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Merkle Business on the Move Assembly

Why Lenovo appointed both Merkle and Stagwell’s Assembly to global paid media account

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

April 27, 2022 | 6 min read

Consumer electronics brand Lenovo has appointed two paid media agencies of record. As part of The Drum’s Digital Advertising Deep Dive, we catch up with its European chief marketing officer and new agency partners to find out why it has doubled up.

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Lenovo wants to sell more of its products directly to customers / Lenovo

Electronics manufacturer Lenovo has, like many consumer brands, relied for years on retail vendors to reach customers.

In the wake of the pandemic, though, such an indirect route to market isn’t good enough for the Chinese laptop and smartphone maker.

Alberto Spinelli, Lenovo’s chief marketing officer in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and head of global media, tells The Drum that the company is the middle of ”transitioning from a product- and campaign-focused mindset toward a customer-centric, ‘digital-first’ approach.”

His colleague Gina Qiao, who is senior vice-president and chief strategy and marketing officer, adds: ”As the technology and marketing industries undergo a profound transformation in an increasingly fragmented digital ecosystem, marketing needs to adapt and modernize as we navigate this new environment.”

As a consequence, the company’s paid media strategy needed to shift. To effect that change, Lenovo has appointed not one but two agencies – Stagwell-owned Assembly and Merkle – as its global paid media agencies of record. The pitch was handled by MediaSense.

Spinelli explains: ”We’ve found that the best agencies offer more than baseline marketing support – they act as strategic business partners who can help us fulfill our customer/audience-first and digital-first goals while also challenging us to think differently about our approach.

”The agencies we’ve selected understood that and internalized it. They got the vision and demonstrated their commitment to collaborating in our marketing strategy, together with having both global scale and the agility to deliver locally.”

The pair will both work on Lenovo’s media strategy and planning, its performance measurement and its advertising ops. In particular, Assembly will take the lead in EMEA, Latin America and North America while Dentsu will cover Asia Pacific; Publicis Groupe’s Performics retains the paid media account for Lenovo’s home market of China, and for its global e-commerce business.

According to Michael McLaren, global chief executive of Merkle B2B, Merkle won the business on the back of its ”deep bench of talent in region ... [which] makes us well equipped to enhance the efficacy of their media plans, globally, through data and technology.”

James Townsend, global chief executive of Assembly, tells The Drum that although Lenovo already has ”sophisticated marketing capabilities due to the strength of their internal teams” at its disposal, ”our goal is to even further increase the intellectual capital within Lenovo, and so part of our remit is to consult them on how to best utilize those strengths, while looking at what other competencies they can bring into their organization to directly align with their marketing transformation. This means not only looking at media activation, but equally strategic roles and data and martech expertise.”

The dual approach, Spinelli explains, will give Lenovo more flexibility than it could have had with a single global partner. ”We approach marketing from both a global and more local perspective, setting global strategic priorities, but also allowing for local variance and local implementation,” he says.

”The model we have adopted for agency partnership has evolved significantly in recent times and we need partners who get it and complement our aims, helping us to grow as a business.”

Key to Assembly’s offer, Townsend says, was proprietary tech platform Stage, which is ”at the heart of our work to help transform and modernize Lenovo’s global marketing approach.”

It’s a ”key component to bringing a clearer, more cohesive picture to Lenovo’s marketing performance tied to their overall business performance,” he explains. ”We’re working alongside Lenovo to connect their omnichannel audience planning to comprehensive, global media activation and optimization through one succinct platform. This will further enable Lenovo to make informed, data-driven decisions that best serve their business and their customers around the world.”

As well as working together, Merkle and Assembly have been tasked with complementing Lenovo’s existing in-house capabilities, the grandly-titled Global Media Strategy Center of Excellence.

Spinelli says: ”A hybrid model best serves our needs where we get the best of in-depth in-house knowledge and partners who can challenge norms and build something greater than the sum of their parts.”

According to Townsend, Assembly’s existing set-up will mold itself to match Lenovo’s in-house arrangement. ”It’s worth noting that our collaborative in-house model is very much about being adaptive and agile to the needs of Lenovo’s business, so our model will take shape accordingly in the future.”

”Lenovo’s hybrid in-house model is a data and technology solution with a rich first-party data set that we envision will pair perfectly well with our adtech capabilities,” McLaren added.

Read more from The Drum’s latest Deep Dive over at our Digital Advertising hub.

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