UM Wednesday named Steve Hantzarides to serve as marketing director, which UM considers a first of its kind position for a media agency. Hantzarides, who was marketing director at USA Today, initially will work on the agency's internal communications and outside public relations strategies, but ultimately expects to employ some of the very same communications planning and buying techniques UM advocates for its paying clients. The big exception: don't expect any lavish advertising budgets.
"We don't have a lot of money and what money we do have we have to stretch very carefully," said Robin Kent, CEO of the agency. If it sounds a little ironic for the head of a media agency to rationalize an inability to advertise his brand, it's because the agency believes there are other cost effective ways for its to get its message and brand name out, such as PR, events and, to use the shop's vernacular, "new points of communications contacts."
"It's not like you see a lot of agencies placing ads on their own behalf," noted Kent, pointing out that when they do, it is usually to tout an award they've just won.
Still, the new aggressiveness of UM may well inspire other big media shops to follow suit, stepping up their trade marketing efforts and that could inspire the kind of marketing wars that are more associated with their clients' brands than with agency brands.
Interestingly, UM is the only one of the major media agencies to have any brand tie to its legacy agency (McCann-Erickson) name, something the other media shops have been chastised for, including in a speech last year by American Association of Advertising Agencies president O. Burtch Drake at the associations annual Media Conference and Trade Show.
"We find it serves us well to be part of the McCann Global Group," says Kent. "We can draw on their resources when we need to and we can remain as independent as we want to."