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Presidents, parents and Peloton: inside Mekanism, independent agency of the year (150+)

Mekanism was named ‘Independent Agency of the Year’ (+150 employees) at the at The Drum Awards for Agency Business in 2021. Here, the agency explains the year’s biggest achievements, including producing Peloton’s first global virtual event, airing the first-ever commercial showcasing lactating breasts during the Golden Globes, and creating branding for Joe Biden’s winning presidential campaign.

No one could have predicted what 2020 would bring: a global pandemic, a cultural revolution, an election that divided our nation. Despite layoffs and budget cuts, by leaning into our collective strengths and the nimble nature of our independent agency, we found ourselves uniquely positioned to pivot and end the year stronger than years prior.

The immediate change in client needs pushed us to make internal changes in order to meet them. We restructured our agency ecosystem by creating a new division focused on performance research, data and optimization services, called Soul + Science.

This new hyper-digital approach is unique for an agency of Mekanism’s size. It blends the Soul of a brand together with the Science of information by using unique performance research, insights and data to build a successful 360-degree brand campaign strategy. Soul + Science is now ingrained across every brand strategy campaign we create.

We introduced a new core department called Performance focusing on analytics and optimization, so that we can deliver the power of measurement & adjustment over the course of a campaign’s lifecycle.

We also rolled out a new proprietary client-facing dashboard called Ground Control, which is a centralized insights-hub that elevates the impact of a client’s marketing efforts through snackable insights that they will have access to in real-time.

After implementing these new workstreams and tools, we’ve won some of our biggest clients to-date, including: Quaker family of brands (Rice-a-Roni, Rice Crisps and Chips, Chewy and Instant Quaker Oats), a new brand from Unilever (in addition to existing clients Ben & Jerry’s and Talenti), GoodRx, Weber Grills, Betway and an expansion of our partnership with Amazon.

Over the past five years, we’ve grown on average 15% YOY and in 2021 we’re on track to grow another 15%.

We’re proudly independent and we’ve never taken any outside investment dollars to grow as a business. We collect nearly all our billings from AOR accounts, and most of those AOR clients have been with us for over three years including: Peloton, Charles Schwab and Alaska Airlines. This speaks to our commitment of going beyond an agency partnership, but acting as an extension of our clients’ business.

We attribute this success to our people. One of our core pillars is Inclusivity. We believe that good ideas come from any level, in order for this to work, everyone needs to have a voice. Mekanism is made up of 32% BIPOC creative entrepreneurs and 56% female staff. While we’re far from where we need to be, in 2020 we slowly started to make improvements to our diversity makeup; increasing upper-level leadership to 42% female and our creative department to 25% BIPOC talent.

Our talent team has ensured that 75% of candidates we put forward for each role are BIPOC, resulting in 37% of our hires since 2020 being people of color and 12% Black (up from 6% in 2019) - getting us closer to our long term goal of at least 15% of our staffing being Black.

In order to hold ourselves accountable to make these changes, we created a DEI committee made up of 20+ employee volunteers, focusing on four key areas: Creating Safe Spaces, Hiring & Retaining, Training, and Ensuring DE&I in our work.

Our approach was to go beyond preformative advocacy and lay the foundation to fix a long-term problem with the goal of supporting BIPOC talent and creating an equitable environment to invigorate the staff and ensure our clients are confident in us.

With that trust, we’re able to push the boundaries creatively. This year, our annual client-satisfaction survey came back with an average client approval rating of 8/10 overall. Through 2020-2021 we dug deep to deliver impactful creative work for Peloton, Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign, Frida Mom and more.

In summer 2020, we produced Peloton’s first-ever global virtual event, Pelothon. At its core, Pelothon was a behavioral change program designed to increase conversion from trialist to full paying member. At the beginning of the pandemic, Peloton saw their largest spike in trial members, so they challenged us with finding a way to keep them.

As part of a non-traditional and integrated campaign, we created a series of incentives that got people working out more and got them working out in different ways. Each week there was a challenge that members had to complete, and completing each challenge earned points for your team. The event contributed to the largest ever conversion of trialists to paying members in Peloton’s history.

In total, over 324K members competed globally, completing a total of 9M workouts. Additionally, we donated $1M to global hunger relief. Ultimately, we helped Peloton create a global connection through fitness when the world needed it most.

Later in 2021, we were tasked to develop a Breast Care campaign for Frida Mom, to drive awareness and traffic to ecomm at launch. Their goal was to strengthen Frida’s authority in mother care -- but we’d soon find out that the challenge went deeper than we thought..

The cultural narrative around breastfeeding is hyper-focused on feeding babies and overlooks the challenges mothers face. The female-led creative team at Mekanism helped frida mom address real moms’ realities through an anthemic film called “Stream of Lactation,” which followed two real moms feeding their babies.

It portrayed the realities from the mothers’ perspectives: sleepless nights spent pumping, reveling in baby smells, and literally crying over spilled milk. A few firsts we helped achieve for the brand:

We partnered with NBC to evolve its guidelines for showing breastfeeding to air “Stream of Lactation” as the first-ever TV ad featuring lactating breasts during the 78th Golden Globes awards; the brand saw a 400% increase in traffic to Frida.com; and 30% increase in social engagement resulting from the campaign.

Ultimately, we established the need for the Breast Care category and reinforced Frida’s position as a cultural leader in mother care, all on a massive stage.

Above all, we believe in using our powers for good. In the midst of one of the most polarizing moments in American history, Joe Biden decided to run for president. To do so, he needed a presidential brand and identity system that built on his Obama-era name recognition, his long history of service, and the approachability which endeared him to the American people.

Mekanism drummed up a small team of volunteers to strategize, design, and bring to life Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential Campaign - logo, identity and merchandise. Starting with colors and design elements that were iconically American, the logo made clear he was fighting for, as he says, “the soul of the nation.” From the approachable and recognizable last name to its clear purpose, the identity system communicated Biden’s uniquely down-to-earth persona and America’s comfort and familiarity with him.

His logo became a ubiquitous symbol of one of the most significant wins in American history, providing a backdrop for unity and a hope for the future that once again our divided nation could become one, and we at Mekanism were proud to be a part of it.

Our out-the-box creative, accompanied by strategic insights and internal changes proves that Mekanism, an independent, 11-year-old agency, is one that keeps pushing the boundaries of creativity as it evolves to fit the needs of modern marketers.

"Mekanism has been part of the Peloton family since its early days, and helped us grow into the global household name we are today. As a true extension of our team, they have implemented soul + science across the thinking, ensuring that we’re making work that both impacts culture and delivers on our business goals. We are excited to see how our partnership with Mekanism will further take our brand." - Bryant Brennan, SVP, Global Creative at Peloton

“Mekanism has been OkCupid's agency for nearly three years, and in that time, we have felt like we had a TRUE partner...sweating the highs and lows with us, pushing the boundaries, developing strategy. They helped us get a spot for OTT and linear LIVE in just three weeks during covid no less, in order for OkCupid to speak to the surge in connections people were seeking on dating apps. We also have loved working with Mekanism because they donate their talents to nonprofits and organizations that don't have the resources to afford it. They care beyond the bottom line and you feel that in the work and the teams that are there.” - Melissa Hobley, Global Chief Marketing Officer at OkCupid

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