Agency A-List 2013

Razorfish Is No. 9 on Ad Age's Agency A-List

Convergence Philosophy Results in Solutions-Driven Agency That, at Times, More Closely Resembles a Tech Company Than an Advertising One

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Have a chat with Razorfish CEO Bob Lord, and you'll find he often employs the term "convergence" -- his preferred way of describing the intersection of technology, creativity and media -- when describing how his agency has successfully maneuvered through shifts in the marketing world in recent years.

In a business rife with buzzwords, it'd be easy to think that convergence is just another piece of overused industry parlance. But at Razorfish, it's more than superficial ad-speak; it's the core component of a business philosophy that emphasizes using technology to deliver solutions for brands.

Razorfish: Ray Velez, Bob Lord, Daniel Bonner, Jeff Lanctot
Razorfish: Ray Velez, Bob Lord, Daniel Bonner, Jeff Lanctot

That philosophy has resulted in a solutions-driven agency that, at times, more closely resembles a tech company than an advertising one. The Publicis Groupe-owned shop doesn't just design slick websites, it powers them. While some agencies merely collect consumer data, Razorfish's team of analysts measure data to create a picture of online behavior. It means that these days a significant portion of Razorfish's revenue is coming from outside the marketing suite. CTOs and CIOs frequently hire Razorfish for projects, creating new revenue streams that -- even in the face of dwindling ad budgets -- woefully few shops are capturing.

Razorfish saw a string of impressive account wins in 2012 that helped it earn its second consecutive year on Ad Age's A-List. The agency increased billings by 20%, or $60 million, from 2011 to 2012 by adding Activision, Samsung, Target and Uniqlo among others. Organic growth in the U.S. came as the company increased its workload from existing clients Delta, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft and Nike.

It's come a long way since a decade ago, when Mr. Lord (then the head of North American operations at Razorfish) was publicly criticized for trying to be both a marketing and a technology company. Many said that the business would fail because of this ill-defined business plan. Ten years later, Razorfish has proven it can deliver on both, while also providing consumers with a personalized and frictionless brand experience.

Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy charged Mr. Lord with leading the way forward for the holding company as it strives to achieve as much as 50% of its revenue from digital services for clients. Mr. Lord is also helping to organize the assets that the group has been amassing in the form of other agency brands such as Rosetta and LBi. One area of expertise he hopes to establish for Publicis Groupe overall is big digital retail experiences.

Its expertise in e-commerce has been exemplified in its work for Japanese clothing store Uniqlo. When Razorfish relaunched Uniqlo's website in October, the retailer's first-day sales more than tripled expectations.

After what Bob Kupbens, Delta's VP-marketing and digital commerce, called a "rigorous evaluation process," he chose Razorfish to relaunch the airline's website last November. The effort involved creating the site's My Delta feature, a personalized web portal housing all of a traveler's relevant booking information, and Escape, which allows users to book travel packages via an interactive map.

What impressed Mr. Kupbens most was how Escape's elegant look married with its usability. "With just two clicks I can get to a whole hosts of vacation packages," he said. "You can design something beautiful, but if it can't be used, its going to cause some trouble."

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