With A New CEO On Board, We Are Unlimited’s New Agency Model Comes To Life

We Are Unlimited, the integrated agency Omnicom launched to service the McDonald’s account earlier this year, has hired former iCrossing President Mark Mulhern as its new CEO.

In an interview, Mulhern said he was attracted by the opportunity to test a new agency model.

“The future of our industry is based on specialisms coming back together to service clients in a more integrated way,” Mulhern said. “We Are Unlimited has been built to do that. It’s an [opportunity] to learn in a more integrated fashion.”

Rather than operating in silos, the 230-person agency draws talent from across its parent company to deliver work for McDonald’s at every touch point.

We Are Unlimited isn’t unique only in how it’s staffed. It generates ideas across creative and media based on findings from its proprietary insights tool, The Cortex, which monitors trends that resonate with McDonald’s consumers.

Omnicom data science group Annalect delivers media and performance insights about how the work is driving McDonald’s business. Media agency OMD handles traditional media buying and Resolution Media buys programmatic.

“There’s a diverse audience in the US,” Mulhern said. “Brands with the scale of McDonald’s need to listen in a lot of ways to make effective marketing.”

The new model has borne fruit in less than a year as the agency has produced roughly 10,000 pieces of content.

Mulhern talked to AdExchanger about how he plans to maintain the momentum as the agency starts pitching new clients in 2018.

AdExchanger: What’s proprietary about We Are Unlimited that makes it more than just a mixed bag of services from Omnicom?   

MARK MULHERN: Even if the mix of agencies [flexes] depending on the category, we’re learning how to operate [with] new levels of integration, gathering insights and coming up with creative ideas that are brilliant in their story telling and system thinking. It’s about operating in a completely integrated way and coming up with an idea that can drive across 50 customer touch points. 

We start with a strong vision about being the agency for the future. [We’re] working on an iconic client. The Omnicom agencies participating are committed to making this work. In that way, we’ll build our culture out of multiple Omnicom agencies.

Is there friction to being part of one but on loan to another? People love to be part of something new and interesting. It’s not like they stop being part of Annalect [for example]. They get to be part of Annalect and part of this new class of agency.

What services and talent will you add as you start pitching new clients next year? 

We’re built to work seamlessly with agencies McDonald’s was already working with that aren’t part of Omnicom, like The Marketing Store. They have people sitting next to our social strategists and creatives.

Integration is about attitude, not ownership. It’s about a willingness to accept that a great idea can come from anywhere, and the client’s and consumer’s agenda is the one that matters.

Will this ability to integrate around a common goal and client become more challenging as you start to win more business?

Job number one is make this everything it can be on McDonald’s. We need to be producing even more, better insights. Once we further prove this model out, I’m sure there will be many more clients looking for that partner.

Our job is to delight every client that we work with because that’s how you grow and thrive as an agency. But I would observe that you only ever have one founding client.

How much more work do you have to prove your model with McDonald’s works? 

The road is almost limitless in terms of how much great creative you can bring to consumers to give them better experiences when you’re working with big, iconic brands like this. To think about what they’ve accomplished from day one to now is unbelievable.

How will you stand out as a new agency in a competitive environment?

It helps to be built on integration, with a business focus, operating at scale for really large brands. After that it’s about can you deliver. Can you find better insights? Do you have the horsepower to turn that insight into impactful creative?

Better insights lead to better work, expressed in this atomized way that the world demands now. This agency is built with no legacy to serve that need.

How will you measure success as CEO? 

No. 1, are we driving business? We’re here to sell more product and we’re here to drive footfall. No. 2, how relevant, noticed and loved [have we made] the brand?

This interview has been edited.

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