OMMA Digital Agency of the Year: 360i

Four years ago, 360i’s management team set out to reinvent the agency model as we know it. The next year, it was named OMMA’s digital agency of the year. The year after that, it repeated the feat. This year, it earns a threepeat, in part, for reinventing it once again. In fact, it published a “playbook” to do exactly that. The book, which was distributed to current and prospective clients, the media and other influential stakeholders is entitled “Reimagine (Almost) Everything.”

“Our industry is moving through an accelerated transition from TV-led to digitally-led marketing,” 360i Chairman Bryan Wiener writes in its introduction, adding, that the problem is that the ad industry pretty much continues to operate in the same way it has since the pre-digital age, failing to understand that changes in media technology and consumer behavior have permanently disrupted how advertising and media work. Hence the need to reimagine.

It may be a new playbook, but it’s not a new play for 360i, which began life as a best-in-breed search shop, then reimagined itself to be an integrated search and social shop, and then reimagined itself once again to be a digitally-led integrated full-service agency, capable of executing all media — yes, even TV. The one constant, of course, is reimagining how to leverage each channel and message to achieve its clients’ brands’ objectives.

Not surprisingly, that takes on many forms, but regardless of the brand, the strategy and the campaign, innovation, content, data and stories are at the heart of everything 360i executes. You can see it festooned on a dynamically changing wall of new campaigns the agency pins up in its hallways for staff and visitors to gander at, and it shows the tremendous amount of output and creativity the agency generates each day.

Regardless of the execution, the campaigns follow consistent themes that 1) involve, or are driven-by digital media, 2) leverage data and insights, 3) are intended to activate consumers, often to activate other consumers.

There’s no account whose work epitomizes that better than Oscar Mayer, especially its bacon brand. It’s a tough act to follow, because past years have seen every imaginable digital execution to get people thinking about and talking about bacon in general, and Oscar Mayer’s in particular. A few years ago, it hired comedian Josh Sankey to make his way across America with nothing but bacon in his pocket. He used it as a form of currency to barter and trade for what he needed along the way. Then there was the special edition Oscar Mayer bacon cufflinks the agency developed as a Father’s Day promotion. And of course, last year’s “bacon alarm clock,” which magically transformed an iPhone into a bacon aroma-emitting alarm clock.

How do you top that? You reimagine what you can do to connect people around the subject of bacon. The result was Sizzl, a dating app enabling people to find their significant other based on common interests in, you guessed it, bacon.

“It was this year’s bacon alarm clock, but we don’t do it just for the sake of innovation,” explains 360i CEO Sarah Hofstetter. “We do it because it’s an idea people will share.”

People did share it. At last count, Google indexes 221,000 references to the Sizzl app.

It tops 360i’s 2015 sizzle reel, for sure, but other campaigns demonstrated as much imaginations — or reimagination — including another Oscar Mayer brand, its trademark Weinermobile. 360i leveraged the iconic mobile medium by creating a Mars rover-like version called the Wiener Rover, capable of steaming the brand’s hot dogs, warming buns and making guest appearances to an enthusiastic audience on NBC’s Today, causing weatherman Al Roker to proclaim it an important breakthrough.

While the attention-getting content and ideas generate the sizzle, they are all informed — and sometimes powered by — innovative uses of data, including Jameson’s Irish whiskey’s Instagram share-your-shot campaign, or a new variant in client Red Roof Inn’s programmatic media strategy.

360i followed last year’s programmatic campaign for Red Roof enabling users to install an app that would inform them of their air travel flight delays or cancellations and book a stay in a local Red Roof, with another that leveraged real-time traffic data to promote a night’s rest for travel-weary long-distance drivers who might need a break from all the brake lights.

Another example of innovative use of data was the agency’s campaign for the Board of Tourism of New Orleans, which used the same core propositions for the Big Easy, but tailored them to famlies, singles and other target groups based on data about who was in the audience for the ads.

Like all of its work, those campaigns were designed to simultaneously optimize paid, earned owned and shared behaviors across media, and are planned as part of one strategic whole, beginning with some form of digital activation at its core.

360i’s Wiener and Hofstetter acknowledge the approach doesn’t work for everyone, and the agency tends to work with and court more “progressive clients,” but if its own grassroots marketing campaign around its playbook works, more clients will fit into that category.

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