NEW YORK CITY: Day 1 of the AdForum Worldwide Summit is always a big day, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is often the only time the consultants have seen each other in a 12-month period and there is always a lot to catch up on. For many of us, we have made real friends as a result of this summit and it always good to see friends.

Secondly, on Day 1, we have a lot of energy and spirits are high. This year is no exception, especially as we are meeting with or hearing from all five of the marketing-communications holding companies.


But Monday, 7 October 2013, it first was to MediaCom, which impressed us with its business focus and “a shared belief that everything is connected” with three excellent case studies:

  • Gillette and body grooming in Latin America

  • Nerf, a toy gun in Germany, and

  • Coca-Cola content development.

The big question with media agencies is where do they start and end, as increasingly our observation is that they are more and more involved in content. MediaCom commented that it wants to continue to collaborate and assist with content development but that the role belongs to the creative agencies. We will see.


Second up was Grey, which has experienced a remarkable renaissance under the stewardship of Jim Heekin in the past three years. A veteran of the industry, Heekin pulls no punches and has surrounded himself with a brilliant team.

It has focused on its internal culture — a long neglected area within advertising agencies traditionally — and the positive results are proving to be very worthwhile regarding client business, creative effectiveness and profitability.

We wait for Grey to re-open in Johannesburg and are assured that it will not be long before this happens. Meantime, it is chalking up successes in other areas and countries and breaking new ground from a virtual perspective.

Shopper marketing

Shopper marketing was the subject for the afternoon and we met — three speed dates — with three separate companies. The content of the presentations was rich and varied, and proved to me that we need to focus on helping our clients find suitable companies, not only agencies, which will assist them with this vital part of the marketing spectrum. Lots more to talk about here.


We met with Maxus, a media agency and part of Group M, in the late afternoon. It is a relative newcomer in the media space and the fastest-growing media agency with significant global business, taking pride in the fact that it is part of a global network of local agencies.

It had a refreshing and uncomplicated approach to media and the courage to have two global clients, S C Johnson and Barclays, attend the session and describe what it is like to work with Maxus. It would be great to have it open up in South Africa — plans are afoot.


Finally we met with Huge, a creative digital agency born in Brooklyn and now with offices in London and Shanghai, as well as six offices in the US alone. With significant clients and part of IPG, it is an agency to watch.

And, so, to bed before another full day tomorrow. Agenda below — we cannot be late for Sir Martin.

by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) 
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