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Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Redefining brand activations


Redefining brand activations

Born out of the merger between brand activation agency G2, OgilvyAction and JWTAction, WPP activation agency Geometry Global was officially launched across the Middle East and out of Dubai in late May. Nearly four months into the launch, Communicate sat down with Geometry Global’s general manger Nick Walsh, executive creative director, Ben Knight and planning director, Roy Armale, to discuss the agency’s offerings and the changing face of brand activations in the region.

Geometry Global is the result of the coming together of JWT Action, G2 and Ogilvy Action. How does this work?

Geometry Global launched globally in March 2013 and in the region, it launched in May. It is a combination of three main agencies – JWT, Ogilvy Action and G2 [previously a subsidiary of Grey Group] all of which come under the WPP umbrella. Throughout the world, the three agencies are at different stages. For example, JWT Action is very strong in North America. JWT Action and G2 don’t exist in the region, so after WPP acquired a majority stake in Memac Ogilvy, we agreed that Ogilvy Action is the strongest in the region and Geometry Global took off from there.

You can say that we work as a standalone agency. We are very comfortable pitching to clients and working independently; and wherever needed we will support any of the three agencies. But we do pitch independently as well.

Are there any reasons that Geometry Global was launched a year later in the region?

There are different waves for launches and there are still regions where we haven’t launched yet. With three agencies coming together, a lot of details needed to be worked out. From our perspective, Ogilvy Action is the largest here, and when WPP acquired majority stake in Memac Ogilvy, it was simply a process of migrating Ogilvy Action to Geometry Global.

Which clients does Geometry Global handle?

Most of clients are the already existing global clients like Coca-Cola and Unilever. We have a solid base with FMCG companies so we are building that and there are interesting things in store as we bring together the skill sets of three agencies.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing in the region?

The biggest challenge is a new name and getting it out there. We are the biggest brand activation agency network in the world but not many people have heard of us, especially in this region. People have heard of the three agencies individually but not of Geometry Global. Once we talk to them about our offering and what we do they are very impressed and happy.

Another challenge is time as we have had to change quite quickly, and going out there and talking to people about the type of agency we are; cause we are quite different, which is a positive thing. In that sense you can look at us as the biggest startup agency.

What’s your strategy for the rest of the year?

The strategy for the coming year is raising the profile and position of Geometry Global as an agency by speaking to the media and clients – potential and existing. We have an ambitious awards strategy as well. This agency is based on creative excellence and we intend to continue that. We are the most creative agency in the network globally since the last two years.

What are the misconceptions brands have about activations in the region?

To start with, calling it ‘activations’ is probably a bad idea. Under the banner of brand activation, we do shopper marketing, relationship marketing, trade marketing, promotional marketing, and digital marketing. Look at the diversity of the term; it’s not about just putting up a stand in a mall.

When you see stands in malls, you automatically assume it is activation. You see stands that are just there as a one-way communication, there’s no interaction. That’s advertising. You might as well put up a banner there. On the other hand, you’ve got online banners like the Ikea banner that requires a depth of engagement.  You got to click the banner, explore the products; it’s the smallest store in the world so there’s interaction that is more than just information. It leads to behavioral change; it’s a change from going to the opening a catalogue and browsing to ‘oh, I’ve got all of that within the banner’. So activation is a piece of work that has the goal of effecting behavioral change regardless of the medium.

How are brands in the region faring? 

The main difference between clients who do activations well and less well isn’t a matter of the implementation. The change that’s happening right now isn’t a superficial change, it has some depth to it. The main aspect of the change is if clients understand the need for activation rather than following the traditional means of advertising. If clients are doing it to try something new or because something hasn’t worked, the level of commitment is going to be quite low. On the other hand, if they have a strong belief in this new kind of thought process of changing behavior rather than creating awareness, then you see a stronger commitment.

Coca-cola has a very logical way of trying new things. They have this idea of 70:20:10 – 70 percent on things that are tried and tested, 20 percent on things that have been tried a few times and 10 percent on completely new ideas. Their thought process fits in with what we are trying to achieve with them.

[Memac Ogilvy’s] Sprite Cricket Stars is an example of really understanding a new way of working that is more about depth of engagement rather than going for mass awareness. There was none of the mainstream metrics like press coverage, tweets, etcetera, but the level of engagement for the actual target audience was dramatic, rather than being superficial; and that’s what precision activation is all about. Even if you get zeros on everything that’s traditionally set as a metric, if you get a good score on the precise point that you’re going offer, it’s considered a success.

There is an adoption curve that goes into it. Fortunately, the brands and organizations that trusted us before have seen the quality of work that comes out of and so, we have been able to maintain the relationship and grow this thought process together.

How is Geometry Global different?

There have been people and organizations that understood the importance of depth of engagement a long time ago – even before Geomtery Global was an idea – but since then advertising agencies have started taking a decision on how much emphasis to place on behavioral change.

Instead of focusing of what we are going to do in [terms of] what channel we are going to use or what the end result is going to be, we focus on the why and how. Why do we need to change someone’s behavior and how are we going to change it? The clients we worked with who want to go through this depth of understanding with us are having a stronger success.

The beauty of what we do, is that when a client comes to us with a problem, the solution is not immediately clear. With us, it’s media-neutral. We don’t know what the media is going to be yet, so the solution is more than just the creative idea. We have to get the insights right.

How do you track or judge the effectiveness of a campaign?

You’ve got levels of facts; a tangible fact and soft facts like hearsay. That’s the first measure. The second measure is how useful it is. We don’t count on only the first factor, so if it’s very tangible but not very useful then we’re probably not going to consider it. Instead, we find proxies – ways of doing qualitative dipsticks to represent the quantitative research – things that are able to give us the idea of perception.

When we go through our process of understanding the people that we are affecting, we do it from a behavioral change perspective. We look at it in terms of the psychology of the individual rather than the general sociological movement of the aggregate. And that’s a major change in tracking that we are looking into; we’re more about taking the individual change that would happen and multiplying it rather than saying what is the aggregate change and then distilling it.

Simply put, we do qualitative dipsticks wherein we partner up with one of our research partners or we do our internal research – which we are trained to and [is supported by a team] – by going into the market, and then we validate it with external research. We see something within digital – which is trackable – which shows us level of engagement and, let’s say, it shows that once a person is exposed to our brand they interact with it several times. Are we seeing that same result inside the store? Do they conflict with each other? If they conflict then we need to do more research. If they align with each other, then we are able to stabilize the research, take a proper assumption and continue working along that channel. So we’ve taken a hard metric and a usable metric and used them as proxies against each other. So we’ve made them both useful.

Can you give us some examples of your work? 

The Ikea banner, mentioned earlier, is actually an example of shopper marketing. It doesn’t have to be inside a store to count as shopper marketing. It created a shopping experience and a sale even as a banner.

Another example is Sunsilk, Unilever. In Sunsilk’s case ,when you say shopper marketing, you mean supermarkets. Sunsilk’s target audience doesn’t go into supermarkets; their moms do. We had to turn the young girl into a shopper without expecting her to walk through the doors of a supermarket. So we created the “Sunsilk Style Pad” that was placed in Forever 21 outlets, to show style tips and hairstyles, plus the product and its benefits.  The girls in the store were invited to try different hairstyles out: they could pick different outfits and scenarios and it presented a hairstyle along with the products that you’d need to maintain the hairstyle. It’s more about understanding where the product fits in the shopper journey and if the shopper will ever be in the store.

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