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Creative industry Leader Interview - 5 minutes with...

Meredith Brengle

Director, M&C Saatchi PR

Meredith Brengle - M&C Saatchi PR

Career to date:

2016, Director, M&C Saatchi PR
2007, Vice President, Weber Shandwick
2005, Marketing Manager, Break Media
2004, Talent Assistant, Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann
 

Creativebrief: As Director of M&C Saatchi PR, what is your primary focus day to day and on a greater scale?

Meredith Brengle: Day-to-day, it’s working with the teams and clients to be more blended and digital first, making sure everything they do starts with either a good campaign or a creative way of looking at a product launch. It’s really channel agnostic.

From a higher level, it’s working with the Influencer Squad. We’ve got a pretty big team here because it’s headquartered in London and then we’ve got representatives from our other offices who are feeding into that. We have a collaborative approach to the way that we identify influencers, work with and measure them so that there’s consistency in everything we do. The thing I love about the squad and having all of those different touch points is that it gives us the opportunity to see how local markets use it [the squad].

Creativebrief: Can you just outline your career to date?

Meredith Brengle: I started my career in LA. I worked for a talent agency as an agent’s assistant. Through my boss, I met one of his former assistants who had started a video website called Break.com, in the early days of YouTube. It was a really cool experience because I was one of the first people who was doing the marketing and promotions with the owner. There wasn’t a playbook for it, so I was learning on the fly which was incredible. We did a lot of partnerships around movie premieres and TV shows. Anytime there was an opportunity to integrate and do co-branded content, we were doing that.

From there I moved so St. Louis, where I’m from, and went agency side. I started working with Weber Shandwick doing digital events, celebrity stuff because I had the talent agency experience. We worked on the Anheuser-Busch account which was amazing; beer work is so much fun. I had the opportunity to relocate to the London office, so moved to London with Weber and was there for two years. I started talking to M&C when I was there as I wanted to see what they were like. Both agencies do really creative work so it was interesting to see the similarities and the differences.

When I was offered the job, it was within the London office and I found out in the process that my visa was non-transferable so I couldn’t stay in London, I had to move to the States for a year. So, I went to the M&C offices in New York and came back over [to London] in July. It’s been a very whirlwind journey.

“I was in New York when State Street [Global Advisors] and McCann put up Fearless Girl...It was a madhouse but I love the surprise guerilla stunty-ness of it...It capitalised on the current culture in the States."

Creativebrief: Why did you join M&C Saatchi PR? What do you think is unique about it?

Meredith Brengle: I think the way that they approach creativity. Everything that we do is about passion, it’s one of our core values and it’s something that Chris [Hides – MD & Co-Founder] and Molly [Aldridge – Global CEO & Co-Founder] really distil in everyone from day one. It’s not just being passionate about the work, it’s being passionate about your own passions.

One day a year everybody gets an extra holiday, which we call Passion Day. It’s the opportunity to do something you’re passionate about, take loads of photos, come back, tell the agency about it, post to all of the social channels.

Creativebrief: What do you think has been the agency’s best work over the last year?

Meredith Brengle: I will always love the House of Peroni because I think it’s beautiful and the experience team does an amazing job. I also think 400ft Britain with the CAA was a really smart campaign. They wanted to make drone owners aware of the rules and regulations around flying drones. They said, the limit that you should fly a drone is 400ft, so we’re going to encourage drone owners to go out and capture the best photos of Britain at 400ft. It wasn’t done in a teacher’s bossy way, it was just a really creative, smart campaign.

Creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?

Meredith Brengle: I was in New York when State Street [Global Advisors] and McCann put up Fearless Girl so I got to go down there. It was a madhouse but I loved the surprise guerrilla stunty-ness of it. It was a really good juxtaposition between the little tiny girl and this massive bull. It capitalised on the current culture in the States.

I love everything that Heineken does, but I love Worlds Apart. I thought that was brilliant and it all came back to the routine of sharing a beer, very on brand for them.

Creativebrief: Outside of the UK, what agency or work do you think is particularly influential?

Meredith Brengle: I’ve always loved anything that has to do with female empowerment. Like A Girl [from Always] is brilliant; all of the Dove beauty campaigns and beauty sketches I think are beautiful. Special K in the States essentially opened a store that removed all of the sizing labels and instead labelled them, I am beauty, I am powerful. It was more about seeing yourself through positivity instead of weight and sizing.

Creativebrief: How do you see the advertising industry evolving over the next two to five years? Leaning more towards female empowerment?

