Tougher than leather
Like the prehistoric relic its name conjures, Razorfish, one of the very first
interactive agencies, has weathered cataclysmic shifts in the online environment, surviving two recessions and remaining intact through four acquisitions.
In fact, it's done much more than survive. Consistently one of the top agencies in terms of revenue, this year it gobbled up tons of awards, landed new clients TravelChannel, Staples and Mercedes-Benz USA, and was named digital AOR for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, ALPO Purina and Mattel.
"We've been able to carve out a spot where we're doing a lot more than just campaigns," says CEO Bob Lord. "We're helping to move the key success factors of a client."
In its latest U.S. interactive agency smackdown, the Wave report on strategy and execution, Forrester Research exalted Razorfish for its well-rounded menu of offerings, from campaigns and applications to measurement, analytics and account management. Its work bends technology and science to the will of the brand.
Razorfish created and executed a two-part campaign to launch Coors Light's new cold-activated can, combining viral and user-generated video. TheColdFront.org, a fake news site, warned of icy weather sweeping the country. The Project:Cold Web site used an unusual 3-D modeling technology to keep the focus on the can. A rotating can acted as the interface, letting site visitors watch videos, rate them or upload their own.
"They stay on brand position, and they stay on strategy," says Lorin Gelfand, associate brand manager for the Coors family of brands. He also gave Razorfish kudos for playing well with the five other agencies involved in the launch.
The agency helped Sun Products turn a product-placement disaster into an online success. When contestants on Celebrity Apprentice came up with wildly inappropriate TV spots for All detergent, Razorfish scrambled to produce two Webisodes starring Melissa Rivers in a mockumentary about Laundry Fairy Union Local 32, a collective of stain-fighting characters who help stressed-out mothers. They also whipped up a 30-second spot to run at the end of the offending Apprentice episode, sending people to All-Laundry.com to see the Webisodes. Every time someone forwarded a video, All donated 50 cents to charity.
Razorfish made discovering new tax breaks fun with a game on YouTube that exploited the site's video annotation technology. The "Don't Miss It" game generated much higher-than-expected user interaction and persistence rates, with nearly half of those who start the game completing it.
The agency also made waves with Barbie's 50th Anniversary Web site for Mattel; the Ritz crackers Open for Fun campaign; and a redesign of WWD.com for Women's Wear Daily.
The agency functions as a think tank and analyst firm, thanks to a strong bench of wonks. It published four reports in 2009 based on proprietary consumer research. FEED: The Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report brought insight to the way consumers interact with brands online. The Fluent report put consumers' social media activities under the microscope, introducing a proprietary tool, the SIM Score, that helps companies measure the relative strength of their brands in the social world.
It continues to tinker with new and unusual media, such as the Razorfish Touch Framework, a touch technology that spans multiple devices. Meanwhile, it formalized its ad exchange group, ATOM Systems, and premiered Edge, a new analytics platform designed to measure and optimize the brand experience.
Razorfish bet early and big on social media; it's now woven into every part of its business. "A lot of companies see social media as a tactic or channel," says Shiv Singh, vice president and global social media lead at Razorfish. "We've moved well beyond the experimental stage." The Social Influence Marketing practice provides strategic advice on linking social media and influencers to business and marketing goals. (Singh recently authored Social Media Marketing for Dummies.)
The agency was acquired by Publicis Groupe in August and placed under the VivaKi umbrella. The move will let Razorfish quickly expand into emerging markets, according to Lord, including India and China. Lord is licking his chops at the access to partners that VivaKi can provide, as well as the awesome leverage of its multi-billion dollar media spend.