Agency Collective: 17 Ways for Brands to Succeed in 2013

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



Declaring 2013 the year of the next "blank" media is an exercise in futility. Technology is accelerating so rapidly that as soon as something becomes the "future of communications," it is adopted instantaneously as technology of the "now."

We asked the Agency Collective members what their clients are interested in pursuing in 2013 and what they think brands should focus on in the coming year.


Juliet Haygarth, Managing Director | Brothers and Sisters

A challenging economy plus technology explosion plus social media explosion equals a new creative era. The brands best positioned to ride the wave will be those who understand their purpose. As David Hieatt, founder of Hiut says: ‘The great brands of the world make a great product but also have a clear understanding of their purpose. They understand the “why” as well as the “what” and the “how”.’ Brands with purpose will be better positioned to develop ideas that have real relevance to their customers and make a difference to the specific world they live in.

Invest less in forcing big broadcast moments, more in personalized and localized one-to-one conversations. Be prolific, do more, create more. Constantly wink at your audience. To do this successfully, you’ll need to invest in understanding your data, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re talking to people, not mindless consumers.

Smart phones and tablets are making it possible to change the traditional purchase cycle off the back of traditional media by adding layers of information, utility and entertainment in real time. Look to fashion brands such as Diesel, Top Shop and Burberry for examples of how social, mobile and web can work together and be brought into a real world space. The reward for brands that invest in this area is that they could end up minimizing the time between awareness and purchase.

The brands making ripples in 2013 will give people something to use or play with, they will give them tools or products that make their lives better, and they will contribute to culture. In the slipstream of the success of Nike+ and the like, brands should feel confident enough to invest part of their budget in making something valuable and tangible rather than just broadcasting advertising noise into the ether.


Robert Guay, SVP, Managing Director | Digitas

2013, like 2012, will be the year of mobile, social and content. Agencies will continue the movement to develop meaningful video content. This content will continue to be primarily delivered through dominant paid channels like television and online video. Successful marketers will continue to look to the ‘new’ channels of social and mobile to make the consumer connections more impactful. Performance-based marketing will continue to grow in importance as media mix modeling, attribution and advanced analytics get more involved in decision making.


Deacon Webster, Chief Creative Officer | Walrus

One constant we see is the desire to do more short-burst tactical programs and less long-term branding initiatives. There’s so much data out there that clients are growing accustomed to seeing what’s happening in real time, which is great, but it doesn’t work equally well for all types of messaging, so it’s in everyone’s interests to find better, more accurate ways to tie a broader range of messages to results.

Nowhere is that need more glaring than in the social space, where you can reach hundreds of thousands of fans on a monthly basis but remain entirely in the dark as to what degree posts, ‘likes,’ comments, tweets or shares influence sales. Common sense tells us that any brand customers have a relationship with is a brand they’re more likely to purchase frequently, but how much more likely? How much more frequently? How do friends of fans fit into the picture from a sales standpoint? Now that you have to pay to have your posts appear in the majority of your fans’ news feeds, is Facebook even cost effective anymore? From a selfish standpoint, putting some numbers behind the subjective notion of creative risk would help everybody get more comfortable with the realities of trying to capture attention in 2013.


Detavio Samuels, Executive Vice President, Client Services | GlobalHue

In the world of marketing, there is always a shiny new thing to chase. While many of these shiny new things will come and go, here are three of them that marketers should pay attention to in 2013 because they are here to stay.

By now, we’ve all seen the 2010 census and know that minority ethnic groups have been — and will continue — driving all of the population growth in this country. Marketers have to break the conventional wisdom of choosing to do or not do multicultural marketing and start thinking about how they market to a multicultural nation.

Traditionally, humans have been known to have five senses: seeing, tasting, touching, hearing and smelling. Mobile is fast enabling humans to develop a sixth sense: one that empowers us with on-the-go capabilities that run the gamut from creating and exploring to connecting, sharing and buying. Because of that, marketers should find themselves doing a lot of mobile tinkering in 2013.

And, finally, we used to say conversation was king until we realized that content was the catalyst to ignite the conversation. Now more than ever, marketers should focus on building content engines that can engage and fascinate consumers in the highly competitive content economy.


