Mobile Agency of the Year: Horizon Media

It used to be that winning in mobile meant merely being active in the channel. Clients were satisfied as long as their campaigns could check off that they incorporated text-based codes, QR scans, activated instant responses or collected user data.

Now, in order to break through in the mobile space, agencies need to deliver real results. And few agencies made as big an impact this year than Horizon Media. Its dedicated mobile team now oversees more than 40 clients, including Geico and Little Caesars. And over the past 12 months, the agency has added more to their roster of household names, including Weight Watchers, JG Wentworth and Burger King. With the help of these clients, the agency increased its mobile billings by 40 percent over the past year. 

"It is hard to point to one success — we just had great momentum all year," says Donnie Williams, chief digital officer at Horizon Media. "We had great traction with current clients and across the board there was more investment and bigger opportunities." 

It is difficult to isolate one successful campaign above others when Horizon’s notable mobile initiatives in 2014 were so broad and expansive, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Mobile location efforts for a restaurant brand that prompted the lowest cost-per store visit ever and a conversion rate 40-percent higher than the industry benchmark.
  • Working with a beverage alcohol marketer that won Horizon an award for an innovative campaign on Songza that delivered millions of impressions
  • Video completion rates two times the industry average and significantly higher than average listening times.
  • Interactive video spots for a quick-service restaurant specifically day-parted to hours in which the product was sold delivered five million completed video views, and high engagement rates on tablets. 

And for a season premiere for an entertainment client, the mobile team worked with the messaging app Pinger to intercept “sexters,” playfully encouraging engagement with network talent. Ratings were up 181 percent for the male 18-to-24 year old demographic from the first season’s averages.

Horizon's mobile success can be attributed to several factors:

Partnerships. The mobile team's alliances with early stage start-ups like Pinger, Truspr and Peel have helped the agency secure aggressive upsides for clients. At the same time, Horizon has developed an ability to move the industry through fortified partnerships with marketplace leaders like Medialets, OnSwipe and Rhythm New Media. These deals place Horizon at the forefront of conversations surrounding video, native mobile ads and measurement. 

Technology. Horizon is the first agency to execute action-focused buying in mobile and is now moving to more accountable cost model measures like “add to DVR” right from a phone. Its audio content recognition is poised to understand how long someone is watching programming, which introduces new capabilities like season tune-in rate to understand performance. 

Community. Horizon's involvement in mobile extends beyond specific client accounts to connect members of this industry. The agency regularly hosts mobile education events such as its Mobile Science Fair where executives engaged more than 40 clients, 700 employees and over 20 vendors. These events provide client access to innovative technologies, and facilitate additional touch points for entrepreneurial connections between clients and vendors. 

Of course to be effective in mobile an agency has to make it a priority and Horizon has done that.  One of Horizon’s most important and fastest growing entities within the agency is its dedicated mobile team, with a 30 percent increase in employees year-over-year. 

Nonetheless, there have been some growing pains. "It's been hard to find people with really rich mobile backgrounds with years of experience," says Williams. "We have had success with getting people with digital to move over into the mobile space."

Looking forward, Horizon is sharpening its focus on mobile wallet opportunities, as well as one user experience. "In 2015 we will continue to help our clients to reinvent mobile creative,” said Sarah Bachman, VP of mobile strategy at Horizon Media. “We will work with our partners and clients to rethink everything from mobile video, banners and commerce experiences."

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