How hot is bacon? Hotter than Tom Cruise, Lady Gaga, or Kanye West, according to online conversation measured by 360i.
But the agency found something else during its research: that only a tiny percentage of people talking about the pork product actually associate it with a brand. And that smelled like an opportunity.
"That allowed us to tell the client there is a huge white space here," said Sarah Hofstetter, president of the Dentsu-owned digital agency. "If your bacon is actually as good as you say it is, let's put that to test and see if it can actually be used as currency."
Thus was born Oscar Mayer's social-media powered "Great American Bacon Barter," in which a comedian traveled penniless across the country, trading the brand's new Butcher Thick Cut bacon for essentials like a night on someone's couch and food and even nonessential perks such as NFL tickets.
The campaign, which drew 336 million earned-media impressions, is one example of how 360i is using data to drive big ideas that become the centerpiece of client campaigns. That's something the shop couldn't have envisioned back in 1998 when it started solely as a search-marketing firm.
"The key to our success has been that we've built this culture of curiosity that's fueled by using data to drive creativity and commerce," said Chairman-CEO Bryan Wiener. "We believe it's what marketers need to better connect with consumers in an age when things are changing in near-real time."
Plenty of clients seem to agree. The shop claimed a 95% retention rate last year, while winning new work from Hanes, Verizon, Trident and H&R Block. With $600 million in billings, 360i's revenue jumped 15%, while the agency grew its workforce by 20% to 500 employees.
The hot streak means that its Japanese owner wants to export the 360i nameplate into new markets around the world, as it is doing with sibling shop McGarryBowen. In early 2013 the New York-based agency opened its first non-U.S office in London, which will act as a hub for European expansion.
It also looked abroad to fill the newly created post of chief creative officer, hiring Adam Kerj away from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Stockholm. Mr. Wiener credited Mr. Kerj with helping to "elevate our storytelling," building on the shop's expertise in consumer behavior, data, social and mobile.
Those storytelling chops were employed by 360i in its role on the multiagency team that created one the most buzzworthy campaigns of the year: Oreo's "Daily Twist." The campaign put the 100-year-old cookie at the center of pop-culture and current events, generating a new cookie image each day for 100 days, including a rainbow-filled Oreo to celebrate Gay Pride Month.
The result? A 280% increase in Facebook shares.