Agency A-List 2015

360i Is No. 3 on Ad Age's 2015 Agency A-List

Work, Clients Continued to Diversify, Contributing to a 15% Revenue Boost

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(From l.) Pierre Lipton, Jared Belsky, Bryan Wiener, Lee Maicon, Sarah Hofstetter
(From l.) Pierre Lipton, Jared Belsky, Bryan Wiener, Lee Maicon, Sarah Hofstetter Credit: Photography by Stephanie Diani/AP Images for Ad Age

As soon as 360i got a brief for traditional media from Pernod Ricard, it was obvious the spirits giant was looking for a change: 360i is a digital agency.

Change it got, starting with an unusual call from 360i CEO Sarah Hofstetter before even the first meeting. "She wanted to understand that the brief that we asked for was not completely carved in stone," said Tim Murphy, Pernod Ricard VP overseeing digital and media. "We needed someone who can give us rigorous consumer planning and much more integrated communications planning led by things like social and search and content," he said. "So as we went through the pitch, it was apparent that 360i was that agency."

360i is demonstrating how nimble, digitally led marketing and digital-centric agencies are becoming the modern state of the art. "360i and Nestlé have both been longtime champions of marketing in a digital age," said client Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital & social media at the Vevey, Switzerland-based chocolate giant, another new client for 360i. "It's what really allows our partnership to thrive."

While its roots are in creating digital programs, the work the agency does for clients can be as far-reaching as in-store branding, cross-platform media buying and even scent technology. In 2014, both its work and its clients continued to diversify, contributing to a 15% revenue boost and its 10th consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth.

The shop came close to topping its famed Oreo "Dunk in the Dark" tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout when -- after nine months of R&D -- it rolled out a phone accessory and app that woke users with the sounds and smell of Oscar Mayer bacon.

The goal was buzz (there isn't a lot of brand loyalty around bacon), so 360i and Oscar Mayer knew they were in good shape when USA Today called the bacon alarm system "quite possibly the best invention since whatever came before sliced bread." More than 300,000 people applied to win the free device and over 65,000 people downloaded the app.

360i also gave Clinique a global brand refresh. Based on its data and the universal finding that women want to be in control of their outcomes, the shop unleashed a new brand manifesto, #StartBetter, evoking the possibility of a fresh start every day, be through it a new job or relationship. In addition to millions of views of an online video at the heart of the campaign, Clinique saw a 33% rise in purchase intent. The manifesto is now making the journey from digital and social platforms to in-store branding.

"We invested in making sure we can have an integrated, owned-earned-paid digitally led offering," said Chairman Bryan Wiener. "The difference in 2014 is that there appears to be a tipping point in marketers wanting digitally led approach, so that's led to us winning different types of business like Pernod. We've been building toward that."

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The shop kept the team fresh in 2014 with the addition of Chief Creative Officer Pierre Lipton from M&C Saatchi, and Head of Communcations Planning Brian Cronk, who came from sibling media agency Carat. "He's involved in helping connect the dots between paid, owned and earned," Ms. Hofstetter said of Mr. Cronk. "Comms planning is a critical layer. It's not a department; it's a capability."

Just don't think 360i has forgotten where it came from. Last year the shop took its search expertise to the next level for Red Roof Inn. By tapping into the FlightAware API, a source of global flight status data, the agency built a system that used flight cancellations to trigger bids for ads that would be seen when stranded travelers searched for nearby hotels. Booking was up significantly, according to the agency.

"Weather-based advertising is nothing new," Ms. Hofstetter said. But agencies have to stay on top of the technology and digital media that make these programs more effective, she said. It all still goes back to "timeless fundamentals of what it takes to growth the bottom line for a business," she said.

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