Selling It-Forward Motion-December 2011

Mono’s campaign for MSNBC—ready for the political campaign season.

With the 2012 political campaign already heating up, the timing couldn’t be better for MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” campaign, which was developed by Minneapolis’ Mono, a 53-person ad agency in Uptown that had revenue of $7.2 million in 2010. “MSNBC has a really clear understanding of who their fans are,” says Larry Olson, creative co-chair at Mono. The result of the company’s demographic research is in the tagline: “Lean Forward.”

Working with filmmaker Spike Lee, Mono created spots that highlight its high-profile primetime hosts, but also incorporate the entire network. “We had ‘personality’ followers, but we wanted MSNBC followers,” Julie Vessel, Mono’s account director for MSNBC, says. MSNBC, she adds, is a “‘passion brand’ that believes in liberalism and progress, and not just a home for those who love Rachel Maddow.” Media buys for media companies always have a dual target: viewers and sponsors. “Media buyers felt they were a ‘check the box,’ not that they had a great brand they wanted to be associated with,” Vessel says. (“Check the box,” in this case, means buying time on the network simply to balance out buys on conservative Fox and centrist CNN.) For viewers, the target was psychographic more than demographic— “more of a progressive mindset that skews older, because news skews generationally higher,” Olson says.

Settling on a generation demo of adults 25 to 54, Mono created TV, print, and online ads, as well as 3D mapping signage that projected the progressive message on bridges, on buildings, and inside New York City train stations.

The media buy allocated about 60 percent to TV, with the remaining 40 percent split among digital, print and out of home. Much of the TV time runs on MSNBC itself, as well as other properties owned by Comcast. MSNBC’s ratings rise—it has eclipsed CNN for second place—suggests that the campaign is making good progress.