‘It’s fair to say our model may have been confusing’: Initiative relaunches with new positioning

After a series of management changes and signalling it was working on a relaunch, IPG Mediabrands’ media agency Initiative has unveiled its new positioning in market, focused on ‘cultural branding’.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Danny Bass, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, said the relaunch would make Initiative’s offering less confusing for clients and media partners, and the company’s leadership positions would be focused in the areas of client service management, strategy, communications design and partnerships.

“In the past we have referred to the blue door and the red door, with reference to UM and our other agency, but we have had all these other doors as well. And that’s sort of changing,” Bass said.

“We have a red house and a blue house and lots of other brands under the Mediabrands umbrella.

“Those brands will still be there but it is fair to say our model may have been confusing. And that could be confusing for our media partners in terms of who do you go to. We don’t want that.

“From a client perspective, we want to make sure if Initiative is brought on as the agency or is the agency of record, then it is one team who they see.”

Now seven months into the agency’s “new journey”, Melissa Fein, CEO of Initiative, said the agency realised they didn’t want to be the one that worked with “transactionally led” clients.

“What we needed to start to do, was inject a lot of personality back into the Initiative brand and we want to start attracting different kinds of talent into the agency and to be able to do that, we need to create our own internal culture before we start to pitch on clients, because they need to feel the culture that we are building,” she said.

One of the first clients for the brand following the new positioning and leadership structure is Pizza Hut, which was announced as yesterday’s briefing.

Pizza Hut: One of the agency’s first clients under the new positioning

Commenting on the challenges the media industry is facing, Tristan Burrell, national chief strategy officer of Initiative Australia said there needed to be a shift away from looking to “buy eyeballs”.

“Advertising isn’t dead by any means but we have to a broader view on how we look at it and what it’s designed to do.

“It’s a shift from thinking about media as a chance to buy eyeballs, to a chance to buy something bigger.

“When we are building media plans, rather than just pushing ads out there, we should be thinking of media as an access point into culture.

“When working with our media partners, and when we talk through this with media partners, we are talking to them as cultural practitioners,” he explained.

John Dawson, who took up the newly created role of communications design director in December, said his role focused on creating media plans which accounted for the way people move from platform to platform.

“We make sure that the strategic cultural opportunity that we’ve identified is actioned by creating media plans that account for the way people aren’t just turning on the TV every night, and flipping through the same newspaper everyday,” he said.

“That’s the new world. No channel lives in a silo and no brands can either.”

When asked whether the agency would look for clients who share their philosophy or convince marketers of their new positioning, Bass said: “I’d like to meet a marketer that says ‘I’m not interested in growing my brand’.

“We as an industry face challenges where budgets have been cut at boardroom level, where marketers no longer have a voice, or the voice they used to have.

“That’s not beneficial for anyone, whether they be media agencies, creative agencies, media owners. We need more education around marketing, growing brands but the growth that gives to a business.”

For Burrell, working with creative partners has been positive so far.

“It’s not in the job description but it’s always the job of the strategist to buddy up with the other strategist and sing from the same song sheet,” he said.

“We shared it with one or two creative partners and the response has been positive because its actually saying we want to extend your creative idea even further.”


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