VMLY&R is now knocking on $1 billion in revenue in the U.S., posting a 5% increase last year following a 12% rise in 2021, thanks to its early adoption of the “connected brands” proposition that spans brand experience, consumer experience and commerce.
That end-to-end combination has attracted new clients and grown business from existing ones including T-Mobile, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, SC Johnson and Abbott Nutrition, and the shop has expanded its share of WPP’s global Coca-Cola business across brands including AHA, Coke, Minute Maid, Schweppes, Smartwater and Vitaminwater.
It’s a fusion of data, insights and strategy that informs the agency’s connected brands philosophy, according to Global CEO VMLY&R Commerce Beth Ann Kaminkow, “bringing true insight through data to the table to really understand ‘How does a consumer live their life within the brand context now?’” she said. “‘How do you design around things that are going to be really relevant to that consumer?’”
This formula has enabled VMLY&R to transcend the antiquated notion of the Mad Men-era agency, said a consultant, who called the agency "highly strategic and creative." VMLY&R embodies the contemporary way of doing business versus legacy creative agencies, said the consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding, “Oh, how those mighty have fallen.'”
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“We often compete with [an agency] that has a great advertising offering and its customer experience offering is like ‘You know, we got a guy,’” said Cook. “We never want to be that company that just has a person that does that, but rather 40% or 50% of the company that's doing that kind of work. If we do our job right as an agency, the term brand experience and customer experience won't even be terms anymore because the whole thing will just be experience.”
Operating a full range of services also helps insulate the agency from market vagaries, said Jeff Geheb, global chief experience officer.
“A single client will change their investment with us across [brand experience] and [user experience] depending on what's going on with their business. And it doesn't require them to switch an agency and say, ‘Hey, we're doing less advertising this year.’ Ford had fewer semiconductors last year, so they did less advertising because they had fewer products to sell, but they shifted the spend over and said ‘Let's invest more with owners or in product innovation.’ It's not an agency switch, it's a capability switch.”