Opening Lines of Communications

Oct 25, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Margaret Lewis is looking forward to building a communications planning practice at Universal McCann, an agency that is trying to rebuild under a new senior management team.
Ms. Lewis, who came over from Mediaedge:cia, was named U.S. head of communications earlier this month.
She sees a “fantastic opportunity” at Universal McCann. “There’s a lot of new leadership and we have a lot of experience that has given us lessons of what works and what does not work so well when you are developing a communication practice,” she said. Ms. Lewis thinks the agency is poised to build “exactly what the market is calling for now, which is a highly innovative, highly analytically oriented practice that also has a lot of creativity and a great relationship with a creative partner.”
She said the agency has been developing a number of new tools, methodologies and ways of working that will be made more public in the coming months.
Communications planning is a media industry buzzword that becomes sort of fuzzy when compared with other forms of strategic and media planning.
Ms. Lewis said communications planning is “distinctly different from media planning but very complementary.” In communications planning, “You are very specifically looking beyond media channels at any and all communications channels, and this is really creating the architecture for an overall communications program.”
At Universal McCann, communications planners will sit within teams of the media planners they work with. Communications planning is more about setting strategy and finding big ideas, but those strategies must be amplified and built on with the media planners.
“Media planning has become so sophisticated and so huge in its breadth and its scale that the skills and the knowledge to do that well is very much equal to the skills and knowledge required to do communications planning. I think that it’s just a matter of your focus on different things in communications planning,” she said.
Ms. Lewis has a background as a media planner and buyer. “I grew up in the mid-size, full-service agency world, and so my background and my training have always been very full-service-oriented and very integration-oriented and holistic, and that was really great preparation” for communications planning, she said.
She grew up on Long Island and went to Oneonta State University in New York, where she studied film and journalism and minored in psychology. She got her first job in business at Ketchum Advertising, then moved to Warwick Baker O’Neil.
“Warwick is the funniest agency in that it’s almost like the ‘six degrees of separation’ place of the ad agency world,” she said. “Everybody at one time or another in their careers has passed through the doors of Warwick.”
While Ms. Lewis was at Mediaedge, communications planning started to emerge as a specialty. “I was pretty well prepared and kind of got right into it as it came into a high level of visibility,” she said. “We were building tools and processes and resources to do communications, so I was there in the right place at the right time to get the opportunity to lead that in North America.”
While most of her work at the agency was supervisory, she worked directly with some clients, including the Pepperidge Farms division of Campbell’s Soup. One campaign for Pepperidge Farms’ Whims cookies involved a partnership with the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that stretched all the way to point of sale. “It had promotional overlays, sweepstakes overlays and other communications beyond television communications to create awareness.”
Ms. Lewis likes to travel. One of her favorite places is Giverny, France, where Monet lived and painted. “When you get there, you look around and you see things that you saw in Monet’s paintings,” she said. “It’s quite an experience.”
She also plays golf and is a bit of a film aficionado, even if she thinks there haven’t been many good films recently. “It’s been a terrible decade for film buffs,” she said. One movie she saw recently and liked was “The Queen,” starring Helen Mirren.
Who knew”: Ms. Lewis grew up in Merrick, Long Island, which has the distinction of being the home of Amy Fisher, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lindsay Lohan and Debbie Gibson. “The town I come from produces a wide range of interesting and exotic people,” she said.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.


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