Terkelsen Retools MediaVest, Cites Wins, Innovations
In the agency world, high-level management changes are often the response at a shop in crisis. Harris Diamond’s replacement of Nick Brien late
last year as CEO of Interpublic’s McCann Worldgroup would be exhibit No. 1.
But when Brian Terkelsen took over the CEO reins at MediaVest USA last July, he recalls, “I didn’t feel like I was rescuing a business. “I feel like I was given the keys to a car that had just been in the garage and needed to be dusted off and brought back out.”
Terkelsen is a former investment banker and program producer who co-founded Eco-Challenge Lifestyles Inc. with Mark Burnett some two decades ago. A 10-year MediaVest veteran, he has spent most of his career at the agency building the shop’s content capabilities and then expanding them into the global practice now known as LiquidThread.
Terkelsen, an avid skier and sailor, is prone to car analogies these days. The auto business has been on his mind lately and likely will be for some time. Last month, the agency was selected to be the new media agency for the estimated $1.1 billion American Honda Motor Co. account.
The Honda win was the latest in a string of victories, with total billings of about $1.5 billion since Terkelsen became CEO. The shop’s annualized billings now total $11 billion.
Earlier, the agency consolidated U.S. media planning and buying duties on the estimated $250 million assignment for Mondelez International, spun off from Kraft Foods last year. In December 2012, the shop won media duties for the $100 million Travelers account and shortly before that, picked up media chores for the Tri-Honda Dealers Association (covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), with estimated spending of about $40 million annually.
Terkelsen’s first nine months in the corner office at MediaVest were hectic. He wasn’t just pitching new business. He was also taking reads on the both the agency staff and existing clients, as well as understanding, as he puts it, “what was needed to make our product the best product on the street.”
Terkelsen didn’t find any large gaps in the agency’s capabilities. “We’ve put a bit more laser focus on what an experience is,” he said. “And on how data and analytics drive brand loyalty and the future of marketing.” Also, he adds, “we got much more focused on social being at the center of all experiences.”
That said, product innovation never stops. “It’s where it should be today, but it can’t ever plateau. We’re constantly reinventing it.” Mobile is a case in point: “It’s such a compelling proposition. Who in their right mind would say ‘I can’t imagine how that kind of closeness and connectivity is not going to help me market product?’”
While the proposition is compelling, the industry is still in the process of figuring out how to engage consumers in the mobile space. “We’re just scratching the surface,” he said. “Mobile is probably in its half-life right now,” suggesting it could be another five years before “we’re really in it. It will be a 10-year overnight success.”
Still to come: fine-tuning of the agency’s external marketing approach. Going forward, there will be less focus on the shop’s “Truth & Design” positioning. “That’s a point of view, not why clients use us,” he said. “It all boils down to experience,” which is what the new positioning will try to encapsulate.