Staff Reporters
Mar 27, 2023

Agency Report Card 2022: MediaCom

MediaCom had two big tasks for the year: build out the Coca-Cola OpenX team and plan for Essence’s integration into the agency.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Degustation - KFC
Kentucky Fried Chicken Degustation - KFC

2022 was eventful for MediaCom. At the start of the year, the agency took time to onboard Coca-Cola, having won the account at the group level with parent holding company WPP the previous year.

At the same time, it was revealed that MediaCom would take on Google's media duties alongside Essence. That was a sign of things to come as WPP soon announced that MediaCom would merge with Essence within the next 12 months.

Ahead of the merger, agency leaders Rupert McPetrie, Josh Gallagher, Gilles Detanger, Sonia Fernandes and Paul Waller continued in their respective C-suite roles to help the agency transition into EssenceMediacom. They would go on to stay in their roles after the merger.

Category 2022 2021
Business C+   B+
Innovation B B
DEI and sustainability B B
Creativity and effectiveness C+ B+
Management B- B+
*2021 scores adjusted to new numeric scale. Read about the grading methodology

Business (C+)

MediaCom says it focused on winning more local clients in 2022 to diversify its client portfolio, pointing to how 100% of its pitch wins in key markets such as India, Australia, and China came from local pitches, compared to only 31% in 2021. 

The agency’s top three business wins were Estee Lauder, Lazada in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, Vinamilk in Vietnam and gaming firm 1x Corp. N.V. in India. It managed to retain key clients such as Mars, Adidas, and Richemont Group.

However, this strategy to win more local clients fails to mask the agency's loss of several notable clients, including Procter & Gamble in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, Unilab in the Philippines, Yum! Brands in Indonesia and Merck & Co in South Korea.

According to Campaign AI, which taps into data from consultancy R3, MediaCom finished in 17th place in the 2022 APAC media agency rankings with 47 wins and $4.6 million in estimated YTD net revenue. This was a massive drop from its second place in the 2021 R3 New Business League when it secured 54 wins and $68.1 million in net revenue.

While it has lost a couple of key clients, the agency says it has brought in ‘significant’ new business and services, not just media planning and buying services. While losing clients like P&G was significant, the agency stresses that it has shown resilience in bouncing back, pointing to the fact that it won Globe Telecom in the Philippines weeks after losing Unilab.

The agency admits it had a ‘crazy year’ in China but is proud to have delivered growth. It points to the new business it won in the country and diversifying with clients like Bosch and Siemens.

MediaCom argues its growth is coming through diversified services in the business, like its creative services in Australia, which we are told make up 20% of MediaCom’s business. The agency says analytics in ecommerce out of Singapore make up around 15% of its business.

The agency assures us that it can bring in new clients at a rate that keeps the agency growing without losing significant business. India will be a market for the agency to look to become a market leader in 2023 after WPP acquired its remaining 26% stake in MediaCom.

We are dropping the grade to ‘average’ as the loss of P&G seems to have hurt MediaCom much more than it cares to admit. Its steep drop down the new business league standings means this was not a good year overall for the agency.

Innovation (B)

The OpenX team was in action for Sprite in China, where Gen Z are huge music fans, aligning with Sprite’s recent ties to popular music and artists. The team's strategy included leveraging emerging trends such as livestreaming music concerts and the metaverse and using the celebrity effect of virtual concerts for greater engagement. 

MediaCom hosted China’s first Metaverse Music Festival, adopted advanced AI technology on NetEase Music, and created a brand anthem that reached high chart rankings. 

In 2022, MediaCom developed an ecommerce business intelligence tool called ‘Select’ to fit the commerce needs of clients like Fonterra, Coca-Cola and Grab. The tool helps answer critical questions, such as what triggers purchases, identify the right products, link to media, 

drive profit across the portfolio and allocate a media budget. We are told that the tool helped a leading beverage category brand, whose name is confidential, optimise the best-performing products and improve sales. 

The brand found the right mix through Lazada by focusing on small products during sale seasons and days, supported with high retail media support. For Shopee, it focused on large products during mega sale days supported by retail media and Facebook’s Collaborative Performance Advertising Solution.

We will stick with a ‘very good’ grade this year because MediaCom stays ahead and addresses clients’ needs. 

DEI & Sustainability (B)

MediaCom has a high percentage of permanent female staff but does not have enough women in senior leadership. Top positions are all held by men: APAC CEO Rupert McPetrie, COO Josh Gallagher, CCO Gilles Detanger, CIO Paul Waller and China CEO Benjamin Wei.

The agency has started to address this by implementing various initiatives to promote DEI within the company, such as its DEI program in April 2022, which identifies and addresses affected groups at all levels. 

