Agency Profile: Spark, a Boutique Backed by a Global Agency Network

In our new agency profile feature, Susan Kuchinskas writes about Spark's origin, key clients, its multicultural offering, main decision makers, cool upcoming campaigns and more...Spark's Elevator pitch? Boutique services with the clout of Starcom Media.

Origin story

Chris BootheThis Chicago-based, full-service media agency is the smallest in the StarcomMediaVest Group, but it aims to be, well, the sparkiest. The company's genesis was in 1999 as Starlink Worldwide, a media agency aiming to serve independent agencies with a more creative approach. In 2007, it rebranded as Spark Communications, with a digital focus. Chris Boothe, formerly president of Starcom, came aboard in 2012 as the agency's first CEO.

"We created a model based on the best of both worlds: boutique but backed by a global agency network," he says. Boothe is emphatic – if a bit vague – about how collaboration with its powerful media parent works, but he notes, "If SMG has a strategic partnership with Univision and SMG, all our clients can benefit from that."

Spark logoMedia plans are architected and executed by Spark, informed by the agency’s insights as well as those stemming from SMG research partnerships and findings, and they also benefit from the parent’s preferred pricing.
Key Clients: ConAgra, Red Lobster, Kao, Taco Bell

Secret sauce

Spark works with clients large and small. Boothe says, "We work best with clients that are seeking to do things differently and want to develop programs that are content-, data- and analytics-driven; delivering precision targeting and making realtime decisions." Efficiency and precision come from a scientific approach to campaigns that provides maximum impact with minimal waste – and that's of interest to every client these days, Boothe says. "All clients now are trying to outsmart versus outspend. You have to have a challenger brand mentality."

Multiculti beat

Multicultural marketing is built into Spark, which takes the total market approach for all media strategies. That said, Stephen Paez, vice president and director of multicultural, is aggressively going after multicultural accounts, having grown total multiculti revenue by close to 20 percent in his 18-month tenure. Spark Multicultural is part of SMG Multicultural, the nation's largest multicultural marketing agency. While it has its own internal resources, it also can leverage the resources of SMG MC in the same way that other brands within the parent agency do.

Get ready for #Portada16 on Sept. 14 and 15 in New York City! The Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum on September 14, and the 10th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference on September 15 will provide you with the best content and unparalleled networking opportunities to succeed in Multicultural America.

Media decision-makers

Media plans are architected and executed by Spark, informed by the agency’s insights as well as those stemming from SMG research partnerships and findings, and they also benefit from the parent’s preferred pricing. The lead media planners on client teams make key decisions in collaboration with the client, and they're responsible for making sure the specific client gets the best pricing, best activations and added value, Boothe says.

Shelby Saville, EVP of digital, oversees close to half of all agency billings. Stephen Paez oversees multicultural media and John Muszynski, chief investment officer, leads all investment, total market, negotiations on behalf of Spark’s clients. 

Upcoming

European Wax Center will launch a campaign with the release of 50 Shades of Grey. The in-cinema TKs place with NationalCinemedia Networks allows ECM to target this movie only, running in 1,500+ theaters across the US. A partnership with Fandango lets Spark serve online ads to women who have purchased 50 Shades of Grey tickets or reviewed the movie.

Cool Campaigns 

Treehive BeehiveTo launch Delta Faucets' new HappiMess campaign, Spark collaborated with Animal Planet marketing and Discovery Communications ad sales marketing to create multifaceted brand integration centered on a custom, content-driven contest. The partnership in the TV show Treehouse Masters includes custom, on-air vignettes; passive product integration; in-program mentions and bumps; and forefront integration in the show finale.

Digital dimensions include a digital landing page on Animal Planet for contest submissions, co-branded banners on Animal Planet and Discovery Digital Network; a co-branded Rich Media Video Box that features the custom vignettes; co-branded homepage road blocks on Animal Planet and Discovery Digital Network; and a sponsored, "behind-the-build" digital episode.

MontanaA campaign promoting skiing in Montana used location-based mobile ads to reach people in the Midwest who were at ski resorts, top skier airports and other outdoor areas. The idea was to target people in markets where there are lots of skiers but the local skiing is not so good. Spark also geofenced the entire state of Montana to allow the Montana Office of Tourism to track the percentage of people who received a Montana ad and later actually visited the state during the ski season. The estimated $25,000 budget resulted in an incremental lift of 4,752 visitors and an incremental $6.9 million lift in visitor spending -- returns of $276 for every ad dollar spent.

Montana Sparks Tourism with Innovative Geofencing Campaign from SMGSource1 on Vimeo.

Get ready for #Portada16 on Sept. 14 and 15 in New York City! The Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum on September 14, and the 10th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference on September 15 will provide you with the best content and unparalleled networking opportunities to succeed in Multicultural America.


Susan Kuchinskas @susankuchinskas

Susan has been covering digital media since they were invented. She began her career as a design writer and then became a senior reporter for Adweek, covering the launches of Google, Amazon, Overture and DoubleClick, among many others. She was a senior writer covering marketing for Business 2.0, and then helped found M-Business, a magazine about the mobile industry that, in 2001, was way before its time. Since 1993, she's reported on the internet, digital culture, technology and science. Her work has appeared in Mediapost, ClickZ and other digital publications, and she consults on content strategy for technology and financial clients from a home office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Susan reside en la Bahía de San Francisco, muy cerca de Silicon Valley y ha cubierto los medios digitales desde que se inventaron. Empezó su carrera como reportera de diseño y luego ocupó la posición de reportera senior de Adweek, cubriendo los lanzamientos de Google, Amazon, Overture y Doubleclick, entre muchos otros. También fue reportera de mercadotecnia en la revista Business 2.0 y luego ayudó a fundar la revista M Business, una publicación sobre el Mercado del móvil que se lanzo antes de que llegara el auge de ese vehículo. Desde 1993 ha reporteado sobre Internet, cultura digital, tecnología y ciencia. Su trabajo ha aparecido en Mediapost, ClickZ y otras publicaciones digitales.

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