It's hard to get into a conversation with the executives running 360i without asking about "You can still dunk in the dark," the most publicized, hyped, discussed and dissected tweet in the short history of social-media marketing.
"People talked about the tweet and there were promoters and there were naysayers," Sarah Hofstetter, the agency's U.S. CEO, said about last year's Oreo Super Bowl tweet, which was sent by a fleet-footed team operating from a social-media war room cohabited by the brand and 360i. But what the agency is happiest about is that the tweet "helped us have conversations with clients about how to organize for this kind of environment," she said.
And that is the kind of dialogue that fueled 360i to a stellar year. The agency, which is making its second-straight A-list appearance, had a particularly strong new-business record in 2013, winning work from Procter & Gamble's Downy, Unilever's Ben & Jerry's and Subway, among others. Along the way, 360i increased its revenue by 15%, reaching $700 million in billings. It notched $116 million in revenue in 2012, according to Ad Age Datacenter.
The agency takes a disciplined approach to new business, pursuing about one of every 20 leads, said Bryan Wiener, chairman and global CEO. "We are not for everybody," he said. "We are the best agency for a consumer brand that really is committed to digitally centric programs."
The shop dares to ask the tough questions, like "what color underwear are you wearing?" That query to consumers was part of a campaign for Hanes aimed at improving sales from women. Users picked their preferences at a special site, and then tweeted them to the world. Apparently, people prefer pink on rainy days, according to the undie insights. But most importantly, the campaign drew some 356 million earned media impressions.
For Toyota, 360i has helped the automaker gain more attention for its program of sharing production expertise with nonprofits. The effort included hiring a filmmaker to document Toyota's assistance with a New York food-distribution center in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. "The work that we do is so much more digitally centric than it's ever been, and we've seen a lot of success with that," said Marjorie Schussel, corporate marketing director for Toyota Motor North America. "They really challenge us to be better."
For Ben & Jerry's, 360i scooped out a data-driven campaign called "City Churned" that allowed fans in five cities to vote for a custom local ice cream flavor. Feedback came from everywhere, including allowing bikers to pick a flavor by choosing a bike lane: shortbread or bananas.
But while the cute gimmicks might get the headlines, the shop's strategy is keyed by fundamentals, like helping clients improve organizational effectiveness. That, if anything, was the lesson of the Oreo tweet. "Don't confuse marketing in the real-time world with minute-by-minute marketing," Mr.Wiener said. "What you need to do is be able to organize for success in a world that is moving at a rapid pace."