Robert Harwood-Matthews, President | TBWA\Chiat\Day\New York

If you walked in on me right now at year end, you might find me playing with Snapchat and trying to imagine 'not rude' applications for it, but my clients are asking for a deeper, broader, ongoing review of the technology that sits between them and their people. They want to know how they will interact with their consumers in 2013 and how they will imagine and deliver new growth.

2013 is likely a flat year for most — a grind as we try to not fall off fiscal cliffs and keep consumer confidence up. Marketers will be nearly overwhelmed with limitless possibility and limited budgets.
At TBWA, we return to our strategic engine Disruption. Thankfully, this reaches well beyond communications deep into arenas like pricing, product, service and business.

Smart clients know that 2013 won't be all about one big idea but many great ideas based on a solid belief. This means their agency partners need to be fast and flexible in 2013, well networked with tech firms, content platforms, fully conversant in — and preferably making — new software. We just did with a new content distribution system and projeqt. It may be a year of test and learn — just make sure you really invest in analytics and gather the smartest people you can.


Justin Cox, Strategy Director | Pereira & O’Dell

Clients have maintained a high level of interest in digital and mobile technologies over the last several years. Unfortunately, this interest has not always translated into confidence that these platforms are successful in building brands. The resulting media plans are a mixture of traditional offline and online advertising, with little money remaining for new technologies.

Marketers should take a cue from some of their most notable clients: technology companies. Technology brands have been successful due in part to their ability to adapt, improve and update in real time. Applied to marketing, clients who dedicate a portion of their budgets to innovative media technologies — media attribution, social listening tools, merging online and live experiences — have a greater opportunity to respond to consumer behaviors, competitive pressures and cultural memes. And with connected devices taking over every aspect of our lives, the more brands act in real time, the more relevant they become to people.

Connect with Justin on LinkedIn.


Ed Brojerdi, President and Co-Chief Creative Officer | kbs+

I think 2013 is the year of extremes. By that I mean the extremes of science (math) and art (creativity) in marketing.

Clients are rightfully determined to understand the impact of data and algorithm-based marketing on their brand. They also are interested in exploring the extent of big, breakthrough and disruptive creative thinking that is the classic 'great idea'. While these 'bookends' will live in perfect harmony over the course of time, we probably need to push the boundaries of each independently before we can begin understanding how the two are exponentially more powerful together.


Steve Schildwachter, Executive Vice President | Draftfcb

Ad agencies ignore retail disciplines like sales promotion and shopper marketing at their own peril. We're often hypnotized by the latest digital fad. A lot of the action, however, happens at retail, and ironically, it's powered by digital. An obvious example is the intersection of mobile and shopper marketing.

Looking at this intersection a little more closely, I see two areas where clients should experiment. One is NFC, or near-field communication. NFC, just now hitting that everyone-has-it tipping point, does in a more practical, consumer-friendly way what QR codes barely could. The other is AR, or augmented reality. We've barely realized how powerful this can be. After spending more than a decade developing product demos for both Internet and TV advertising, I'm excited about the possibility of product demos shoppers can see and conduct on their own.


James Denton-Clark, Managing Director | Karmarama

We're all converging into the marketing meta-network; you're as likely to find narrow-trousered futurists at clients as you are at agencies. You will talk to them of kiosking and The Internet of Things.

Then there's my mum, who still doesn't understand why she can't record stuff off the TV anymore.

Hence a switched-on (if over excited) middle ground. Who this year hasn't been talking about mobile and how to use it?

True as this is, the nature of 'tactics and technology' is that they are transient and evolving (Kevin Kelly's Technium).

Tech is a tool. We like it because it's shiny, then are surprised when we fall in love with our own reflection at the cost of what we set out to achieve.

Whereas 'strategies' are still about doing the right thing at the right time with the right people — regardless of how many screens or devices

We have more data and more ways of connecting people to brands than ever before. It doesn't matter what the tactics or tech of today is, whatever it is it's going to be smarter and more personal.

Clients need to invest in smarter and more personal ideas, just as they did 10 years ago and just as they will in 10 years time.


Dan Gregson, Managing Director | Beattie McGuinness Bungay

At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, investment in a commitment to strategy (rather than a series of tactics) and belief in the power of ideas and creativity to drive business has to remain (or become) the priority.

