Social Agency of the Year: Mindshare

For decades marketers and agencies have tried to react quickly to consumer trends and keep track of changing perceptions of brands. In the increasingly connected digital world of the past few years the urgency to do so has exponentially increased.

Social media has spawned the age of so-called “real-time” marketing, the umbrella term for platforms that marketers have developed to respond quickly to developments that might impact a brand, or its perception, with content created on the fly. 

Rapid response to consumer sentiment and the cultural zeitgeist is now at the core of many content-based offerings brought to marketers by agencies. Mindshare, part of WPP calls its version “Adaptive Marketing.”

In 2014, the agency sought to differentiate its offering with the unveiling of a real-time marketing process call The Loop. Previously, most if not all such platforms had focused on enhancing earned and owned media efforts. 

The Loop added a twist — it was designed to enable clients to quickly change paid-media plans in response to events as quickly as they respond to consumers evoking opinions about them in the social media space. 

It was a bold if counter-intuitive idea. Given its inventiveness and positive embrace by marketers, MediaPost has named Mindshare Social Media Agency Of The Year. 

Paid media models — outside of the nascent programmatic space—for the most part aren’t designed to be implemented on the fly.  Mindshare’s strategy: Get clients to put up to a third of their budgets “on the sideline” as North America CEO Colin Kinsella puts it, to amplify or retarget in near real time based on consumer activity and commentary tracked by The Loop system.

And it’s worked — on a number of levels. About a third of clients in the U.S. are using the system full tilt, putting aside sizeable portions of mostly digital budgets which are invested per The Loop directives. That said, the agency also intends to optimize ample portions of traditional budgets through the system as well; some client TV dollars have already been reallocated via The Loop.

The platform has also been placed front and center in new business pitches to great effect, says Kinsella. In fact he says, when The Loop debuted, the shop had seven pieces of business that were contemplating leaving or planning to conduct formal reviews. He credits The Loop for the retention of six of those clients, while one departed. 

The Loop is credited with helping to reel in the massive General Mills global media assignment (the brand spends more than $800 million in the U.S. alone). One of the cereal  and snack food company’s core objectives going forward is to shift more money into digital initiatives over the coming years, and The Loop system will drive that shift. In fiscal 2015, 18% of its budget went to digital and 79% to TV.  By contrast, in fiscal 2016, 25% of its ad spend will go to digital and 73% to TV. 

Globally, The Loop will help General Mills achieve reallocation goals as well — The Loop platform now serves some two dozen markets outside the U.S. When the cereal and snack food marketer tapped Mindshare this fall for media duties, a rep for the company said, “Their engagement, insights and ideas across paid, owned, earned and shared media will enable General Mills to continue to advance its consumer, first approach to growing our brands across these markets.”

Client Rent-A-Center also believes in the power of The Loop to spot trends and maximize the effectiveness of media outlays. When it re-upped last summer with the agency, the company’s Director of Advertising Troy Minaldi said, “Mindshare demonstrated a quick adaptation to our evolving needs, and the launch of The Loop and their Adaptive Marketing philosophy impressed and excited us. We are looking forward to a new phase of transformation and brand-building.”  

And perhaps more importantly, the platform has changed the client perception of the agency and strengthened client relationships, says Kinsella. “It’s driven a cultural shift in the way we interact with clients from an episodic relationship to an everyday relationship,” he said. “Because brands want to connect with consumers” constantly and The Loop facilitates that connection,” he adds.

In many cases, he adds, The Loop puts Mindshare in the position of leading cross-agency planning for clients because the platform provides insights that are of value to numerous disciplines. “Clients want agencies to work together,” said Kinsella. And The Loop can serve as a sort of pivot point in that effort because “It’s designed to make decisions, create, and get to market quickly.”   

Jordan Bitterman, Mindshare’s Chief Strategy Officer for North America says The Loop is a “change agent for our company.”  It enables the shop to “keep riding the crest of the wave and stay on top of what’s modern and current.” 

The Loop has forged partnerships with many outside firms — Google, Buzzfeed and Percolate among them — to expand the offering.  In house, Mindshare Labs has contributed as well with the creation of some proprietary tools for the platform. Bitterman said that The Loop will continue to evolve not only as new partnerships are formed but also as existing partners expand their own core competencies. “It is at the center of everything we do,” he said.

The agency would also like to find an ad tech partner to sharpen creative versioning efforts and response times which would improve overall campaign performance.  Speed of course, remains a priority on all fronts. To some extent, enhancing speed comes with using the system and increasing the amount of so-called “structured” or useable data to create solutions.  

Next year, Bitterman believes that paid media will play a more central role in the platform’s activities. “The more we do that, the more we scale it,” he said.

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