Global CEO Kate MacNevin Charges On With MRM//McCann’s Reinvention

Two years ago, CRM and digital agency MRM//McCann was in a tough place. CEO Michael McLaren stepped down in May 2016, just two months after the agency lost Verizon’s digital account.

But things turned around for MRM under global president and COO Kate MacNevin, who led the agency after McLaren’s departure and was promoted in December to global CEO. The agency has won accounts including GSK, Benjamin Moore and Mitsubishi Electric, and Gartner recognized MRM as a leader in its Magic Quadrant for Digital Agencies for two years running.

In her new role, MacNevin will focus on keeping momentum high.

“It’s really an evolution from the role I’ve had,” she said. “It’s making sure that we are staying true to the work that we started in the last 24 months.”

To fuel success, MacNevin has implemented new ways of working with the MRM network of 3,500 people across 40 global offices. Last year, MRM launched its Purple Brief process, which gathers crowd-sourced ideas to help clients solve business problems quickly. The agency is also expanding its MRM Inside program, where agency talent sits and works on-site with clients.

“We just won an assignment in Latin America with an idea from a project manager in India,” MacNevin said. “That’s the power of the MRM network to leverage collective power and intelligence.”

She spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s new at MRM//McCann? 

KATE MACNEVIN: We’re focused on driving client growth, moving with speed and being nimble as our clients’ businesses change. [We have] this notion of collective intelligence and leveraging the power of our network. It’s allowed us to expand our innovation offering into several new markets.

This year alone we’ve launched eight Purple Briefs, getting almost 1,500 ideas from 600 team members. And we currently have almost 15% of our staff embedded in client organizations across the world. Whether it’s creative, content, social media, analytics or regional coordination, we’re providing end-to-end support.

Is that model becoming more popular as clients take more capabilities in-house?

Absolutely. Clients are looking to reduce costs and complexity by bringing work in-house. MRM Inside responds to clients who want the capabilities in-house but still want the access to strategic, creative talent that sits in the agency.

How will you work with Acxiom now that it’s owned by IPG? 

We’ve been working with Acxiom over the past decade across a number of large clients. We know how to leverage their offering to deliver enterprise data at scale, business intelligence and campaign management solutions. The acquisition builds on the existing relationship with Acxiom and bolsters our capabilities in relationship-based marketing. But we’re still in the integration phase.

How does MRM use data in its creative work?

Data is more than just ones and zeroes. It’s the insights we glean. How do we make those insights actionable to then inspire creative experiences? We harness data to unlock that creative potential. It’s seamlessly connected.

A lot of CRM agencies are building commerce capabilities. What is MRM doing in that space? 

We have a dedicated commerce capability providing third-party and Amazon consulting through to platform implementation. It’s the fastest-growing area of our business. We will have double-digit growth in commerce this year.

In our most interesting [client] case, we’ve provided consulting on the subscription business across data, technology, customer experience and ecommerce. We made recommendations on a new subscription model, refined the purchase flow, helped them kick off the transformation process and gave them a clear 5-year vision. We gave recommendations on what their Amazon presence should be and what their owned commerce sites should be.

How do you work with the rest of McCann Worldgroup and IPG?

Partnering across McCann Worldgroup and IPG is very important. It’s always client-first. From a technology, data and analytics perspective, sometimes those are integrated teams. Other times we are embedded with McCann. And other times we have standalone engagements. It depends on the client’s scope and what they need.

We partner significantly with IPG Mediabrands, but we have a digital media and programmatic practice for some of our MRM Inside clients in North America.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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