Interpublic’s Universal McCann is going global with its custom content division.
The unit -- which was started a little more than two years ago as a U.S.-focused practice -- now has 35 custom campaign “architects” spanning 16 countries, and is designed to create unique campaigns and content for clients using multiple and integrated media channels.
Earlier this year, Michael Siegenthaler, executive vice president, UM content and experiences, and the executive who started the unit, was promoted to chief experience officer. His mandate is to expand the practice worldwide, setting up international offices in the UK, Colombia, Italy, the Netherlands, India and Malaysia, among others.
“The goal is still the same,” Siegenthaler said at an event last week in New York, showcasing work from some of the division’s offices. That is, to create content that engages viewers by going beyond traditional ad channels.
Succeeding Siegenthaler in the U.S. was Tara Poto, who was promoted to senior vice president, UM content and experiences, North America in March. Previously, Poto led the team of content creators at J3, a dedicated strategy group set up to service client Johnson & Johnson.
The North American team is the largest part of the custom content unit. It’s expanded from an original four staffers to 25, across five UM offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Toronto. In the past two-plus years, the operation has executed 450 activations working with 155 media vendors and outside content creators, Poto said.
One example of showcased work: a campaign aimed at Fiat’s core target of younger urban dwellers and designed to punctuate the car’s return to the U.S. after a 26-year absence. “We identified a target audience we call ‘creative innovators’ " said UM experience architect Brian Elliott, who led the effort.
It’s a group that enjoys stories and storytelling, he added, which led to a campaign with CBS Radio that featured a series of
inspirational stories, called “Alternate Routes,” that connected with the brand.
The series aired on CBS radio stations in five major markets, including New York and Los Angeles, as well as the CBS Digital Network, CBS local sites, YouTube, Facebook, Radio.com and FiatUSA.com.
The custom content’s London office was also represented at the event to promote Microsoft’s Kinect Star Wars game. The goal was to create buzz on social media timed around the release of the game in April, said UM’s Scott Holmes, who led the effort. The insight driving it was that Facebook and Twitter users talk a lot about new layouts and features introduced by those social media networks.
So the UM team designed a mobile app in which the social feeds of users would appear as the iconic opening credits crawl in the "Star Wars" theatrical films, including the original musical score by composer John Williams. The shop estimates that the app has generated 60 million total impressions.