Media Network of the Year 2014: SMG

Strategic acquisitions to improve its offering, $1 billion worth of new business and some innovative partnerships with tech giants resulted in a strong performance from Starcom MediaVest Group.

  • DeGeneres' Oscar Selfie

    DeGeneres' Oscar Selfie

  • Content@Scale


  • Facebook


  • Instagram


  • Desmond


  • Britton


  • Frogley



Over the past five years, Starcom MediaVest Group has worked to transform its business into the media network of the future.

In 2014, the company is expecting to generate 52 per cent of its revenue from digital, data and content services, up from 46 per cent in 2013 and 37 per cent in 2012. And this digital growth is driving the network’s overall numbers. SMG has grown by more than 9.5 per cent in the past five years – 2.5 times the industry average. Quite an achievement for a mature network.

SMG has always been the media partner for major companies, particularly in the Americas, where it is the biggest media agency. It currently works with more Fortune 100 companies than any other agency (of any type). In 2014, SMG took this a step further: it went after growth and the accounts of big tech companies. Over the course of the year, SMG became the global agency of record for Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Spotify and the Candy Crush Saga owner King.

Overall, the network picked up more than 220 new clients globally this year, including Sprint, EA Sports, Quiksilver and Starbucks. In addition to bringing in new business worth more than $1 billion (£638 million), it retained the $3.8 billion global Samsung account in October. Despite all that, the majority of SMG’s growth actually came from existing clients. It picked up new briefs from the likes of Procter & Gamble and Mondelez International.

SMG’s proposition matured this year too. It launched Content@Scale to enable brands to release online creative in real time. The new tools have delivered four times the ROI of traditional display units. Its sports division was rolled out in the US. MRY, the Publicis Groupe social media network, was brought into the fold, improving the way SMG targets millennials. The network also made strategic acquisitions, buying Run, a real-time programmatic buying platform, and South Africa’s Lighthouse Digital.

Last year, SMG led the way in big deals with several tech giants. The network has since integrated Twitter’s API into its tools and training around the globe. Meanwhile, through its partnership with Facebook, SMG has improved the way its clients tell their stories online and co-created products with Instagram. SMG also partners with start-ups to try to find innovative solutions to clients’ problems. In the US, it is working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a number of projects, while it collaborates with start-up hubs such as Seedcamp in the UK.

The partnerships do not stop there. At the end of 2013, SMG became the first agency to team up with the ad tech company Acxiom – a relationship that has helped SMG improve online targeting and addressability. In September, SMG expanded this relationship to include Europe – the first network to do so. In China, where SMG is the biggest media agency, the group has linked up with the internet portal Tencent to analyse consumer behaviour, create better advertising for its clients and get access to new products.

One work highlight is the most retweeted Tweet of all time. As part of its relationship with the Oscars, the SMG client Samsung gave the event’s host, Ellen DeGeneres, a Galaxy Note, which she used to take a star-studded selfie featuring Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey, among others. Paid promotion on Facebook and Twitter, as well as follow-up social content, helped generate 2.5 million retweets before the ceremony had finished.

Other work included Heineken’s "#ShareTheSofa" with Tribal Amsterdam, which allowed users to interact with former Champions League players during games. It received four times as many mentions on Twitter as the other sponsors of the tournament combined. The location-based reality app Game of Phones, meanwhile, pitted 40,000 Australians against each other in street battles and increased footfall in Virgin Mobile shops in Australia by 10.8 per cent.

The network has a very stable leadership. Its global chief executive, Laura Desmond, has been at the helm since 2008. Moreover, of the 15 people in the leadership team, nine are women, including the chief executive of China, Bertilla Teo, and the recently hired global commercial director, Sue Frogley. Matt Britton, the chief executive of MRY, also joined the team this year.

As Campaign went to press, SMG had picked up more than 680 awards in 2014 (including Media Network of the Year at Cannes and Eurobest) – growth of more than 25 per cent compared with 2013’s haul. After a year of innovation and partnerships, being named Campaign’s Media Network of the Year tops off a strong 2014 for SMG.

Recent winners: Group M (2013); Carat (2012); Maxus (2011); Carat (2010); no winner (2009)



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