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POV: Interview with Stewart Shanley and Sean Reynolds of iris Worldwide

Tell us about iris and what differentiates it from other agencies.

Shanley: There are many things that differentiate iris, but the starting point is in the fabric of how iris was built. We have grown organically during the past 14 years from three to more than 900 people.

Now, as a large, owner-managed independent, we aim to be an exciting and credible alternative to both boutique shops and holding companies. Our promise is to offer all of the good bits — without the extremes either way.

How do you define a participation brand? What are some brands that fit this definition?

Shanley: There are only two types of brands: participation ones and dying ones! We believe that our role as an agency is not about communication anymore; it’s not about telling people stuff. Our role is to provide things that are useful to a brand or company’s stakeholders. This means creating brands that are more open, accessible and involving.

For example: Take our work for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in creating the mascots for the London 2012 Olympics. We created the world’s first customizable mascot. Not a mascot, but your mascot. It became a personalized and interactive guide to the games, and by doing so, it smashed its IOC targets by 300 percent and gave the mascots global fame — so much so that they became sprinter Usain Bolt’s celebration partner of choice when he won the 100 meters.

Usain-Bolt-with-mascots

How does iris’ 14 offices and staff diversity help the company to concept and produce creative for clients?

Shanley: We believe that there is no point in being a network unless you can turn it into a tangible benefit for your talent and your clients. To deliver on this, you need flexibility and collaboration built into what you do. This means that your people, processes and technology all need to be geared up in such a way so that you can efficiently form and dissolve teams at pace and across geography and discipline.

We have a very successful agency product called Project 72, which has a client promise of three weeks worth of work in three days. To do this, Reynolds harnesses the collective firepower of our creative departments across the world. Essentially, this involves starting the brief in Sydney, passing the baton across the network and following the sun so that the ideas literally never sleep.

Iris has produced loyalty campaigns for Heineken and Sony. In your opinion, what is the biggest motivator for brand loyalty?

Reynolds: It’s all about how useful and meaningful something can be in a person’s life. You have to work out that value exchange between a brand and the end user. What’s the service, utility or entertaining tidbit we can give in return for someone’s valuable time, money or data? If you get this right, then people will have no issue being loyal or spending time with your brand.

Real-time marketing has risen in importance. Why should brands consider executing real-time campaigns rather than sticking to the typical cycle?

Shanley: This is not an “instead of” argument. Rather, it’s an “as well as” argument. By augmenting clients’ tried-and-trusted marketing investments, we can give brands a role that demonstrates that they are present and connected to the world in the here and now. This is really all about trying to persuade brands to behave more like their stakeholders by being more organic and more social.

We are so committed to this as an important strand of driving participation that we have a proprietary offering called “Urgent Genius.” This is iris’ platform for creating marketing campaigns in real-time.

A recent, well-known example of Urgent Genius “news jacking” is our campaign for Mini, which we executed within 24 hours of discussing the horsemeat scandal in the UK.

beef-mini-cooper-ad

Our regional creative director in APAC has just co-authored a book on the subject: “Newsjacking: The Urgent Genius of Real-Time Advertising.”

Digital has completely changed the retail landscape. What has been one of the biggest changes to the industry?

Reynolds: The obvious answer is the power we now have at our fingertips. Being able to scan a barcode, buy something cheaper online and then get it delivered within the hour is a challenge for any brick-and-mortar retailer, as are those QR-based virtual storefronts that deliver your food or clothes by the time you get home.

But, I think the really interesting change is the new potential of physical retail and how we, as humans, crave real-world experiences. When you start to think in terms of brand entertainment, immersion, and experience and how they are enhanced through digital, I think it’s an exciting, as well as challenging, time for physical stores to be more than just places to spend money.

How can retailers use their brick-and-mortar locations as a positive point against online, digital savvy stores?

Shanley: I think the answer lies in two areas, which are linked:

The first is around customer experience: People love the act of shopping, and it is because of this that there will always be a role for physical retail experiences. It’s the same debate as we have in print, where digital will irreversibly change the landscape and those that provide the most authentic, theatrical, immersive and enjoyable experiences will ultimately win out.

The second is around customer service: For products where the pre, during and post-sale environments are fundamental to the overall buying process, such as fashion, tech and automotive, there will always be an important role for a more consultative-oriented sell. In such environments the human touch is important (for now at least), and it is currently difficult for technology to truly replicate this.

I’m also interested in what happens when this stops becoming an either/or conversation and retailers start to really use digital and physical more effortlessly in combination to compete and engender loyalty.

I’m looking forward, for example, to the day when my favorite retailers welcome me personally as I enter the store just because I happen to have my cell with me. I’m also interested in having a debate about how product manufacturers can come to the party and start investing with retailers to showcase their products in a quality, physical way that goes beyond just paying for aisle-end features, as this will surely level the playing field between on and offline retail in terms of their true costs and benefits in providing value to consumers

What trends in marketing/advertising do you find most interesting/exciting?

Reynolds: I find it all interesting and exciting. If I didn’t, I’d go do something else that was. The pace of change and all the new and innovative bits of technology mean that it’s a really exciting time to be in this industry, but the most interesting thing is working with lots of different people and uncovering the power of creativity. With all these factors colliding, it feels like the advertising world has finally woken up to its potential to be a force for “good,” rather than just selling.

One reason you love what you do:

Reynolds: I get to come to work with a load of talented, interesting people every day and get to think about new and interesting ways to engage audiences. I can think of worse things to do.

Favorite ad:

Reynolds: I’m not sure I have a favorite ad. I see interesting ideas and work every day, and most of them aren’t ads. I tend to like ideas that are trying to add value and make a difference to people lives. Examples like The Tap Project by Droga 5 and more recently the E.ON work by Forsman & Bodenfors demonstrate the power advertising and agencies have in making an impact and a difference in the world.

But, from an iris perspective, my favorite recent thing is an idea for adidas’ Boost shoe out of our Miami office. We created a renewable energy walkway that also generated energy to project motivational messages for the marathon runners at the Santiago de Chile International Marathon.

https://vimeo.com/67310720

In terms of a ‘traditional’ ad – I’ve always enjoyed this one…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mTLO2F_ERY

Connect with Shanley on Twitter @StewieShanley or on LinkedIn.

Connect with Reynolds on Twitter @23an or on LinkedIn.

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