Off the back of being named Australian Digital Agency of the Year at Campaign Asia-Pacific Awards and winning the competitive Tourism Australia digital account, Digitas CEO Adrian Farouk discusses creativity, data and connected marketing...
Q> Digitas has recently won the coveted Tourism Australia digital account. What do you think got Digitas over the line in this competitive pitch?
Adrian> I could point to our travel and tourism experience, the quality of our pitch submission and how well we delivered on the day. But the reality is that our people are the ones that made the difference.
Over 40% of our team have previously worked at another Digitas office somewhere around the world and this has an enormous effect on how we work. Each of our unicorns has an insatiable attitude to be Bold, Curious and Open. We have a clear vision and everybody is aligned with it.
For example, we encourage our people to explore new wonderful things and share them with the team formally in our Thirsty Thursday sessions. In one such session, someone from our technical team had been experimenting with facial recognition technology and showed a demo of something they had been working on. This became the inspiration for one part of our successful pitch.
From this perspective, the Tourism Australia pitch was really six to 12 months in the making, and when I say it was a team effort it really was! It’s not just about the pitch team, we are constantly taking our thinking forward each and every day. The pitch team are just the ones to put it into practice on this occasion.
Q> The agency also won this year’s Campaign Asia-Pac ‘Australia Digital Agency of the Year (Gold)’ and ‘Australia/New Zealand Specialist AOTY (Silver)’, what do you think impressed judges the most about your submission?
Adrian> It certainly doesn’t harm your submissions when you have delivered both organic growth and new business wins culminating in 46% growth YOY. That said, I think the breadth of our work is what’s really impressive.
This year we have delivered global media innovations for EA Games, enterprise-level technology implementations for Qantas and a creatively-led 4D installation for Pernod Ricard. We have implemented highly complex data solutions for Samsung and increased marketing effectiveness across all channels for the Fiat Chrysler Group.
All these projects tie into our overarching proposition of Connected Marketing. It is becoming impossible to consider marketing channels in isolation. Our audiences don’t think “I’m on an owned channel”, or “I’m in a CRM channel”, they are just conversing with a brand. Brands that don’t think holistically in this way can’t be effective. So I think demonstrating the breadth of our work and how it ties into our Connected Marketing vision was the thing that came across most clearly in our submission.
Q> From making a 4D film out of Pinot Noir for Pernod Ricard with ‘Original Art by Stoneleigh’ to creating data-fuelled football kits for the biggest video game on earth with the launch of FIFA 18 (for client EA Games), what has been your favourite standout campaign to work on this year, and why?
Adrian> Our latest campaign for EA Games was for the Battlefield V Enigma launch. We went in search of a concept that would re-engage audiences who had previously disengaged with the franchise, and do so a few months ahead of the game’s release.
We devised a five-month, internet-wide augmented reality secret mission that had audiences deciphering clues using a range of WWII techniques, including Morse Code and Steganography (a method of hiding clues in pictures). The whole campaign culminated in the creation and cracking of a piece of actual Enigma code, giving users access to exclusive gaming content.
Watching the community forums explode with activity and the sheer volumes of people working together to crack the codes was amazing. No matter how obscure we made the tasks, they always managed it. As an agency, we all became obsessed with monitoring the activity live and devising new ways to outsmart the community every month.
EA Games HQ fell in love with our idea and rolled it out as the official global launch, which is not something that typically happens from a local Australian team. Once the game launched, we were able to attribute our campaign engagement to 35% of sales within the first two weeks. A huge return on a global scale for EA Games.
Q> Year on year, Digitas has witnessed 46% organic growth. How do you support and lead the team through such expansion?
Adrian> Digitas Australia opened just over five years ago with two people. Organically, we have grown to over 70 across Sydney and Melbourne. Rapid growth is the norm for us, and over that entire period since launch, our growth rate is 41% YOY. So last year was not out of the ordinary.
