Onward To Digital And Innovative Ideas

When MediaPost published the article about WPP undergoing an overhaul to support digital marketing and advertising, it struck a chord with some marketers and agency executives. A few have shared their thoughts with me. 

It seems the shift to digital and emerging technologies, as well as the inability of some large holding companies to meet the needs of brands, continues to foster the introduction and growth or smaller, independent agencies. They are created by industry vets who believe they can fill the gaps being created by large holding companies.

Jey Pandian, for example, wrote “Finally!” in the comments section of the article I posted on LinkedIn. Pandian has a long history in search engine optimization and paid-search advertising. In the early days he worked as an SEO manager and then director at Catalyst, a GroupM and WPP agency. He moved on to Magnitude Digital.



Then in 2014, Pandian and founding partners Quentin Cotillard and Jeff Loomis launched Onward, a full-service digital agency created from some insightful challenges they witnessed taking place across the industry. The agency has begun to gain traction among global clients.

Search touches 100% of Onward’s global client portfolio. Click on the word “clients” on the agency’s website and it takes the visitor to a list that includes eBay, Ferrari, and Google. It’s not clear whether those are past or present clients because the agency declined to name any, but did say that brand clients include major healthcare, technology, non-profits, and luxury brands. Some of the endorsements on the agency’s website come from Analogix Semiconductor and BCBGMAXAZRIA Group.

The agency model “transcends” borders with a tailored strategy for each international marketing, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

The strategy integrates into the company’s “DNA” and digital marketing offerings, such as branding, strategy, design, and development. The company pioneered what it calls its “proprietary SearchFirst approach” that “completely reverses the traditional media agency model by integrating SEO at the very beginning of the process,” allowing the agency to discover niche insights about the brand’s customers.

Historically, he said, “traditional media businesses have been built on the back of arbitrage with deals made behind closed doors, even kickbacks, to make an agency more money at the clients' expense.”

It’s time for a change, he said.

Forward thinking, Pandian said the future of digital advertising resides in “assistive search,” where artificial intelligence-driven technology and big data supports the assistant.

And when asked whether the advertising industry is missing technology to better support advertising and marketing, he said: “One would argue that the industry is not missing a technology per se, but rather absolute transparency. The rise of blockchain, cryptocurrencies and GDPR reflect this trend.”

Despite proposed legislation, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, coming up for vote in November, Pandian and crew don’t believe GDPR will come to the U.S. under the current political climate despite the Cambridge Analytica repercussions.

Pandian, a self-proclaimed tech geek, says “tech geek implies passion, and unless we are on top of new trends on behalf of our clients' interests on a continual basis, we would easily fall behind. The great thing about being a geek is that it never feels like work. We do what we love to do.”

As for long-term trends, the agency wants to become globally relevant using its pioneering SearchFirst technology.

“The idea is to remain authentic, accept clients of like-mind, and seek to make to make a positive difference,” he said. “It’s that simple.”


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