MKG elevates two female leaders, signs five-year contract with U.S. Marines

L-R: Lauren Austin; Christine Capone
L-R: Lauren Austin; Christine Capone

The women-owned agency is redefining experiential during the COVID-19 era.

MKG, the experiential agency within the independent network Acceleration Communication Companies, has promoted Christine Capone to president and Lauren Austin to chief creative officer.

The agency has also garnered a five-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps’ community services division.

Capone, who has been with MKG for six years, will replace former president Tracy Bussan, who left the company in July to join Diageo as SVP of culture and partnerships. Capone has been responsible for managing MKG retainer clients including Delta, Dos Equis and Facebook, as well as the agency’s new business ventures.

Austin was previously executive creative director at MKG, and played a key role in growing the creative department. In her new position, she will expand her remit to MKG’s design and production teams, which the agency aims to integrate more closely moving forward.

In a world where experiential marketing has taken on new meaning, MKG will focus from moving beyond brand experiences to brand actions, helping clients grow their purpose and commitments to consumers and society.

“It's the actions that brands take not only to better their business, but also to better culture and the world at large,” Austin explained.

For example, MKG worked with Delta to elevate the company’s profit-sharing program through an internal campaign that celebrated employees and their contributions to the company. The agency also worked with Lululemon on a Pride campaign that told real stories of LGBTQ+ employees and brand ambassadors.

“Internal actions like that go deeper than just a press release or CEO at a mic on a stand,” Austin said.

For the U.S. Marines, MKG will revamp existing community service and quality of life programs for active servicemembers and veterans in COVID-19-safe ways. Historically, for example, the Marine Corps holds Marine Week, a festival for corps members and their families with activities and performances.

“We are developing a strategy for what 2021 and beyond will look like to still bring these meaningful experiences to veterans and active duty members,” Capone said.

As in-person experiences ground to a halt earlier this year, MKG rethought its approach to experiential. But while some clients paused or reduced their spending, others, like Facebook, doubled down on digital experiences and content, Capone said.

MKG has also been developing more at-home experiences for brands, such as a campaign for Dos Equis that involved showing up on people’s lawns. And it has helped brands including Bank of America and Google figure out how to show up at virtual trade shows.

“Brand experience can take on so many forms,” Austin said. “In that way, 2020 has expanded our ability to think about experiences in a wider net.”

In-person experiences also haven’t completely disappeared. In October, for example, MKG created a drive-through event around Freeform channel’s 31 Nights of Halloween programming.

Aligning with brand action will open opportunities for MKG to work with clients that don’t just want to create experiences, but also drive impact in society. “We want to attract new clients who are aligned with purpose-driven action,” Austin said.

MKG is a certified women-owned small business launched in 2003 as a production company. It was acquired by Acceleration Communication Companies in Nov. 2019 alongside sister agency Pink Sparrow, which designs and fabricates materials for experiences and events.

Acceleration was founded two-and-a-half years ago by CEO Michael Nyman as a new-model holding company where independent agencies are incentivized to collaborate. Nyman was previously CEO of entertainment marketing firm PMK:BNC.

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