Interactive Agency Of The Year: MEC Interaction



The pacesetter gives it some gas, then floors it

While some agencies struggled to retain accounts in 2007, MEC Interaction turned the corner at top speed, helping parent Mediaedge:cia win new business hand over fist while reaching the top tier.

"The industry really began to realize that integration was critical for moving forward in the digital space this year," said Alan Schanzer, managing partner of MEC Interaction. "We started this division back in 1998 with the premise that we're never going to be separate, we're always going to be integrated. I think that the market now is really ready for what we deliver. We were just well constructed for where the business needs to go."

"We've shifted our emphasis and been absolutely focused on one Mediaedge:cia," said Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM Interaction Worldwide, parent company of Mediaedge:cia, MindShare, Mediacom and Maxus. "The goal was always to be a really good specialist, so we could stand on our own and compete as specialists, and then the slam dunk would be to integrate those skills with the rest of the agency."

Members of the ad community agree that MEC Interaction and parent Mediaedge:cia accelerated past the competition. "They were one of the first agencies where the online and interactive teams are actually in the same location, which I find has really helped them with implementing integrated packages," said Sue Perryman, account manager of U.S. News & World Report.

The monster year might start with After working on the European account for Monster for the past two years, MEC landed the U.S. media account without a review. Besides the monstrous win, MEC's biggest players were Cadbury Schweppes, Citi, Paramount and AT&T (a client that Mediedge, in one form or another, has retained for the past century). With the addition of new clients, including Virgin Atlantic, Macy's and the consolidated Citi, billings have grown threefold.

The agency has a unique approach it calls "Active Engagement" that has helped build brands for Lincoln Mercury, Turning Leaf, Canon and TD Waterhouse. It's a unifying approach that is based on the principle that engaged consumers lead to higher awareness that, in turn, leads to stronger relationships and increased sales. "Active Engagement represents our philosophy that it's not just about inviting consumers to look at something, but it's inviting consumers to participate and do something, take some kind of action," Schanzer said.

Those campaigns can range from a hard-edged direct marketing campaign with a transactional goal, or smaller campaigns that are more fun and unique, and fit under an umbrella the agency refers to as community activation.

A campaign this year for Xerox is a "perfect example of Active Engagement," he said. It involved the customization of a Wired magazine cover. Collaborating with the MEC print team, MEC Interaction found the opportunity to get involved in an innovative way with Wired's readers. The April issue invited subscribers to upload their photographs to using a custom online tool. The first 5,000 who did so received the July issue featuring themselves within the cover art. These covers were printed on a Xerox iGen3 110 Digital Production Press and sent in the mail to all participating readers. For anyone who missed the opportunity to get his or her face on the actual cover, there was a second online tool to create a virtual cover. This virtual cover was completely customizable with photos, colors - even headlines.

This campaign was something that had never been done before: User-generated content that integrated online with offline. The collaboration of MEC Interaction with the MEC print team came naturally. "For us, integration isn't so much about structure, as it is about behavior," Schanzer said. "So being an agency that's always been able to behave integrated has enabled us to have a very concrete offering from that perspective. I think it really began in 2006, and then it began to hit the tipping point in 2007. It's the way the consumer consumes media; it's the way more and more that the media community is selling media, and it's the way clients expect us to develop communication plans for them."

The agency also wowed new client Energizer when it developed an interactive platform with leading music site Pandora for Energizer Energi To Go Portable Power for iPod. The campaign prompted socially-active music lovers to engage in conversations about topics related to music, technology and portable power. Working in a way that's sensitive to the way consumers use the service, the campaign included branded placements, a homepage takeover and ongoing discussions within the Pandora community.

In order to keep up with all the new work and new clients, the agency has had to expand and grow. Its successes this year have made it easy to attract top talent like Cari Weisberger, senior partner, group director and Colleen Soriano, group media director. But the structure of the agency has not changed, Schanzer said. "Because we've always been designed around this notion of integration we haven't had to make any wholesale changes, but certainly we're building out a bigger staff and welcoming in lots of really talented people to join our family."

The only downside? The agency is running out of space in its New York headquarters and five other offices. Look for more legroom on next year's model.

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