Meredith Brengle: I hope so. I hope that advertising becomes more and more reflective of the world and I think that it is. Cheerios did some lovely work. There’s the Love Has No Labels campaign [from Ad Council].

I am hopeful that we will continue to see more inclusivity, different ways of looking at families, love, couples and bosses. I think things will start to become a little more grey as well, not grey bad, but just blended. Brands are starting to see that good ideas can come from anywhere. There’s so many different ways that you can engage with your audience and it’s interesting to see how that’s evolved.

“I think things will start to become a little more grey as well, not grey bad, but just blended. Brands are starting to see that good ideas can come from anywhere."

Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for M&C Saatchi PR over the next few years, as an agency?

Meredith Brengle: We are very blended in the way that we approach everything and that’s going to continue to really push our work forward. It’s not necessarily about having the silos, it’s about, who’s the best mix? Is it in these four walls? Is it in the agency?

It’s about taking a wonderful idea and then finding the way to spread it. Everything we do does have to be channel agnostic and it does have to have a strategic creative package in the middle.

Creativebrief: What is the ambition for the Influencer Squad going forward?

Meredith Brengle: Getting everyone up to speed in what we’re doing, how were doing it and the best way of doing it. It’s making sure that everybody knows about the work but also the process, because I think sometimes you can see amazing end products and you think, OK that’s great, but how did you do that? 

We have a six-step process from understanding our client’s objectives all the way through to measurement. The one thing that both Chris and myself are very keen to not do, is take influencers and make it a one-off or try to sell in influencers as a standalone; that’s not what we currently do it, that’s not how we’re going to do it.

Influencers itself, it’s a super big buzzword right now but if you really think about it we’ve been using influencers for so long. We’ve had celebrity spokespeople, brand ambassadors, mum bloggers and they were all used to amplify a message.

CAA - 400ft Britain
400ft Britain - CAA

Creativebrief: The term’s so broad. Do you think there’s a difference between influencers and creators?

Meredith Brengle: I absolutely do. It’s finding that middle point between the people who are creating amazing things and the level of influence they have. I think social media influencers are always going to be really important, I don’t think that’s ever going away, in the same vein that I think celebrities and brand ambassadors are still incredibly important. But where is that next evolution? Where is that next level of influence and credibility going to come from and how do we set ourselves up so that we can identify and work with them?

We’re never going to take the route of the talent agency. But it is about understanding who that person is because you want authenticity and you also want to be able to cultivate that relationship with them. It has to be incredibly natural and it has to be a brand that they’re going to want to engage with authentically.

Creativebrief: To take it in a different direction, the changing nature of the traditional pitch is something that we’re interested in at Creativebrief. What are your thoughts about the way that pitches are changing? Do you think they are?

Meredith Brengle: The biggest thing I’m seeing in terms of changes is more around who you’re up against. Back in the day, we would get a PR brief and pitch against PR agencies; it was very cut and dry. Now we get digital, social, creative, events briefs and you’re pitching against any agency within any of those veins because, like I said, it’s all becoming a very grey area of who owns what.

I think there’s a lot more creativity going into pitches. The atmosphere that you build in a room before anybody even walks in, all the way through to the videos, the imagery and the design assets that you create for the pitch itself. From a PR perspective, it’s nice that we’re not so pigeon-holed.

Creativebrief: Personally, outside of the industry, who or what are you inspired by?

Meredith Brengle: I am a sucker for anything with animals. I’m from St Louis and there is a rescue society there called Stray Rescue; my former agency had done some pro bono work for them and since then I’ve followed their social channels. In my next life, I’m going to have a farm with a million dogs because I just love them so much. There is something really nice about getting home at the end of the day and taking the dog for a walk around the park. Mine has travelled with me everywhere. I rescued him in St Louis, he came to London the first time, went to New York and now back to London.

I do still like watching CNN and catching up on the politics in the States. You can’t look away, it’s insane what’s going on. I read a lot, I’m always on the lookout for a good new book. I read as I am commuting; I read on the tube and I read on the subway when I was in New York.

Topic of the moment

How can brands give customers the tools to express their own identity?

I think where there’s been the most success is when you find a way to connect the passion points of the brand to the passion points of the consumer. It’s about understanding what the company stands for and what they’re super passionate about, and then finding like-minded people. It’s important that there is that authentic connection between the two.

About the author

Izzy Ashton, Writer/Researcher, BITE, Creativebrief

Izzy is a writer/researcher for BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She keeps abreast of the latest communication, technology and consumer news, and is responsible for conducting interviews with key agency strategists and creatives to gain insight into the most innovative global campaigns.

www.linkedin.com/in/izzy-ashton-950352a7