Specialist Communications

Report by Andrew Scott (left)Chief operating officer

International Specialist Communications

Mary Ellen Howe (right)
Chief operating officer
Specialist Communications, North America

  • Report by Andrew Scott
  • Report by Mary Ellen Howe

WPP’s Specialist Communications division comprises individual business units with separate and distinct marketing expertise by industry, audience segment or medium. Our clients benefit from their depth of knowledge and strategic focus; the Group benefits through the flexibility these companies offer as partners for affiliated WPP companies when serving clients’ integrated marketing needs. Additionally, we are able to capitalize on evolving trends of new areas of expertise. Our role in managing this portfolio is to help these companies grow on their own terms and to support co-operation opportunities across the Group.

Direct, promotion, digital and interactive

MJM, a leading US-based corporate events company serving long-term clients such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Deloitte, continued to focus on creating innovative corporate meetings and sales training programs that energize and transform human performance. To better align with its clients’ strategic goals, MJM has developed processes that optimize program investment by unifying creative and production strategy through deep client understanding. New clients acquired in 2011 include Sara Lee and Johnson & Johnson.

UK outsourcing agency EWA continued to focus on adding value to its clients’ direct communications through an innovative combination of strategy, insight and delivery techniques. New client projects during the year included a travel information and booking service for London 2012, a food e-commerce system for a partnership between M&S and Regus, and an ordering and scheduling facility for a major fuel supplier.

Our role in managing this portfolio is to help these companies grow on their own terms and to support co-operation opportunities across the Group

Risk management specialists Mando had a very strong year. They secured a large project for the Russian electronics retailer, El Dorado, coordinating with agencies across three countries. Expansion in southern Europe produced new business in Portugal and Spain, delivering Unilever’s couponing activity as well as major consumer marketing campaigns for Lindt and household brand Cofresco. The German business continued its growth, adding Mastercard to its client list, while the UK enhanced its portfolio with brands such as Dr Oetker and Specsavers joining its established blue-chip client roster.

2011 saw field marketing agency Headcount win a significant project with Unilever to develop a system to deliver and report on in-store measurement activity across Europe. The relationship between Headcount and the South African-based field marketing agency, Smollan Group, continued to develop well during 2011.

Custom media

In 2011, during its 25th anniversary year, multi-channel content agency Forward launched a number of new projects for existing and new clients and won a prestigious award for its financial services work.

On the digital side, Forward developed content-rich microsites and social media strategies for a number of new FMCG brands that are available exclusively at Tesco; created the CSR website Together for Trees for the charity RSPB and Tesco; extended its outbound e-zine campaign for Regus to the Middle East; launched a number of online educational tools and animations for Standard Life’s new website; and created a monthly email program for City recruitment firm Astbury Marsden.

Alongside its new digital work, Forward published new print-based projects including The Successful Retirement Guide for Standard Life, B&Q Home, which is distributed to more than five million B&Q customers and prospects; and the Tesco Wine mailing program. Finally, Forward’s redesigned Standard Life magazine, MoneyPlus, won Best Finance Title at the 2011 International Content Marketing Awards run by the Association of Publishing Agencies.

Demographic and sector marketing

The Food Group used its extensive foodservice marketing, public relations and culinary experience to help the Louisiana Seafood Promotions & Marketing Board as well as the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation promote and market Gulf seafood throughout the US.

In addition, The Food Group continued to work with premier foodservice brands Kraft Foods, Tabasco®, Dawn Foods, Dannon, Kozy Shack, PERDUE® and the Florida Department of Citrus in 2011.

Pace Advertising and its Green Advertising division continued to build their operations through increased client opportunities with a major healthcare client; Calder Raceway & Casino (a Churchill Downs company); an upscale, casual hamburger chain; a virtual security business; and new homebuilder clients in Minnesota, New York, Florida and New Jersey. They successfully attracted new business from website video content to corporate videos and TV campaigns.

In 2011, youth marketing company Geppetto worked with companies as varied as Kraft, the National Basketball Association and Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey to create programs and products fueled by its youth and family expertise and acumen.

2011 saw the combining of BDGworkfutures and BDGMcColl under the brand name of BDG architecture+design, to better reflect its capability. It delivered a number of high-profile projects for clients including Mindshare in London, The University of St Andrews and Standard Life in Scotland, and Group M in Moscow whilst continuing to develop key relationships with its major accounts in all locations. The company’s work in Europe remains strong and in Russia there have been a number of significant commissions in the corporate fit-out sector.