The ever-changing environment surrounding brands and their communications — driven predominantly but not exclusively by technological advancement and wider economic challenges — has naturally made the past few years tough to say the least. This has been amplified by marketers having fewer constants as the effects of technology and the economy impact their audiences' habits, behaviors and judgments.

That said, these ever-changing factors of technology and economic outlook are broadly accepted as the new norm. My hope is that this will result in a shift toward greater confidence (or absolute 'need' depending on your disposition and situation) in a commitment to strategy per se, not just the deployment of a series of tactics. The latter has been a valid choice given the challenges faced, and many marketers would assert a tactical approach has served them well. But commitment to strategy per se will be where long-term value is created for brands and marketers.

More specifically, there is a growing emphasis on developing strategies that connect the power of social, content and commerce in the most compelling and effective way. Harnessing the explosion in personal media and helping brands become media owners and/or publishers will be a focus.

Brands that make good use of advocates in social as a deep pool of both inspiration and an effective distribution channel will be streets ahead of those who don't. Given that in 2016 there will be more mobile devices on the planet than people, the trajectory is clear. The real challenge for forward thinking brands is managing the sheer amount of work. Focusing on core competencies will still broadly take the same amount of effort as it always has.

Of course, marketing and advertising are changing. But we've known that for some time as multi-channel strategies and tactics continue to proliferate. The expertise to carry these off across markets, device ecosystems, and talking coherently with an ever-savvier consumer base will separate success from failure. But so will the approach to creativity and ideas. The forms that ideas may take, and the way in which creativity is channeled have always changed, but creativity itself has been a consistent driver of business and brand success. Ideas and values fuel imaginations and feelings, which at the end of the day are what make people connect with brands.


John Condon, COO | The Distillery Project

Social media channels hold the highest levels of current fascination. Marketers everywhere see the potential, but are unsure of how to behave in the space in a way that might translate to anything beyond clicks, views or "likes."

We try to encourage people to remember that the media is called social not only because the users are connected but also because it’s an inherently social interaction. Think of it like a party: If you’re bringing a 12-pack or some awesome guacamole — something that makes the party better — you’re likely to be welcomed, enjoyed and invited back. If you’re there to sell people — to turn it into a Tupperware party — you’re probably going to get ignored, kicked out and possibly beaten up (at least, verbally).

We believe people should be investing in ideas. Channels aren’t the answer; ideas are.
Look at the channels that have been around nearly forever: TV, print, radio, OOH. So much of the work is just plain forgettable. Channels that have been around for the better part of a century or more aren’t anywhere near fully leveraged or figured out. Make an investment in having a sense of purpose and getting to an idea that really matters to people, because if you haven’t got that, it won’t matter where you take it.


David Baldwin, Creative Director | Baldwin&

Video (gradually) becomes the new photo: Much of the content on social revolves around photos. They drive online interaction, and they influence powerful algorithms. While it may take a little while longer to acquire mainstream adoption, we may be one or two Instagram-type services away from making video the next big sharable media type across mobile and social.

Use mobile as a second screen. There is a huge opportunity to separate mobile as a second screen to enhance your customer’s brand experience. Right now, the entertainment companies are all over this, but there are opportunities for brands to expand that beyond movie/television extras. The technologies are there and getting smarter.

Use the social graph to help steer/build commerce. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more brands and online retailers beginning to make better use of social data as a way to help drive sales. This past year, Zappos had a nice integration with Pinterest that allowed users to search their friends, offer gift recommendations and find personalized products based on their social activity. Integrating the social graph into popular commerce sites would add an interesting angle to the social ROI debate. Right now, it’s still a hit or miss affair because it isn’t smart enough yet, but it’s a big opportunity.


Andrew Graff, CEO | Allen & Gerritsen

Our clients are most interested in tactics and technologies that promote integration and brand amplification. The new landscape of consumer engagement offers such a broad range of channels — many of which are highly personalized — and our clients want to be on the leading edge of realizing this new potential.

For a while now, we’ve been telling our clients ‘change is the new normal.’ New technologies and modes of engagement are appearing almost daily, and it’s imperative that we help our clients adapt quickly to them and to the market conditions these changes create.

