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Mattel Picks Publicis Groupe to Continue Digital Marketing Evolution


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Toy giant Mattel has picked a Publicis umbrella group to run its U.S. media business after a review.
Mediavest | Spark will now handle planning and offline buying, while DigitasLBi runs digital media, programmatic buying and content production. The two will collectively go by the name Team Mattel in yet another iteration of Publicis’ “Power of One” approach to shared accounts, and the business will be run out of their Chicago and Los Angeles offices.
“The story goes back to a little over a year ago, when we hired [evp, chief content officer] Catherine Balsam-Schwaber out of NBC to reimagine our content creation and distribution strategy, which historically had been focused on DVD sales and TV ads,” said Mattel senior director and head of corporate communications Alex Clark. “She’s been doing a huge amount of work to revolutionize our approach in that area with a strong emphasis on digital.”
The most prominent illustration of that strategy is the digital-first Barbie “You Can Be Anything” campaign by BBDO, which helped bring the classic doll into the 21st century. That work was so successful that Mattel also tasked BBDO San Francisco with promoting Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price. Publicis’ Team Mattel group will focus on all brands across the client’s portfolio.
Clark described the review as “a very competitive process” that took three to four months.
“The team that Publicis came up with really resonated with everything we’re trying to accomplish: taking a massive leap forward in how we engage with consumers in the U.S.,” Clark said. “It’s no secret that [parents and kids] are increasingly spending their time on digital platforms. We are rapidly evolving to meet them there, and a big part of that is our media strategy.”
“Our goal is to create engaging experiences that inspire the wonder of childhood,” said Balsam-Schwaber in a statement, adding, “With their proven expertise across digital platforms, Mediavest | Spark and Digitas are well-positioned to help advance this goal, and we are excited to get to work.”
According to the latest numbers from Kantar Media, Mattel spent just under $120 million on marketing in the U.S. in 2015 and $48 million during the first nine months of 2016.
One major change during that period was the loss of the Disney Princess line, which Hasbro won away from Mattel in 2014. The new contract, which amounted to an estimated $600 million in annual sales, took effect last January and proceeded to pay dividends for Hasbro, though Mattel’s increases in other key brands made up for the difference during the calendar year.
It marks the second major win of the week for the larger Publicis Media organization, which also won MillerCoors’ $450 million U.S. media account away from Interpublic Group.

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