March 11, 2024

A-List & Creativity Awards 2024

Data & Insights Agency of the Year

How agency’s data, insights and AI drive growth for agency and clients alike

By Jack Neff

Known is known for more than data and analytics, given that it’s also No. 3 on the Ad Age 2024 A-List. But data and insights have been at the heart of the agency from its inception four years ago, when data and analytics shop Schireson Associates was part of a three-way merger with creative, strategy and social shops.

Today, data and insights remain a driving force for Known, which has more than doubled revenue in the past four years and reported a 6% gain to $132 million in revenue for 2023.

The data practice also has been key to a media practice led by Chief Media Officer Kasha Cacy, former chief executive of Interpublic’s Universal McCann U.S., who joined Known in early 2023. Cacy also manages Known’s operating system, Skeptic, which uses AI and predictive algorithms to help plan and evaluate both brand and performance campaigns.

“When I started talking (to Known) it was very clear that they were leaps and bounds ahead of anything I’d seen on the data and analytics front in media,” Cacy said. “I think there’s so much room to push the industry forward, to be precise and predictable and have marketing really function the way a lot of other businesses within an organization do, in a much more precise way.”

This year, Known launched The Big Lebotski, a Slackbot that aids optimization and ideation of search keywords, copy, content generation and more, dramatically decreasing the creation time for big campaigns. That helps Known manage the gargantuan task of handling dozens of big clients, including 25 new ones, with only 380 people, and deliver revenue per employee of more than $347,000, which is above industry norms.

Known’s precursor shops have worked with the biggest tech players for more than 20 years. That includes having helped Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta in research and strategy, including 150 projects for them in 2023 alone. Those assignments included privacy, metaverse, measurement and AI issues.

Marketing opportunity audits (MOA) conducted by Known over a 10-week period identify performance and savings changes in such areas as budget, targeting, creative, attribution, channel allocation, measurement optimization, message sequencing, experimental design, human resources, process and marketing technology.

In the back half of 2023 alone, Known’s MOAs identified more than $200 million in savings and incremental revenue opportunities for clients. They’ve also led to Known replacing the incumbent media agencies for two of those clients without review, and put the agency into the mix on four more reviews currently underway, according to agency executives.

A big part of the reason data and insights work for Known is that the practice is integrated with media, creative and production capabilities, Cacy said.

“The breaking up of creative and media in a world where there’s been this proliferation of channels and choices just doesn’t really make sense,” she said. “It’s really hard to manage an implementation when you’re managing a creative agency and a media agency.”

One reason Known is growing is that it can quickly look at a marketing plan and identify 10 levers for improving the impact and efficiency, she said. Often, that will mean clients head back to their other agencies to implement those changes. But sometimes, they’ll just turn to Known as their new agency. 

Reprinted with permission from Ad Age. © 2024 Crain Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
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