Lots of agencies claim they are unique because they are “digitally-led.” MediaPost is naming Dentsu Aegis Network’s 360i as our digital agency of the year because it no longer thinks like a digital agency. It thinks — and executes — like a great full-service agency that happens to have an expertise in digital. And because it sees digital media simply as a means to an end for a client’s communications objective, not as the embodiment of it. It’s all about the strategy, the communications planning that went into it, and whether it is executed “digitally,” on TV, or in a real-world experiential event, is a function of how to achieve it.
“We have always taken unconventional approaches to the marketplace, and it’s paid off for us,” boasts CEO Sarah Hofstetter, noting, “first in search, then in social, and now for the way marketing overall is planned, brought to life and measured.”
If you look across the array of campaigns 360i executed over the past year, you can see how it leveraged digital thinking, if not actual digital media to bring its clients’ brands to life for consumers. In some cases, it even used digital media to bring something to life that never even existed in the world before. Like a “bacon alarm clock.”
Whether the world was asking for one or not, clearly fans of client Oscar Mayer bacon were, because when the agency invented one as part of a promotion for the bacon brand, it set off a frenzy from consumers and the media alike.
The campaign centered on an iPhone app and an add-on device that was literally invented by the agency. The app literally enabled an iPhone to emit the smell of bacon in the morning when the alarm clock app went off. After being developed conceptually, the 360i team utilized state-of-the-art digital technology — a 3D printer — to synthesize the prototype.
It’s an example of how the agency takes ideas from strategy to concept to execution. And if its team can think of it, it seems they can invent almost any campaign execution necessary — in the digital or real world.
Given 360i’s roots in search and social, it’s not surprising that most of those executions have strong “earned” and “owned” components, but they often emanate from — or at the very least are accelerated by — paid media strategies.
360i is well known for being an early adopter of so-called “brand newsroom” approaches that scrape and leverage breaking news events on behalf of their brands — whether it’s the Super Bowl blackout tweet for Oreo or leaning into a pop culture debate over just how evil the character of King Joffrey was on client HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” it’s all about using a digitally-led strategy to connect a brand with its consumers.
Sometimes, that means creating new brand equity by unlocking what’s already inherent in a brand. That’s what 360i did for client Clinique, a brand that eschews models and spokespeople to make its product the star in its consumers’ lives. The #StartBetter campaign went one step further by helping Clinique’s customers become the stars in their own lives, too — helping them make their own fresh starts, whether with a new job, a new lifestyle or even a new outlook on life.
“It rallied around the insight that, no matter where you are, women are looking to makeup and beauty products to gain control in their lives,” explains 360i’s Hofstetter. The StartBetter campaign was a way of connecting that desire with the Clinique brand.
The campaign, like many of 360i’s efforts, may have begun as a digital experience — a social media and video campaign online — but it’s already beginning to have it’s own real-world effects with in-store kiosks being built that will bring the campaign to life.
While 360i may have begun its life as a search shop, it has always seen media — especially digital media — as just a means to bringing its clients’ brands to life for their consumers whether that is paid, owned, earned or digitally fabricated.