Two months after leaving the top digital innovation role at one of the world’s largest advertising companies -- Havas -- Rob Griffin is looking to disrupt the traditional agency model, by “putting the agent back in agency.” To accomplish that, Griffin -- who is now chief innovation officer of Boston-based experience design agency Almighty -- wants to change the economic structure of agency digital media services so they are focused 100% on creating better experiences for consumers and brands, and not on paying for middleman services that purport to do that.
“We’re starting with the advertiser using their own technology and data and using the savings to pay their own bills,” says Griffin, explaining the new model behind Almighty (X), a new unit with Almighty he will lead that will be compensated purely on improvements in the experiences his clients create for the consumers they are trying to reach.
The economic shift, he says, is just a means to an end to create the efficiency and neutrality necessary to focus on things that accomplish that goal.
In Almighty (X)’s model, Griffin says, the agency helps its clients determine which technology and data serves their objectives best and how to manage it in-house to remove extraneous costs that can be put back to the bottom line of improving customer experiences.
Economically, Griffin believes the approach will enable brands to take an estimated 70%-plus of the margins that go to middlemen in digital media buys and use it to pay for bringing those resources in-house in order to achieve the brand’s objectives.
It is the objectives, Griffin says, that Almighty (X) wants to focus on, and much of the new service practice will be devoted to helping clients understand which technology and data yields the best results based on their consumer marketing objectives.
Griffin says the approach requires a shift in thinking about the role of a digital media agency from media-buying and technology inputs to the actual consumer experiences they are intended to create. Not surprisingly, he says, that means shifting more toward a so-called “CRM,” or “customer relationship management” approach to marketing vs. a media impressions rationale.
“Our goal is to use [clients’] first-party data to optimize their marketing across every single touch point,” he says, adding, “That requires understanding the needs and communicating the objectives of everyone inside the enterprise -- the CEO, the CMO, the CIO, the head of commerce -- so they can share the data with the marketing department in order to achieve those goals.”
Griffin says the model is designed to address not just the bloat and inefficiency of the modern ad tech marketplace, but a growing distrust that many clients have about sharing their data with their agencies and other technology and data processing middlemen.
“The client needs to own the technology and the data, not the agency,” he says, adding that while the initial goal is on enabling more of the client’s budget to go toward “working media,” the bigger pay off is in shifting the agency’s focus on delivering strategies and executions that create the consumer experiences they are trying to accomplish.
To illustrate this point, Griffin cites his own relationship with one of his personal favorite brands, Patagonia. Griffin, an outdoor enthusiast who likes to go heli skiing, shops at the same Patagonia store in Boston as his friend who prefers to go fishing. Yet they receive the same catalogues, email and overall customer experience from Patagonia.
“They are sitting on all this data on what you buy, but we’re all getting the same experience from them,” he explains, adding that the goal of Almighty (X) is to mine those consumer insights to create better, more relevant experiences for consumers that lead to better results for the brand.
To illustrate the process, Griffin created a Venn diagram showing how the practices overlap to create an experience derived from the brand’s first-party data with its customers.Griffin says Almighty (X) will focus on servicing existing Almighty experience design clients and winning new business based on the stand-alone model.