NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In 1999, Resource Interactive was behind Victoria Secret's first webcast fashion show, a moment deemed so historic that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included it in its time capsule for the century. That same year, Resource also produced the lingerie retailer's first Super Bowl spot, causing 1.4 million football fanatics to leave their sets during the first quarter of the big game to log onto the Vicky's website.
Given the success of those early experiments in e-commerce, it's no wonder this 320-person, Columbus, Ohio-based shop -- to some degree flying under the radar of some of its coastal competitors -- has consistently stayed a step ahead in the field of marketing technology.
"Resource has continuously innovated since I've known them," said Ed Razek, chief marketer for Victoria Secret parent Limited Brands, which has been a client for 12 years. "They've never approached their work like a traditional agency or digital agency of any kind."
Limited Brands spent $425 million in U.S. media in 2009. Despite that sizable ad coffer, Mr. Razek says Resource is the only creative agency Limited Brands employs on a regular basis; it handles most offline creative internally. (Initiative and Razorfish handle TV and digital media buying, respectively.) "Resource has been valuable to us over time," Mr. Razek said. "One of the reasons is because they know brands and they know how to sell stuff. If you don't know brands and don't know how to sell stuff, we don't want to know you."
While most agencies are focused on expanding their expertise, a la digital agencies trying out TV work or PR shops wanting to do more social media, Resource's strategy is the opposite. It's chosen to hunker down with e-commerce and focus on clients in three distinct sectors: retail, packaged goods and technology.
"Focus is a big part of what we're about," said Resource CEO Kelly Mooney. "We have the discipline to say that just because someone from travel and leisure calls us or auto calls us, we're not going to jump through a hoop. We're going to focus on the areas where we can bring the most value."
Leading the shop along with Ms. Mooney is agency founder Nancy Kramer, who now serves as chairman and chief culture officer. Together they represent a veritable anomaly in adland -- a shop that even from its earliest beginnings in Silicon Valley almost 30 years ago has had female leadership.
|Videography: Steve Raddock|
|Resource Interactive Founder Nancy Kramer and CEO Kelly Mooney discuss the agency's success.|
Adding to its tech roster, Resource in 2010 nabbed Google, Intel and Autodesk as clients and opened up a Palo Alto, Calif., office to serve one of its oldest clients, Hewlett-Packard, among others. It also implemented sales apps on Facebook for big brands such as Proactiv, Pantene, Diesel and Pampers and has also had a hand in Procter & Gamble's experiments in direct-to consumer e-commerce. That's meant substantial growth on numerous existing accounts and 25% growth in revenue in 2010 to $51.5 million.
The agency developed P&G's e-store, a lab for the packaged-goods giant to learn about selling directly to consumers. Cracking online retailing is a priority for P&G, which currently collects less than 1% of sales online. P&G CEO Bob McDonald is an advocate for the initiative, telling Ad Age he'd like to see those sales increase tenfold.
Resource's proprietary commerce application for Facebook, called Off the Wall, lets brands have complete transactions within the social network. Limited was the first to test it out, and in 2010, a number of clients, including Home Depot, followed suit. "Facebook commerce is in its infancy; the sales we do on Facebook are not material to the Home Depot sales or online sales right now," said Hal Lawton, president-online for Home Depot, overseeing digital marketing and e-commerce. "But our belief is that, over time, customers will shop there. We expect there will be material sales on Facebook. Whether it's in 18 months or three years from now, this is a great way to dip our toe in."
Another thing Resource has prided itself on is helping clients plan for the future. John Kadlic, chief development officer at Resource, says the agency's road-mapping process -- whereby clients and agency teams basically lock themselves in a conference room for six weeks to hammer out a long-view digital plan that marketers can implement on their own -- has attracted a lot of interest. "This is not about solving challenges in six months, but 12 to 24 months out," he said.
A year ago, Kohl's selected Resource to massively overhaul its e-commerce site and has since undergone the road-map process. Said Julie Gardner, chief marketing officer at Kohl's: "There is always a concern on my part when working on a consultancy level that the attention to detail doesn't always exist with outside partners. But at Resource, they've worked out every detail with us."
The shop has no doubt generated interest from buyers over the years. Regardless, Ms. Kramer said the agency has no plans to change its independent status, a point some clients are relieved to hear.
"I would say Resource very much benefits from being an independent agency, one that is not weighted down by traditional media," said Home Depot's Mr. Lawton. "They move at the pace of digital. They're nimble, flexible, not a lot of anchors around their ankles, if you will. We're going through a lot of changes in this space and a lot of companies are struggling with this transition. It's quite the contrary with Resource."