MEC more than content

David Hayes, left, on why MEC’s Wavemaker gives media a new surge

If there is one thing David Hayes is certain about in Irish media is that the old, reliable spot ad is dead and gone – or, at best, in a coma. Media agencies need to completely rethink how they operate and what it is they offer marketers. Basically, it means reinventing the promise every five years and a key part of the revamp is providing branded content.

That’s MEC’s unique selling proposition, its USP.

GroupM launched MEC Wavemaker branded content as a proposition this time last year in five major international markets and rolled it out shortly afterwards in Ireland, with General Mills’ Yoplait ‘I Love My Age’ campaign, after submitting it at the agency’s global ideas gathering. “We’re the only agency in Dublin with a branded content division,” Hayes insists.

Wavemaker is about designing and developing branded content and using our skills as media people to curate and distribute it, whether it be on social media channels or using traditional media.” Taking Yoplait as a starter, where was a well-known yogurt brand that was 40 years on the go in a category where there were lots of newcomers, like Glenisk.

Hayes says there’s probably not a man, woman or child in Ireland who has not eaten a tub of Yoplait yogurt. Yoplait is widely seen as an Irish brand, a view reinforced by years of clever marketing by Glanbia. Yoplait had gone from numero uno to number three and the main reason was Irish consumers had fallen out of love with the brand and gone elsewhere.



MEC in France first developed the concept ‘I Love My Age’. The research showed up the idea well, in fact too well. As a general rule, the Irish are not the world’s prettiest or most handsome people so the images did not resonate with consumers. Hayes called MEC’s head of strategic planning and ‘story shaping’ Colleen Savage into action to weave her magic.

She ran Savage Insights for 11 years and her motto is “creativity is intelligence having fun”. The way people interact with digital is like a spider web: they pick up pieces of information here, there and elsewhere. The task is to take the brand’s essence and make it a story around it. With Yoplait, they got 105 people together in the Aviva one Sunday in September. From ‘zero’ to 104, one from each year, it was about celebrating Irish people of all ages.

Hayes says when you put ‘I Love My Age’ into an Irish scenario, what it means is every day community helps people to bloom. Norway was recently voted the world’s happiest country. Yet, a Norwegian guy wrote a piece in the Guardian where he said the poll was complete and utter toss as Norwegians spend most of the year indoors at home alone, watching TV.

“He said Norwegians are very wealthy and comfortable, but socially they’re awkward,” Hayes added. He was presenting the Yoplait campaign to an audience of Germans, Dutch, English and Americans recently as part of its ‘best in class’ recognition. The one thing that marks out an Irish person above anyone else in continental Europe is community.

“We’ll celebrate anything,” Hayes told them, “even a funeral. Yes, we turn a funeral into a party. They thought it was hilarious.” By taking stories like Yoplait’s ‘I Love My Age’ and sharing the different stories across the various generations it became possible to take the strands and create themes which would connect with people and engage them with the brand.

MEC brokered the sponsorship of SportsJoe Live for Niall McGarry’s Maximum Media. The Wednesday show goes out live on Facebook and Periscope from Maximum’s new studios. Presented by GAA Hour host Colm ‘Wooly’ Parkinson and Australian-born comedian Damien Clarke, the first socially distributed broadcast show of its kind in Ireland.

With no weekly sports show currently broadcast on linear TV, the show could develop a strong fan base. Its cross-section of straight-talking sports personalities includes rugby’s Ronan O’Gara and Stephen Ferris, former Nottingham Forest midfielder Andy Reid, ex-Kerry footballer Paul Galvin, Cork camogie player Ashling Thompson and Dion Fanning.

SportsJoe Live is shared across SportsJoe and Joe’s social channels, with a claimed combined reach of over 1.5 million. It is one of a number of new shows to be launched this year. Joe premiered its new rugby podcast, The Hard Yards, and its first foray into business media, with its podcast, The Capital B, presented by Sunday Times journalist Nick Webb.

MEC Ireland’s deputy managing director Aoife Hofler, pictured left, was recently selected to join the agency’s global marketing board. The position is open to all of MEC’s 5,000 employees worldwide. The global marketing board is responsible for building the GroupM agency’s reputation globally and aims to help MEC become a top B2B marketer.

“I’m delighted to have been selected to serve on MEC’s global marketing board,” Hofler said. “It’s a real honour and I’m excited at the opportunity of helping to steer the reputation of a great global brand such as MEC as we go through a time of unprecedented change.” She joined MEC as an account director in 2013 director and became deputy MD last May.

She previously worked for Vizeum in London and Dublin and with Mediaworks. MEC clients include Vodafone, General Mills, Peroni, Paramount Pictures, Innocent, B&Q, Pfizer and Weirs. At the time of going to press, there were rumours doing the rounds in adland that the agency had won BMW from Vizeum. However, Hayes insisted “no comment”.

Wavemaker worked with RTE’s branded content unit, RTE Create, in agreeing a deal with General Mills for Carr’s Crackers to sponsor a new food series, Chef Adrian Eats Ireland which goes out only on the RTE Player. The six-part show, which starts in May, chases down the country’s best restaurant dishes and shows viewers how to produce them at home.

Fronting the series is young chef Adrian Martin, who cooks up recipes for fans of tapas, burgers, pizza and chicken wings. After an online poll to find the best grub in Ireland, the show visited restaurants in Cork, Galway, Wicklow, Sligo and Dublin to figure out the secret to their famous dishes. Martin cooks the meals with a celebrity guest and studio audience.

Chef Adrian follows on from other RTE shows commissioned solely for the RTÉ Player last year, including a beauty series with Holly Carpenter called What Would Holly Do?, a series of comedy shorts with comedian and Snapchat star Pamela Joyce and Food Bites video recipes from Roz Purcell, Indy Power and Eva Lawes of Delicious Circle.


In an interview with Michael Cullen, editor,








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