Each market CEO and MD are responsible for framing their DEI plans, like defining problem statements, program details, number of attendees, feedback, and outcome/benefits. No less than 75 grassroots programs from 15 markets were created within seven months of the DEI launch, of which 73% have already been implemented. The breakdown of programs is 22 Diversity, 20 Equity and 33 Inclusion programs.

The agency also prides itself on bringing diverse thoughts and ideas into their client work through interactive and personalised training through the e-Learning platform CulturalWizard. 

Additionally, they have implemented a global sponsorship program to assist under-represented groups in career advancement.

For sustainability, MediaCom follows the global carbon measurement framework introduced at the GroupM level, which aims to establish industry-wide standards for measuring carbon emissions in the media industry. 

The framework is a set of new measurement methodologies that break down the media value chain and define the necessary data inputs to measure carbon emissions across all five stages of the advertising life cycle for all formats, channels and markets by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol's standards. 

This initiative is supported by creating a coalition of nearly 20 advertisers, including MediaCom clients such as Bayer, Mars, Sony, and Tesco. The agency has tested this with a client and seen positive results but has asked us to keep the results confidential.

We are pleased to see MediaCom is making an effort to address its gender diversity at the senior level with the improvements in its DEI programme, but without seeing actual change, we cannot award a higher grade. On the sustainability front, the carbon measurement framework looks promising. We will stick with a B, but unless we see more improvement next year, this grade could easily slip. 

Creativity & Effectiveness (C+)



A standout for MediaCom in 2022 is its award-winning work for SK-II, which picked up a Media Lion Bronze at Cannes Lions. With Grey, Mediacom created The ‘VS’ Series by SK-II Studio, a collection of six animated films based on the real-life experiences of six Olympic athletes.

They each explore what it means to take destiny into their own hands, overcoming societal pressures which dictate how they should look, act and feel to be perfect. For other SK-II campaigns, the agency also won a Grand Prix, Gold Silver and Silver at Spikes Asia 2022.

For other clients like KFC, MediaCom created Kentucky Fried Chicken Degustation in Australia with Ogilvy, a ‘limited time’ fine dining restaurant built from scratch and marketed like a restaurant opening. The initiative helped KFC address quality perceptions as a fast-food company battling the category stigma around producing low-quality food. Aiming to change the mind of food critics with content, the campaign received billions of impressions, trended highly on Google, and saw a high ‘quality score’ increase. The exact figures remained confidential.

For Dell, the agency increased sales of laptops for the brand in Australia and India through influencers on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. MediaCom helped the brand achieve 1.1 billion impressions, a reach of 600 million, 96% growth in revenue and a 92% growth for return in advertising spend. The campaign won two Golds, two Silvers and a Bronze at the 2021 Media Federation of Australia awards.

We are lowering the grade to ‘average’ because while winning a Lion for SK-II is impressive, and we like the Dell work, we didn’t see many current examples of award-winning work from 2022. Its KFC campaign does not exactly get us excited either, and we would love to see more purposeful work too. 

Management (B-)

MediaCom experienced growth, increased new hires, and had fewer departures in 2022, with significant contributions from the top markets of China, Australia and India. According to the agency, most new hires were for the OpenX team. Exact figures remain confidential.

The agency’s Hong Kong managing director Alice Chow was moved up to become GroupM’s CEO in the country after the departure of Caroline Chan. Ashish Willams was moved from South Africa to Singapore to become MD, and Nicky Huang was promoted from general manager to managing director of its Taiwan operations.

As the agency prepared to transition into EssenceMediaCom, WPP carved out a new role for Essence’s Kyoko Matsushita as CEO of Japan. This allowed Gallagher, Detanger, Fernandes, and Waller to continue their respective roles in the new agency, with McPetrie becoming the regional CEO.

MediaCom provided training and positive experiences for new hires through a four-step onboarding program and brought in Culture Amp to track performance, goals, feedback, and recognition. 

Its Wellbeing Allies initiative provides staff access to help when needed. The program has now been extended to all regional WPP offices, with a pilot underway in Singapore.

Overall, there were few missteps by MediaCom leadership as they focused on incorporating Essence into the agency. However, as top management still has work to do on gender balance and with few accomplishments or new initiatives, we are lowering the grade to ‘good’.

 

Consumer insight 40%

Client insight 40%

Solution design 20%
 

*The agency declined to provide a business breakdown. The above-mentioned have been identified by Campaign through public sources.

Addressable Media & Content
Advanced Analytics
Ecommerce

Procter & Gamble
Coca-Cola
Dell Technologies
Mars
Adidas Group
Richemont
Sony
Fonterra Group
Uber
Shell

B+: Our consistency in clients, a greater focus on people strategy, and improvements in the work and innovation see us grade ourselves to remain at a B+.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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