads ran during daytime sitcoms on Lifetime (Will & Grace, Reba, etc.) and nighttime VH1 movies. Charmin’s bugs to date have reached an estimated 36 million homes, according to MediaVest. Initial Nielsen research shows that the brand met or exceeded expectations with families in three categories: bath tissue, household products, and P&G sponsorships.

MediaVest managing director Sarah Kramer describes the approach as a “great opportunity to buy something [the promo pod] that wasn’t for sale” and an effective way to capture ad skippers. Adds P&G brand manager Jacques Hagopian: “This was one small test—but clearly viewers noticed Charmin.” –Andrew McMains

Spark Communications

E*Trade ‘Baby Banter’

Less Than $1 Million

Illustration: Gluekit


A baby that talks? Been done. A baby that cracks wise like a dude, or rather, like a fast-talking day trader?

That’s kind of funny. Funny enough, at least, to propel E*Trade’s “Baby Banter” campaign beyond paid TV spots and into some of the most-watched programming in sports. During last year’s AFC NFL playoffs, Spark Communications negotiated an ad run that included an on-air interview with the E*Trade baby on CBS’ NFL Today.

The interview, complemented by a handful of traditional spots, included the baby’s pick for the AFC title game (he was wrong), but not before random asides on three-legged dogs, the Iditarod, and Joe Marino’s overuse of tanning beds. The “interview” garnered more than 600 mentions across social media, blogs, and media outlets. Even Lebron James proclaimed the discussion “hilarious” on Twitter. Credit goes to Grey in New York, the creative voice behind the spot.

The play was a success in more traditional metrics, too. The placement caused E*Trade to surpass its website visit and account goals, by double-digit percentages. “We wanted to stand out beyond a 30-second spot, and really enrich the consumer’s experience with the brand,” says Shelby Saville, svp, managing director at Spark Communications. Best of all, no babies were harmed. —Erin Griffith

Glee: Gluekit; Charmin illustration: Kyle T. Webster; Graphic: Carlos Monteiro

Starcom USA

Hanesbrands, inc. ‘Undercover Style’

Less Than $1 Million

Shopping for clothes may be pleasurable for many women, but apparently, the same can’t be said for the garments they wear underneath. Big-box lingerie departments, with their sea of beige, are deadening, and when women do buy, they more often than not wind up with the wrong bra size, leading to situations like the dreaded “quadraboob.”

So when Hanesbrands, Inc.’s Barely There and its agency Starcom USA looked to improve the perception of bra buying, they went to a magazine whose brand considers shopping a form of entertainment.

Condé Nast’s Lucky created a custom in-magazine sticker unit that showed illustrations of women wearing popular styles. When peeled back, the stickers revealed the Barely There bra best suited to each style. A QR code took women to Barely There’s website. “Partnering with Lucky enabled us to provide solutions in an area that is very personal and frustrating: finding the right-size bra,” says Tricia Bouras, Barely There’s marketing director.

Research by Affinity’s Vista showed 33 percent of women who recalled the ad were willing to buy a Barely There bra, a 15 percent lift over the category average, and Barely There’s favorability rose 5 percent. “We put a fashion spin on it,” says Brenda White, svp, Starcom. “That made it a much more positive experience.” —Lucia Moses


An interactive sticker unit enabled readers of Lucky magazine to peel and reveal the right bra to wear under four style trends | Graphic: Carlos Monteiro

Doner Amazon Kindle

‘Continued on the kindle’

$1 Million – 10 Million

The line between advertising and content can be hard to define on television and online. Not so in print, where groups like the American Society of Magazine Editors keep the two firmly divided.

That is, until now. In Doner’s “Continued on the Kindle” campaign for Amazon’s e-reader, a book review in Forbes concludes on a printed image of the Kindle in an adjacent full-page ad. Another in US Airways Magazine uses an asterisk to lead readers to an ad at the bottom of the page. “It disrupts readers from glossing over the ad because they’re focusing on the editorial product,” says Greg Clausen, Doner’s chief media officer. “We moved the editorial product right into our ad. It was unavoidable.”

Publishers were hesitant. “The Chinese wall between the editorial product and the advertising product has always been very separate,” Clausen says. “So this went up to the most senior levels within the publications.”