Obviously, the bigger we get, the greater the challenge becomes to maintain these levels of growth, but I’m confident we will continue into next year. The key to sustaining these levels of growth is our leadership team, all of whom I cannot speak highly enough of.
Over the past few years we have put a lot of emphasis on understanding what leadership means to us. We meet regularly and are constantly planning for the future. We have clear plans for growth across all facets of the business and constantly monitor and report on our progress. We invest in an external leadership coach to bring these plans together in monthly group workshops while also working individually with the leadership team to develop their skills and approaches.
As we keep growing, new challenges will continue to present themselves. The strength of this leadership team will be the constant that allows us to keep sprinting at the pace we currently do.
Q>Publicis Groupe has shifted to the Power of One model. How does the Publicis Groupe tap into Digitas’ services?
Adrian> Marketing Transformation is a core focus of the Groupe and we have sculpted our service offering accordingly.
As a Groupe, we are becoming more adept at recognising that many of our clients need more than just a single agency servicing their needs. We need to lead them on a journey to understand their audiences better and connect their technology infrastructure end-to-end so we can communicate to them in relevant ways.
Brands such as Digitas, with our connected offering, have become a bridge between the traditional media and creative heartland of the Groupe. Clients such as Betfair, Samsung, Fiat Chrysler and EA Games are all shared Groupe engagements.
Within the Groupe, we are uniquely positioned to connect our clients to their audiences across data, tech and creative. This means we’ve been able to add value to existing Groupe clients, supercharging their sophistication and cementing already strong relationships.
Q> Why do you think clients are seeking a more integrated offering? What challenge does this respond to in the industry?
Adrian> Brands recognise they need to be more relevant to audiences to gain cut-through and traction. They can only do so by understanding those audiences holistically. They simply cannot continue to have siloed strategies for each channel.
To overcome this, a lot of brands have focussed on their technology infrastructure as an instant solution. Marketing Cloud technologies come with a big promise of solving all these problems in one go, only for brands to realise the reality is far more complicated.
Technology in isolation is not the answer. Connecting the infrastructure to be relevant for each business requires a strategic vision and a roadmap to deliver over time in a way that the business can comfortably grow in line with. Internal team structures, working processes and expected outputs all need to be challenged, which creates a lot of uncertainty.
Amidst this upheaval, clients are looking for partners that can support them through this evolution. Partners that can guide through every step as they head towards their end-to-end visions.
Q> As a ‘connected marketing agency’ can you describe what connected marketing means to you and the wider Digitas team?
Adrian> To be relevant, brands need to become increasingly individualised in how they communicate. When they are trying to acquire their audiences through media, how can they tailor their messaging based on who they are communicating with? Equally, when audiences find themselves on their owned platforms, how do they personalise the experience they deliver based on your needs? And when conversing with their audiences ongoing, how to they understand the ‘next best action’ for each individual?
To deliver on all the above, we believe you need three things – a Data Ecosystem, capable of understanding individuals across all channels; a Tech Infrastructure that allows you to communicate with different audiences throughout the journey; and a Creative Framework that ensures you know what message, content or experience to deliver at any given time.
Orchestrating these three things end-to-end allow us to communicate to our audiences dynamically in a connected way.
Q> The tech pivot towards AdTech and MarTech represents a real opportunity for Digitas to transform brands from the ground up. How do you best educate clients on this?
Adrian> More often than not, brands tend to have strong practices in either AdTech or MarTech. If they are proficient in both, it is often in isolation of each other and often via different teams. The opportunity is often to take the sophistication they have in one area and expand it more broadly.
I have seen businesses with a lot of sophistication personalising on-site content based on identifying different need states that broadcast a one-size-fits-all message through media. Equally, I have seen other businesses with complex and tailored media communications click-through to generic owned platforms that bear minimal resemblance to the initial message.
The collision of AdTech and MarTech offers an opportunity to take successful practices from one area of the business to others. Businesses know they need to be less siloed and connecting the tech infrastructure can be a good way to take the first step on this journey.