Full Service, Full Throttle: Full Service Agency of the Year - Hill Holliday

Once again, Hill Holiday takes top honors for doing it all, and doing it right.  

hillholliday_mewi13.jpgSome 200 miles north of Madison Avenue, full-service agency Hill Holliday sticks out as a Brahmin among other prominent agencies in the land of bean and cod. Founded in Boston in 1968, the Interpublic Group company now has offices in all the major U.S. advertising hubs — New York, Miami, San Francisco — and even one in Greenville, S.C. 

Since its 1998 acquisition by holding company Interpublic Group, Hill Holliday has maintained its integrity as a full-service agency focused on strategy, execution and superb creative for its full roster of clients, ranging from insurance agencies like Harvard Pilgrim Health and Liberty Mutual to familiar American eateries like Chili’s and Dunkin’ Donuts to financial management companies like Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. It goes without saying that Hill Holliday’s clients are as diverse as the services they offer, forcing the full-service agency to be full-service in more ways than one. 

Just as Hill Holliday is firmly rooted in Boston, so is one of their biggest clients: Dunkin’ Donuts. In fact, it’s the work they’ve done for Dunkin’ that has earned the agency some of their biggest accolades — including many from MediaPost. Hill Holliday chalks that up to the fact that Dunkin’ Donuts lets the agency to be innovative and creative.

“The Dunkin’ Donuts clients are incredibly open to innovative solutions across all channels and as a result, we’ve had successes like Dunkin’s branded content partnership with The Sims Social and Sim City games,” explains Cindy Stockwell, EVP, media director at Hill Holliday. “Our cross-channel program with ESPN’s Field Pass segment where we have on-air, on-set and second-screen social elements; and an innovative approach to Facebook fan acquisition and fan engagement that is at the heart of our digital media plan.”

But unbridled creativity usually has limitations when implementing a media plan. Not so at Hill Holliday. Being a full-service agency allows Hill Holliday to thrive in a way that removes the red tape most agencies deal with when working on campaigns. 

“From a creative standpoint, it’s a really holistic approach. At the end of the day, it not only saves time — it makes the ideas better,” says Lance Jensen, EVP, chief creative officer at Hill Holliday, “I think most clients would agree. Having everyone on the same team is a win for everyone. We never have to limit ourselves wondering, is this even possible, or wait forever for feedback because our media colleagues are literally sitting beside us in the client meetings.”


The Analytic Advantage

A major draw for potential clients is that the agency has developed and uses sophisticated analytics to better understand the impact of their creative and media buys.

“We apply advanced analytics to measure effectiveness of our creative and media plans, and we are constantly innovating so we can offer clients opportunities in emerging technologies,” Stockwell explains. “This led us to establish one of the first RTB teams at a full-service agency; and to launch Project Beacon to identify and partner with start-ups that can offer unique testing opportunities for our clients. And we've built a best-in-class content team that focuses on developing longer form and immersive consumer experiences for our clients’ brands.”

In order to keep clients happy, however, you need a strong team — really, you need a happy team. And that’s also an upside for full-service Hill Holliday. Because the departments work so closely, there are fewer surprises (and less infighting) than at other agencies.

“From a media person’s perspective, being in a  full-service agency gives us total freedom to ideate in any area and not be pigeonholed into a media silo,” says Stockwell. “We are part of a team that is focused on putting creativity to work in moving a client’s business forward. So many of the ideas that the agency brings forth for our clients are a total blend of media and creative.”

The year ahead looks just as bright for this agency upon a hill: real-time buying and social interactions will be on the forefront for most campaigns across the board.

“We see a strong movement into further real-time, technology-based buying in channels outside of digital and in private marketplaces within digital,” says Stockwell. “We are seeing social interactions move from campaigns that live in a moment to much more frequent, light-weight interactions that are created and optimized by listening to social commentary and actions.” 

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