But at least one person was jubilant about the innovation. “When it first ran, we got an e-mail forwarded to us from [Amazon founder and CEO] Jeff Bezos,” Clausen says. “He said, ‘This is brilliant. Can we do more?’” More they did: similar ads ran in The New York Times Book Review and USA Today.

“Even in a very traditional medium like print, which has been around for a long, long time—to be able to do something that’s never been done before is very rewarding,” says Clausen. Perhaps less so for the readers. But they can’t avoid it. –Dylan Byers



JetBlue ‘Thinking Outside The Bag’

JetBlue, in a competitive struggle in Los Angeles with Virgin America—which charges for all checked luggage—needed to spread the word to Los Angelinos that first bags fly free. So, Mullen’s mediahub played with a metaphor the city could relate to: celebrity baggage.

The agency created an interactive charity auction, taking bids for actual celebrity baggage and their contents. Donald Trump, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, and about 40 other celebrities donated their luggage to the “Thinking Outside the Bag” campaign.

The campaign keyed on an interactive video unit at the Santa Monica Place mall that showcased bags with a QR code directing users to the auction site. The screens allowed users to select celebrities and view bag details. “The interactive outdoor experience has tremendous stopping power, there was no way you weren’t going to notice,” says John Moore, mediahub’s chief media officer.

The campaign drew over 68 million media impressions—many from celebrity tweets and press coverage. The auction attracted 15,000 bids and raised $44,000 for, which links young people to volunteerism.

For JetBlue, this brought its first-bag free message to life. “It had a level of interaction and engagement that really excited us,” says Fiona Morrisson, director of brand and advertising for JetBlue. –Katie Feola

above: Interactive video display / Celebrity luggage 


Hill Holliday

Dunkin’ Donuts ‘On The Go’

Dunkin’ Donuts, a brand known for its on-the-go products, realized two years ago that its profile had to be as mobile as its carryout coffee and doughnuts.

Dunkin’s mobile ad plan developed by Hill Holliday is a suite of interactive activities that seem to be as addictive as its Coolatta drinks, earning click-through rates as high as 5 percent and engagement levels 400 percent higher than standard mobile campaigns. “It’s easy to slap a banner out there, but without engagement and specific executions for each environment, we never would have gotten the click through,” says Hill Holliday co-media director Cindy Stockwell.

The campaign leverages four smartphone platforms. Dunkin’ fanatics can: create music mixes for their Coolatta on Pandora; take a Coffee IQ quiz across 20 news apps; and toss ingredients into an iced coffee for points in Electronic Arts’ Scrabble game. Navteq’s location apps help drive store traffic.

“Mobile allows us to bring the brand to consumers in a very local way,” says Dan Saia, vp of consumer engagement for Dunkin’. “It helps define who we are and what we stand for.” –Katy Bachman

• Pandora visitors created customized music mixes.

• Partnered with Navteq to provide restaurant information based on location

• Coffee IQ quiz

•Iced Coffee Creator game for EA Scrabble players

Graphics: Carlos Monteiro

Illustration: Gluekit

Branded Content

Starcom USA Wrigley

Orbit ‘Dirty Shorts’

Orbit gum may be all about cleaning up, but that doesn’t mean the folks behind the brand are afraid of getting down and dirty. Really dirty.

The Wrigley brand and Starcom USA teamed up with actors Jason Bateman and Will Arnett’s marketing company DumbDumb. The result? “Dirty Shorts”—a branded comedic Web series launched last summer. In one segment, Arnett plays a teacher taking his recently “legal” student to the prom; in another, Bateman charms as a stripper. Both quirky scenarios resolve when the characters start chewing Orbit gum.

“We knew we needed to elevate the caliber of programming to a level in which Orbit fans would be excited about sharing the content with their social networks,” says Victor Mehren, senior marketing director for Wrigley. The two spots garnered more than 2.7 million views, over-delivering the goal of 500,000 views by almost 500 percent. Not only was 94 percent of user sentiment regarding the videos tagged as positive, but 80 percent of user sentiment toward Orbit was also in the plus column.

Says Erin Houg, vp, media director at Starcom: “It was really a way for consumers to have that dirty-clean up metaphor, that Orbit is so known for, brought to life in a fun way with these well-known comedic actors.” —Ki Mae Heussner

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