360i Is No. 6 on the Ad Age Agency A-List
360i-012411.jpg" class="large" align="left" caption="WELCOME TO THE TWEETING BAR: The beer tap at 360i's watering hole sends a tweet every time a draft is drawn." />NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every Friday at the New York offices of 360i, David Berkowitz hosts breakfast for staff -- Bagels with Berky, they call it -- over a briefing on digital hot topics from Android to Quora and everything in between.
The weekly event is symbolic of the passion Mr. Berkowitz, the digital agency's senior director of emerging media and innovation, exudes for all things digital, but it's also a mandate from management to keep the Dentsu-owned shop on the cutting edge.
Five years ago, 100% of 360i's revenue came from search marketing, but that number has been cut to 40% as most clients calling upon it today want 360i as a full-service partner leading digital strategy for clients. The shop's new-business record in 2010 illustrates the shift; 360i added nearly $125 million in new-business billings last year. It booked two search and six social-media projects but, more important, won 16 digital-agency-of-record assignments for multiple Kraft Foods brands, Capital One and Mattel.
"360i has made the transition from being a very good tactical agency in specialty areas like search and social to being a full-service digital agency," said Tim Andree, CEO of Dentsu Network West. The stateside operations of the Japanese ad giant acquired Innovation Interactive, the umbrella company of which 360i is a part, in January of 2010.
So how did Dentsu, in Mr. Andree's words, "not screw it up"?
Despite the disruptions an ownership change can sometimes create, 360i came through it with revenue up nearly 25% over 2009 (it had $60 million in revenue in 2009, according to Ad Age DataCenter). The shop's success is also an indication of Dentsu's finesse in the past few years with U.S. acquisitions; 360i's sibling McGarryBowen once again made its way onto Ad Age's 2010 A-list.
"They gave us plenty of rope and stayed out of the way -- which is exactly what they promised us," said 360i CEO and Innovation Interactive co-CEO Bryan Wiener. Having that kind of freedom was key for Mr. Wiener, who launched the company in 2002 with co-CEO Will Margiloff.
When they acquired 360i, an Atlanta-based search shop founded by two Emory Business School grads, in 2005, it had 35 people handling about $5 million in media. Now, the agency counts nearly 325 employees.
As 2011 begins, the New York headquarters is prepping for a move to more spacious digs. (@TweetingBar, 360i's watering hole that's been outfitted with a beer tap that tweets every time a draft is drawn, is making the move, too). The Atlanta hub is growing and so are outposts in Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco. With Dentsu's help, 360i sees expansion into China and India on the horizon. And if it can replicate the kind of work that's making its U.S. clients happy now, 360i has a shot at becoming a global digital agency player that, while still far smaller than the likes of Digitas and Razorfish, is a worthy competitor.
Already one big marketer, Capital One, last year moved its $30 million digital marketing business to 360i from Razorfish -- the biggest digital agency by U.S. revenue, according to Ad Age's DataCenter -- after a review that included 10 shops ranging in size.
Facebook is another area where 360i has proven its mettle, and the agency now manages two of the top three biggest brand pages on the social networking site for Coca-Cola and Oreo. The agency started managing Coca-Cola's Facebook fan base of 2 million consumers less than two years ago and has helped grow it to more than 21 million. In May, the agency took the reins of Oreo's 4 million Facebook fans, and within months it has exploded to 16 million likes.
The influx of new friends is thanks to the new tone that 360i brought to Oreo's page, said Eva Press, a director at Oreo who oversees U.S. marketing for the popular cookie brand. Before 360i, the brand was posting primarily promotional messages on its pages, while consumers were commenting and sharing their love for the cookie. With the agency's direction, Oreo began encouraging fans to share with posts such as "How do you eat an Oreo?" and "Share a recent Oreo moment."
"The thing that's been terrific is that [360i is] a strong partner in every sense of the word," Ms. Press said. They have a wonderful understanding of how to talk to people in the social space. It's very different. It's not ad language, it's not press-release language, it's just talking to people. As easy as it sounds, it's a difficult thing to come across."