Cundari launches media division

Cundari Media Trust combines media planning with creative strategy and analytics

Chris Powell April 21, 2015

Toronto agency Cundari has introduced what chairman and CEO Aldo Cundari calls a “reinvented” full-service media offering, Cundari Media Trust, aimed at making the media function more transparent.

Cundari first announced plans for the new media division last year, saying his intention was to do away with the traditional “cascading” approach that puts media at the end of the creative process.

Media agency veteran Luke Moore, who joined Cundari last year as vice-president, managing director, media, is heading the new 10-person unit. Cundari Media Trust combines the agency’s media planning function with creative strategy and analytics for what the company describes as “unparalleled” media creativity.

The new unit is also aimed at eliminating what Cundari described as “industry bias” towards higher-margin media, as well as a perceived lack of transparency in regard to new media technologies.

The agency began testing the model last year with clients including auto body repair business Fix Auto. Cundari said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Cundari Media Trust will pitch media-only assignments, but will not push creative clients currently using an outside media agency to switch to the service, said Cundari.

“For those organizations that want to use us strictly for the media side, that’s fine, but I think what they’ll find is the equation works best when both sides are engaged,” he said. Cundari currently has about 14 media clients, about half of which are standalone media clients.

At the heart of Cundari Media Trust’s approach is a so-called “purchase journey” methodology that focuses on employing the right media tactic at the right time during the path-to-purchase.

Other pillars of the business model include a commitment to transparency, with each client’s ad budget placed in a trust fund that enables them to see all media billings activity (as well as any credits and discounts) and a fee-based approach that sees clients pay only for Cundari’s thinking, not a commission based on the volume of media purchased.

“You’re paying for our smarts, not what we can buy,” said Cundari, who is publishing a book on consumer-centric marketing later this year. “We don’t care how big or small your media budget is, we’re going to provide you the right solution for the dollars you have, focused through a channel that is completely transparent.”

Cundari’s argument that the current media agency system is “broken” comes as the media agency industry is engulfed in a kickback controversy, regarding cash discounts provided by media vendors to agencies with considerable buying power. Agencies have been accused of pocketing the discounts rather than passing them onto clients.

Cundari first conceived the idea, which he described as a “pure trust play,” about three years ago, but continued to re-tool the model with the advent of programmatic buying and increased calls for transparency.