We believe that to get the most out of their marketing plans, our clients should invest in really learning what makes their consumers tick. For 2013, it’s critical that our clients make consumer insight and predictive analysis a priority. Marketers have started to value the mountains of data (both research and behavioral) they have at their fingertips, but they struggle to determine how it all translates into consumer engagement and loyalty. By investing in smart analysis, our clients will be better positioned to shape their media mix and make the right trade-offs between traditional, digital and emerging media.


Shirley Au, President and COO | Huge

With tablets dominating holiday shopping lists and 2012 widely perceived as the year of the smart phone, I expect we'll see increased focus from clients on mobile platforms. Many marketers don't yet realize that doing mobile successfully requires much more than just building a gimmicky app. Real mobile solutions should take as much time, effort and money as traditional digital work like website design.

In 2013, I'd recommend that clients deepen their investment in their in-house digital teams and internal digital capabilities so they can make strategic digital decisions that serve the whole company well. This includes hiring senior digital talent and giving them decision-making responsibilities while giving more employees digital responsibilities as part of their jobs. Once the internal culture is in place and fruitful, it’s worth spending to attract the best designers, programmers and strategists — whether in-house or through an agency. It’s a competitive marketplace, but brands — even those not in the tech industry — must invest to avoid being left behind in an era where those who don't invest in digital won't succeed.

Connect with Shirley on LinkedIn.


Nicole Granese, Vice President, Strategy and Insights | Slingshot

It seems like a significant portion of clients are hyper-focused on being able to predict the ROI of their marketing efforts, often before they’ve even come up with a campaign idea. They’re so focused on how the money spent might translate into sale volume or user acquisition that they often neglect to focus on the impact a truly compelling campaign can have.

In this era of increasing fragmentation and advertising averseness, we need to stop focusing on creating ads and start investing in creating entertainment, information and experiences consumers actually appreciate and want to engage in. Our audiences are simply sick of being sold to and are increasingly tuning us out. Brands need to stop thinking in terms of pushing what they want to communicate and start thinking about how to create entertaining or informative ‘brand stories’ that consumers value and want to engage with. While clients may always focus on ROI, it is on the agency to quantify the results of content that is pulling in their audience.

Also, we have yet to come across a marketer who is paying enough attention to mobile. Not only is our society more mobile, the way we consume media has changed. Simultaneous device usage while watching TV is at 77 percent. That doesn't mean every brand needs to go out and develop an app. They need to focus on developing messages to hit consumers at the mobile point of need, where they are open to discovering and engaging with brands.

Marketers also need to be testing ways to give traditional advertising more impact by fostering simultaneous mobile engagement, as the vast majority of consumers have a direct-response mechanism literally at hand. Get consumers to go deeper, and you not only learn more about who and where they are, but how much more of their attention you can earn.

Connect with Nicole on LinkedIn.


Erik Rogstad, Managing Director | AKQA

Now that we’ve had ‘The Year of Mobile’ for the past six years running, it’s time to make the most of a connected landscape. A theme for most of our clients in 2013: ushering digital into physical environments. And as we look to enhance retail, travel or entertainment experiences, we will continue the trend of less ‘advertising’ or promotion and more development of products and services. As mobile payments become increasingly prevalent, successful clients will look to new forms of loyalty programs and will work to enable and reward consumers within branded physical environments.


Jon Cook, CEO | VML

We see brands trying to climb the high dive but jumping content strategy and social. Not everyone is ready to take the plunge — here’s why: Excellence in content and social means organizational speed. Solid KPIs. Deep understanding of your consumer and brand that extends to teams well beyond the core brand soothsayers. Ongoing budget.

We’re at the evolutionary point where a mountain of content and data produced by always-on multi-channel marketing programs could crush us.

So the big to-do is subtraction, not addition. Go back to the fundamentals of the consumer’s journey, identify points of leverage and surgically invest at those points – and just as surgically deselect others. And don’t forget the idea … all of that content needs to be about something, after all.

There are two things that will be top of mind in 2013: A mobile agenda and journey-wide success measurement.

Seems like there’s more creeping than leaping toward mobile. Where’s the big plan for the small screen?

And KPIs aren’t optional in the marketing dress code. If we don’t know what success means then all we have to aim for is going viral. (Good luck with that.)

Here’s to success through subtraction.

The Agency Collective is an ongoing, monthly series featuring a group of select advertising professionals who provide insights on marketing trends and issues. The Exec Collective features professionals in a leadership role.

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