Agency of the Year 2009: Department of the Year: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

MEDIA: AOY 2009: Department of the Year: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: Ceci n'est pas un département

Ceci N'est Pas un Département

For the third consecutive year, MEDIA has selected the media team at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as its "media department" of the year for 2009. Readers of the past two years' profiles already know how ironic that is, because gs&p claims it no longer has a media department, and has fused media planning and buying with its strategic planning team. Whatever you want to call it, the results have been something all agencies - full-service, stand-alone, integrated or otherwise - should take notice of. The editors of this magazine sure have.

We've noticed it year-in and year-out for the past several, but we notice especially each fall when we deliberate with a panel of industry experts to pick the winners of our annual Creative Media Awards. For the past few years, GS&P was a near sweep. In the 2009 awards, for example, GS&P took top honors in five categories, plus took home Best in Show for Doritos Hotel 626.

But it's not just the creative ideation that makes GS&P such an amazing "media" shop. That should be a given, considering its DNA. What makes it a truly innovative and industry-leading media organization is that it approaches everything it does in a highly strategic and integrated way, starting with how its clients' brands resonate with consumers, and then building everything up from there. Given that approach, it's probably appropriate that GS&P no longer calls its team a media department, but a "strategy group."

We're not alone in recognizing GS&P's excellence. The agency has had one of the best new business records during one of the worst advertising economies in recorded history. It's picked up plenty of awards, including some specifically for its media executions, such as our CMAs. And it was even recently named the "Agency of the Decade" for the first decade of this millennium by Adweek magazine.

Where does all that recognition come from? Well, clearly, GS&P has a good story, and it tells it well. But beyond that, it's got, well, the goods. It delivers at all levels, but especially on the main criteria MEDIA uses to select its agencies of the year: strategic vision, innovation and industry leadership. So let's recap how it achieved success in all three during 2009.

Strategic vision: Much as it fused its media and strategic planning groups together a year or so earlier to form its strategy group, GS&P took the next logical step during 2009, officially merging its research group with its analytics group, and integrating them into its strategy department. This enabled the agency's "brand strategists" and "communication strategists" to sit alongside "research strategists" and "analytics strategists" while developing campaign ideas and executions. Note the emphasis on the word "strategy" here. The integration enabled GS&P's researchers and analysts to be part of a fully integrated process, as opposed to stepping in at the beginning to provide insights, or coming in at the end to "post" the campaign's results. Not surprisingly, this new approach led to recognitions of its own during 2009, including the research and consumer insights award from MEDIA's CMAs for its approach to Cheetos consumer research.

Innovation: Lest we sound like a broken record, all you need to do is review the results of its work, and the best way to do that is to look at the award-winning campaign descriptions to see how GS&P continuously pushes the envelope of what constitutes a media strategy and/or execution. Specifically, the branded content it developed for client Adobe or the "augmented reality" markers it embedded on a bag of chips for client Frito-Lay.

Industry leadership: Last but not least, and the criterion we probably weight the most, because it is the one most likely to influence the way others in the industry do business, GS&P demonstrated industry leadership in several important ways during 2009. In addition to the two cited above - the integration of research and analytics into its strategy group and innovative uses of media - the GS&P team have been visible and vocal spokespersons for the rest of the industry.

One good example was the role the agency played when USA Today introduced a U.S. Media Lions contest in 2009, inviting two-person teams to create a strategy solution in an open contest, with the best five teams from around the nation invited to New York City to present to a senior-level team of media judges. Not surprisingly, two of the five finalist teams were the brand/communications strategy teams from GS&P, one of which was selected as the finalist to go to Cannes - paid for by USA Today - as the U.S. media representatives in the global Cannes Media contest (where the team then won a bronze Lion).

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