Boasting over 10 consecutive years of double-digit growth and some 400 employees, OLSON, Minneapolis, now rivals any shop in the world. No doubt, Paul Ratzky knew it was special in mid-2009 when he left Yahoo as senior director of agency development to take the reins at OLSON's interactive division. Since then, the "brand connection" agency has done pioneering work in the areas of consumer packaged goods with www.betterathome.com - the Better at Home website for General Mills - and entertainment, arts and tourism for Target Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular Facebook Experience. Meanwhile, OLSON just acquired mobile marketing agency MyThum to bulk up its dedicated mobile unit. Along with Capital One and Bauer Hockey, OLSON mobile clients now include MolsonCoors, Ford and Sony. Of the news, we asked Ratzky to assess his time at OLSON, the state of digital media and how a not-so-little shop based in Minnesota plans to usher in the age of mobile marketing.
What are the big
advantages and disadvantages of operating out of Minneapolis?
Advantages: Energetic, optimistic, hard-working staffers. Lots of industries and corporate headquarters to work with (who also serve as a good training ground for marketers). Strong creative orientation to the city. Having real seasons grounds you! Disadvantages: Sometimes, but not always, smaller budgets. Less nearby collaboration with other creative industries (compared to LA/NY). But that doesn't stop us: We're just inventive about our approach to collaboration. Snowdrifts four feet high and temperatures that make your toes curl.
What characteristics most clearly distinguish a Minnesota ad man from, say, a New York City ad man?
Much more polite, down-to-earth, roll-up-the-sleeves hard-working, collaborative, holistic in thinking. Likely experienced on client side, a valuable perspective. Much less "prima donna" behavior.
Without naming names, are there any clients that OLSON would still discourage from pursuing social media strategies, or is every brand rife with Facebook potential?
We truly believe every brand has potential in the space (which must be thought of far beyond Facebook), but those objectives, strategies, tactics and communities will vary broadly and must be thought about very precisely.
Whether overshadowed by social media or simply misunderstood, which marketing specialty isn't getting enough love these days?
Analytics. Everyone talks about accountability, but so few are really practicing it as a driving force in their marketing efforts. Also I believe that audio advertising (derived from radio) still has a strong role to play, but has always been neglected in a mediocre ghetto. But most importantly, marketers continue to focus too much on the platforms themselves, versus the core behaviors that really drive the motivations behind our marketing. This is especially true in the social space.
What's the next big thing in digital marketing and how is OLSON planning for
Portability will explode over the next 18 months and completely new marketing forms will evolve because of it. Also, experiential/digital out-of-home is showing some of the most innovative and effective new forms right now. But again, truly understanding our target communities from an anthropological point of view will be the driving force, and the next big platforms will simply keep evolving to allow us to connect with them in new, more meaningful ways.