Agency Profile: Mindshare

Two years after bringing its partners together under the same roof, the world’s largest media agency is hitting its stride.
MindShare—a WPP Group company that is the world’s largest media agency, with annual billings in excess of $18.4 billion—is the result of the 1997 merger of two of the most prestigious media departments in the world: those of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather. The goal was to pool the media planning, buying, and research operations of both these agencies into a single client resource, and in the second year of being under the same roof, they are meeting all their expectations.

“We are in our second semester. We’re coming together as an organization,” said Marc Goldstein, co-president of MindShare. “In our first year the companies were just getting to know each other. In the second year, the initial uncertainty has virtually disappeared. We are showing more teamwork and are coming together as MindShare. We are starting our own MindShare culture, traditions, and history.”

Goldstein sits on MindShare’s North American Management Team and, along with co-presidents Ray Simko and Jean Pool, is responsible for the day-to-day operations. In this unique three-headed arrangement, each of the co-presidents oversees a different aspect of MindShare, and their passions, professionalism, and more than 30 years each of media experience complement each other extremely well. Goldstein spent seven years at GM Mediaworks and was responsible for GM’s media investments in National Broadcast before being tapped as MindShare’s President, National Broadcast and Programming. Prior to that, he headed the National Broadcast departments at both Lintas and Ogilvy & Mather. He also was Senior VP in the broadcast and programming operation at Benton & Bowles, and served stints at Screen Gems Television, NBC, and CBS.

Ray Simko was employed at Ogilvy & Mather for 25 years prior to moving over to MindShare as president, strategic planning. His last role at O&M had been senior partner-media head. He began his career as an assistant media planner at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample and did a stint at Grey Advertising before joining O&M.

Jean Pool spent nearly her entire career at J. Walter Thompson before coming to MindShare as president, operations. Before making the move to MindShare, she was EVP Director of North American Media Services for the whole of JWT. Her previous roles at JWT included VP Director of Broadcast at JWT Canada and Regional Buying Supervisor at JWT Detroit.

Despite the downturn in the ad industry, MindShare is still growing and winning accounts. Most recently it was awarded the $250 million media buying and planning assignment from Novartis. “Business is good, we’re holding our own,” reflected Simko. “Because of the diversity of accounts and the varied industry segments they are in, we don’t get hit as hard as other big agencies during a recession. Also we were not as reliant on dot-com business, so when this sector crashed, we didn’t see a shortfall.”

Being big (72 offices in 52 countries employing more than 3,400 media professionals) has other advantages as well. Aside from its obvious clout in making buys and obtaining volume discounts, MindShare is able to reinvest in other resources many smaller agencies cannot. Says Goldstein, “We pride ourselves in the ability to reinvest in two things: research, to better understand our clients and the consumer, and people—you can’t stay in business without smart people.”

This concept of investment is paramount to the whole thinking at MindShare. They don’t consider themselves an agency as much as a “media investment management” company. Ray Simko noted that MindShare chairman Irwin Gotlieb likes to say, “When you go to Sears, you buy a shirt. When you spend millions of dollars in media for your client, that’s not a buy, that’s an investment.” Although buying vs. investment seems like agency semantics, it is a distinction that appeals to its clients, a who’s who of brand names like American Express, Ford, Dominos, IBM, Sears, Hershey, Merrill Lynch, Bristol Myers, and Kimberly-Clark.

However, media planning and buying are not all that takes place in the House of Media, MindShare’s catchy name for its media operation, where the goal is to attain “every touch point” with the consumer. “Clients really see the benefit to this arrangement when doing multi-platform deals,” said Pool. “With integrated multi-discipline departments, campaigns become more successful.”

The House of Media has several specialty departments under its roof: MindShare Digital (providing online services primarily through OgilvyInteractive); MindShare Direct (specializing in response-oriented media); Consumer Insight (understanding consumer/brand relationships); Advanced Techniques Group (applying analytical tools and techniques to media problems); Broadmind (offering sponsorship and event marketing); Non-Traditional Media (presenting non-traditional and promotion-oriented solutions); and Mindshare Multi-Cultural (planning and buying ethnic-targeted media).

“The foundation of the house is research, analysis, and understanding the consumer,” said Simko. “From there everything else is built: our media plans, our investment in media. When our two companies merged to form MindShare, we purposely kept both research departments from O&M and JWT intact because they blended and complemented each other. Ogilvy brought the nontraditional side of research and Thompson brought the promotion side.”

“We have an interactive panel at our disposal called the MORe panel,” added Goldstein. “Within days we can survey a pool of over 100,000 qualified respondents. We have conducted surveys on everything from toenail fungus to migraines on behalf of our clients. Along with primary product usage information, we learn about consumer media usage trends and patterns as well.”

For MindShare, research is not an afterthought but a starting point. “What has happened over time is agencies have walked away from quantifying consumer research and have moved exclusively to ad testing,” said Simko. “With our resources in place, we are a powerhouse for quantifying information trends.”

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