Creative Agency of the Year: Giant Spoon

Vikrant Batra, global head of computer and tablet marketing at HP, remembers thinking not long ago that there was something missing in the company’s approach to consumers. Given ongoing advancements in media, technology and content and the way trends in those sectors increasingly intertwine with culture and society, Batra saw an opportunity for growth.

While those spheres were quickly blending together in a way that they hadn’t before, HP didn’t have a single agency that was focused on that media-culture-content “mash-up,” as Batra puts it. So last year he decided to put out some feelers to see if there were any shops looking at those developments and the way that they are re-shaping consumer behavior. Because, Batra says, that changing behavior is making the traditional marketing model obsolete.

It didn’t take Batra long to find Giant Spoon — founded in 2013 by OMD veterans Alan Cohen, Jon Haber, Trevor Guthrie and Marc Simons — because so few agencies do what they do. “There may be others but not that I’m aware of,” said Batra. “We found Giant Spoon very quickly.” 

Cole Haan, the upscale shoe and accessories marketer, also recognized Giant Spoon as “what we were missing,” from an agency perspective, said company CMO David Maddocks.

Spoon is Cole Haan’s media agency, but also much more. “They’ve come up with some of the smartest media plans I’ve seen” said Maddocks. “But they come at it from a creative point of view and they are steeped in so many facets of digital,” which is critical, he said. 

“Branding is media and media is branding,” said Maddocks. “Every brand now has to think like a media company. We’re selling atoms and digits and Giant Spoon gets that.” 

But beyond creative media plans, Maddocks said that Giant Spoon is a “true partner, not just a vendor” — one that has a place at the table when the company does its short- and long-term marketing and business planning. 

The agency has in a little over a year’s time asserted itself in the industry as the face of the “new creative,” which is about leveraging ideas and content to move a brand’s business forward. For its innovative approach and for filling what marketers say was an industry void, Giant Spoon is MediaPost’s Creative Agency of the Year. 

According to Giant Spoon Co-Founder Cohen, the former U.S. CEO for Omnicom’s OMD, he and his three partners, knew from client interactions that they had an opportunity to create a new kind of Adland offering. “I saw it first hand,” Cohen said, noting how clients reacted with great enthusiasm to discussions about “innovation and ideas that drive sales and connect their consumers,” versus a conversation, for example, about how much budget to allocate to programmatic buying (not that the latter isn’t important). “So we decided to create a whole agency around ideas and strategy.” 

And while Cole Haan’s Maddocks credits the agency with helping to target the right customers and lift sales with plans and activations, work for HP has included an intensive research project into what drives the appeal of one of its most important products-the HP x360 computer/tablet. 

That work is critical for HP — as HP CEO Meg Whitman noted on the company’s third quarter conference call with investors and analysts, “Our product lineup, driven by products like our EliteBook series and our x360 convertible notebook, is the strongest we've had in years.”

And Giant Spoon created a marketing blueprint for the x360 that has served as a guide for multiple agencies and the company on a global level to ensure that sales of that leading product continue to grow robustly through 2015.

The effort included a deep cultural analysis to understand behavior in the areas of content, influence, passions and psychological profiles.

“That’s an example of our strategic product at work,” said Giant Spoon partner Haber. “They wanted to know what about this works culturally with this audience. Why does it work and how they could define it and create essentially a blueprint for a road map for engaging millennials on this product.”  

While much of the research is confidential, Haber said that insights derived from it led the agency to recommend creating product-related content featuring social media stars aligned with mainstream talent to create “more of an echo chamber” effect to showcase the work and the brand. In November the company released a music video featuring Meghan Trainor (created by ad shop 180LA) that seeks to capitalize on that insight. 

Giant Spoon’s work for Cole Haan included a cross-channel campaign for the launch of the brand’s ZeroGrand collection aimed at educating consumers on the advanced technology and “weightless” design of the shoe and creating advocacy among the so-called “fashion elite.”  The effort included in-motion look-books and CGI-produced visual showcases. The campaign seeded product with key influencers in fashion, entertainment and music, which helped generate earned awareness and social PR.

“They challenge conventional thinking,” Maddocks said of the Giant Spoon team, but at the same time they collaborate well with client staff and other agencies, he said. Giant Spoon, through its insights work also has a keen sense “of where culture is headed,” which is crucial for fashion brands. “But you have to show up at the right time and place with the right message at the right volume,” said Maddocks. “Otherwise you’re just an intruder. They get that.” 

General Electric was Giant Spoon’s first client. The agency works with GE through a joint venture with OMD called The Grid, which handles the company’s U.S. media assignment. Linda Boff, GE’s Executive Director of Global Brand Marketing said that part of Giant Spoon’s appeal is that the agency is “idea driven versus media channel or even media driven. They start with what the brand stands for and then deliver ideas that evoke passion and love. Because as a brand we want to be loved.  And they come up with ideas that ignite that flame. “

As one example, Boff cited the “Fallonventions” series of branded integrations that the agency developed that featured young inventors who appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to present their new gadgets. Some were quirky (a pizza de-crustifier for one) while others could probably find an immediate market quickly, like a device that attaches to a smart phone to take a reading of a user’s heartbeat. “Tonight Show” host Fallon added his own brand of humor, helping the integrations to garner huge ratings. And he presented $5,000 scholarship checks to the inventors from GE. “It showcased the idea of innovation,” said Boff, which is one of the company’s core marketing themes.

Great ideas come from bright people, which Boff says is probably Giant Spoon’s best asset. “They are uniquely positioned in the space of media-meets-tech-meets-innovation,” she said. “They bring something very special,” to the practice of connecting with today’s consumer. 

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