Contract furniture business Dovetail saw another improved year, with ongoing relationships with Unilever, Deloitte and Bloomberg. Significant new clients were Rio Tinto and JP Morgan.

Media and film production services

Metro’s London technical event production team had a successful year in 2011, maintaining long-term client relationships with Shell, the Financial Services Authority, Deloitte, Roche and Credit Suisse. New client wins included work for Allergan, Jagex and NYSE. Activity during the year saw Metro providing clients with technical support for projects throughout Asia, Europe and the US. The Edinburgh team developed its relationships with Experian, NHS Health Scotland, Prudential, Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Power; some notable new clients with planned activity for 2012 include DLA Piper and Edinburgh Council.

Metro was one of the first UK event companies to be accredited with the BS 8901 sustainability standard. The standard defines the requirements for a sustainability event management system to ensure an enduring and balanced approach to economic activity, environmental responsibility and social progress relating to events.

Post production company The Farm Group had an extremely busy and successful year in 2011. Activity in its existing Soho sites remained very high, with repeat business on primetime, high-profile terrestrial series such as Downton Abbey, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Jonathan Ross Show, Total Wipeout and Shameless. Added to this were new productions including The Shadow Line, Red or Black, A&E, Planet Dinosaur and The Marriage Ref. A competitive tender was won to be the authorized post production facility to LOCOG for the London Olympics. As such, The Farm is editing the material that will go on the big screens at the various venues. The Farm’s creative staff were proud to be awarded two Royal Television Society awards: for the colour grading on Eric and Ernie and the sound mixing on The Shadow Line.

In May 2011, The Farm completed its acquisition of Editgods, an LA-based post production facility. This is now named The Farm LA and has a team incorporating UK and LA talent. One of its major early projects was the launch series of The X Factor US, as well as the Victoria’s Secrets awards, Miss America and a recent Rihanna concert.

In March 2011 it was announced that The Farm had won the competitive tender to supply all of the management and staffing for the post production and sports news studios within the new BBC North site in Salford. The project went live in October 2011. This means that The Farm is now responsible for the output of numerous additional staple BBC programs such as Blue Peter, Match of the Day, Songs of Praise and many other household names.

In 2011, implementation agency Hogarth Worldwide sustained the rapid growth it saw in 2009 and 2010, expanding its operations in London and New York and opening new offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Mexico City. The agency integrates proprietary technology with transcreation (the adaptation of creative work for different markets) to deliver savings for global brands, by using a centralised implementation model that produces international campaigns more efficiently, whilst enhancing quality. Its 2011 output included the production and delivery of over 12,000 TV commercials around the world.

Hogarth achieved several significant new business wins in 2011. The agency was appointed to handle international TV production and delivery for Ford, underlining Hogarth’s strength in international implementation. The winning of Santander’s studio business highlighted Hogarth’s competitive strength in studio management and production technology. The agency also started to win asset management contracts on a ‘software as a service’ basis with ZONZA, its next-generation digital asset management and delivery system that came on stream in 2011.

The trend towards using centralised implementation supported by technology is set to continue; Hogarth anticipates further strong growth through 2012 and beyond.

2011 was a landmark year for MRC’s film and television studio businesses, both of which had some of the industry’s largest presales.

MRC Film is currently in post production on two films, Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium and Seth MacFarlane’s TED. Set to be released in early 2013, Elysium is Blomkamp’s follow-up to the Academy Award nominated blockbuster District 9 and stars Academy Award winners Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. TED is an R-rated comedy, starring and directed by MacFarlane, creator of The Family Guy. MRC demonstrated continued manufacturing strength as both projects, the company’s largest-scale to date, wrapped on time and on budget.

In 2011, MRC released two films, The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon and 30 Minutes or Less starring Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg. Upcoming films include two additional projects from Neill Blomkamp; two projects from Panic Pictures, a production company in partnership with David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club); The Civilian, an action film produced by Michael Bay; a project from Duncan Jones, director of the hit film Source Code; and Forever from director Gareth Edwards.

In television, MRC struck a groundbreaking deal with Netflix, launching it into the original-content business with a two-season order for the new series House of Cards. The high-profile drama series marks the first foray into series television by Oscar nominee David Fincher and Oscar winners Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump). MRC TV has two other series currently on the air, The Ricky Gervais Show and The Life and Times of Tim, both in their third seasons on HBO. Looking ahead, MRC TV’s development slate includes an additional project from David Fincher and a drama series from Spider Man director Sam Raimi.

In the future

We will continue our strategic focus of developing our creative service offer, including digital capabilities, delivering measurable, cost-effective results to clients.

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