Redone Starcom Hopes to Shine

Dec 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Starcom last week restructured the way it deals with the media as part of its new emphasis on activation.

The new setup is designed to make it easier to bring multimedia ideas to the agency and for it to move more quickly to buy and implement them.

The agency has a long definition for the term “activation” that starts with “activation is strategy propelled by an orchestration of communications activities.” It talks about keeping consumers engaged in a dialog with brands and “having teams that can work across contact points and channels to bring big ideas to life.”

Under the new structure, media organizations with ideas designed for specific clients are able to contact client activation directors, who are able to evaluate and act on the idea. The client activation director and his or her team works closely with the agency’s strategy teams.

“This now creates accountability at the director level and will significantly streamline communication flow with Starcom across all levels,” said Chris Boothe, who was named president and chief activation officer at the agency in August.

For ideas that might work for multiple clients, Starcom named contact activation directors, each responsible for a specific type of media, or as the agency calls them, contact points. Those contact activation directors “lead and set agency negotiation strategy for each media,” including broadcast, cable, local TV and various types of emerging media. “Every contact point that our consumers engage with today-including IPTV social networking, mobile RSS and more-has a dedicated champion here at Starcom,” Mr. Boothe said.

Several of the activation directors will form the Starcom Connections Council, and a Web site has been designed to help media executives identify the relevant director at the agency.

The agency also announced that its digital unit, Starcom IP, has been integrated back into the main agency.

With the new structure in place, Mr. Boothe urged media companies to “leverage the assets across all divisions of your company and bring us complex, never-done-before ideas.”

The new arrangement was unveiled at a party for Chicago media last week. The event was also designed to pass the agency’s buying torch from TV maven John Muszynski, now the agency’s CEO, to Mr. Boothe and his activation team.

As chief activation officer, Mr. Boothe is in charge of all media buying at the agency. But activation is “much more than just plain old investment” he said.

Other agencies, including Initiative and MediaVest-which, like Starcom, is part of SMG Group-have also adopted activation in titles of their chief media buyers.

Also being put front and center is Jackie Kulesza, who will be activation director for broadcast television. While she’s been a senior broadcast buyer and was involved in last year’s upfront with Mr. Boothe and Mr. Muszynski, Ms. Kulesza is now lead negotiator with the networks. She’s adding responsibility for kids media buying and giving up her previous client responsibilities, With the way television has changed, “it’s a bigger job than it’s been in the past,” Mr. Boothe said, pointing to the last upfront, when every client at the agency built a digital extension into its video buys. “We need people who are on it 24/7.”

The cable directors, Natalie Conway and Christine Olson, are similarly giving up some client responsibility, while Tracey Scheppach will be contact activation director for a number of new media, including DVRs and addressable, high-definition and interactive TV.

The new structure has already produced results. The week before Thanksgiving, the Connections Council met with the top TV, digital and magazine executives from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Ms. Stewart also joined the meeting. The result was an integration for a Starcom client that appeared on Ms. Stewart’s syndicated TV show last week. “It was something we turned around very fast because we started this dialog about how we can partner in engaging ways,” Mr. Boothe said.