OPSM and Marcel talk brand and agency transformation

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 30 November 2016
A still from OPSM's 2016 campaign

It's not uncommon for Australian operations of global brands to inherit agency relationships that have been decided many miles away by head office.

For Luxottica's local optical brand OPSM and Marcel, formerly Publicis Mojo Sydney, this is exactly what happened when the eye wear business announced a global alignment of the brand with the Publicis Groupe of agencies at the end of last year.

The business had previously sat with Saatchi & Saatchi, who had done award-winning work for the company. The most notable being the Penny the Pirate work which created a fun and easy way to test children’s eyesight at home, with this campaign seeing the agency pick up countless Lions and Effie Awards.

For vice-president of marketing for Luxottica Australia Jee Moon and CEO of Marcel Sydney Gavin Levinsohn, it was a relationship which saw two businesses in need of transformation ultimately guide each other along the journey.

They had something fundamental in common. Both Moon and Levinsohn had the mandate to turn around their respective businesses. Having an agency that was going through its own overhaul may have concerned some marketers, Moon told AdNews: “Truth be told, it was a relationship inherited but in the inheritance I saw all the right ingredients.”

“This agency was going through change as we were going through our own and whilst that might seem like a threat to a client - where an agency is going to be internally focused on rebuilding itself - I actually saw it as an opportunity. This new agency’s fame and fortune was going to be inherently tied in to ours,” she added.

“We can't take this for granted”

Publicis Groupe brought the French powerhouse agency Marcel to Australian shores after a shake-up of the Sydney offering, with the aim for this agency to become the “creative engine” of the Publicis business. When Marcel set up shop in Sydney it had OPSM, Nestle, Tourism NT, Merial, Virgin Active, Kinder and AMEX all on its books.

But Levinsohn and the other high-profile names which had resurfaced at Marcel including ex-Droga5 co-founder David Nobay, didn't want to rest on their laurels because they understood that this newly launched agency could live or die off the back of this prestigious account.

“Whether it was our own paranoia or a smart read on the situation, we never assumed we had inherited the business. When Jee joined we thought: ‘ok, we can’t take this for granted despite the history between Publicis and Luxottica’. We had an opportunity to define ourselves through this account and do the right work for the client in one go,” Levinsohn explained.

The work with OPSM allowed the agency to have conversations with a client that centred around a business problem and transformation beyond creative work.

“The dynamic was not client and agency, it was 'what is right for Luxottica?' All the discussions, even the more animated or passionate ones, really felt like that. We were tackling the business challenge not having a debate around the actual creative work. The creative work felt secondary, which is right,” he says.

Transforming the brand

When taking up a role at Luxottica 12 month ago, Moon was joining an executive team tasked with overhauling all aspects of the brand from brand positioning to retail stores.

The process is on-going and according to Moon making the brand ad is easy. Transforming 350 stores and working with 3000 staff to get them to feel and communicate to customers the shift in the business - that’s when it gets tricky.

“Customers who continue to shop with us, are much more favourable towards the brand than they were previously. So we know we’re onto a good thing. What we need to do is create more of that change across the business so that customers who have not shopped with us for a while, come back in,” she says.

While Moon wouldn’t be drawn on the exact cost of the campaign or the sales uplift the brand has seen from the push so far, she explained it's a multi-year journey which will be overseen by several divisions of the business.

“It starts with the ad but it flows through into the stores, so we’re talking about a significant investment over multiple years. There’s the dollar investment, but as much as anything there’s the investment of resources in people and thinking. The brand transformation is not a box that sits with me [in marketing], or has my name against it, it sits with the whole of the executive team,” she explains.

“We wouldn’t choose differently”

The pair released the first piece of creative work in September, which was designed to redefine the concept of style. The creative was narrated by philosopher, author and social activist Dr Cornel West and highlighted that style can as easily be found on the streets as it can in the glossy pages of fashion magazines.

It's a stylish 60-second ad that has no musical score.

For Levinsohn, this creative represents the type of work that Marcel wants to be producing moving forward.

“It’s highly crafted, it’s full of feeling - often you ask yourself and I imagine Jee was asking this too - would I, as an individual creative person, stand by the work? Does Jee as an individual person who cares about craft, design, communication, empathy and excellence; do we as an agency stand by it? Yes. It does typify the kind of work we want to do.”

While this overarching relationship was described by Jee as an “arranged marriage” she makes it very clear that if she and OPSM could chose an agency aside of the global alignments she would still chose Marcel.

“Asked to choose again we wouldn't choose differently.”

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