A Catalyst For Innovation: RAPP

by India Fizer , AdForum

Direct/Tele/Database Marketing/CRM
El Segundo, United States
See Profile

In the latest installment of our "New Media" series, we spoke with media and experience specialists, Gabrielle DeMeritt (Jr. Community Manager), Christiana Messina (VP, Media), Rebecca Buck (Media Director, Digital Media), Jay Ro (VP, Experience Analytics), and Sid Gordon (Creative Director) at RAPP for a deep dive chat on all things new media.


The rise of social media platforms has made them key to brand recognition. In what ways does your agency utilize social media to inform/engage your audience and how do you see that evolving?

Social media is unique in its ability to engage with individuals in a more human, down-to-earth way. Unlike other platforms, content is generated from a desire to share. That desire summons the humanity of a brand, rather than its less accessible corporate identity which oftentimes remains impenetrable. It becomes a more vulnerable medium through which to bolster brand recognition, albeit delicately. It takes more thought, requires more time and energy to engage — it’s not something that can be done thoughtlessly without appearing obvious. It requires care.

Though we may be more excited to post a cool, new campaign, users tend to respond even better to content that serves as a window through which they can peer into alternate realities. From a trend-casting perspective, we’ve also seen a widespread shift, especially on Instagram and TikTok, from heavily curated, edited content to more casual content that seeks to appear effortless in its execution.

Social platforms reside in a kind of ‘unspace’ between reality and non-reality. With that comes a world of possibilities by which to navigate how a brand chooses to exist. We can draw audiences closer or keep them at a distance, we can keep tending to well-curated facades or we can reveal an unguarded semblance of the individual realities behind a brand. There is a fine line between the two. However, the medium is undeniably headed in the direction of the latter. To stay relevant, brands would do best to pay close attention to the medium’s nuances and follow suit.

Gabrielle DeMeritt
Jr. Community Manager RAPP


How has the pandemic affected the way consumers use social media and which platform is the most relevant to your agency?

The pandemic made social innately more social. The need for connection and to stay in touch was amped up. As did it become a place to get news. Whether accurate or not. It fueled an immense amount of misinformation and fear. A catalyst for anxiety. The intensity in which people relied on social also became somewhat of a burden. The lasting effect was very little lift in usage from pre-COVID times with the exception of YouTube, Reddit and TikTok. Mass social went from overdrive to moderation because after all, when people are having trouble posting anything new or interesting when life isn’t new or interesting — you fall out of the habit of relying on those environments. More niche social environments became more enticing, where conversation could happen around common interests. Where positivity or community support reigned supreme. Where genuine conversations could thrive. 

At RAPP, Facebook has been the most relevant platform as we live in a very DR performance world. The robust data available for targeting, the relative media costs, the historical successes we’ve seen, their well thought out advertising product, various ad types, tracking conversion and analytics capabilities - All of this makes Facebook a very measurable, scalable environment where we can learn, watch, optimize and grow our businesses.

Christiana Messina
VP, Media RAPP


To what degree does the innovative use of media by agencies and companies shape the way new media evolves? (eg: interactive campaigns)

Innovative uses of media and strategy are the main driving force behind new media evolution. Personalization and hyper-targeting have become the forefront of clients' business objectives to help cut through the noise of advertising consumers are exposed to everyday. In order to keep up with the demand, media technology has leapt forward out of necessity. Not only has there been a variety of new platforms created in recent years, but data and creative technology have jumped ahead as well.

Today's biggest competitors in new media offer innovative ways for 1:1 consumer marketing. Whether it be unique data targeting, 1st party data modeling, dynamic creative optimization or another novel technology, clients, agencies and media vendors alike are testing and adapting these new strategies to stay relevant in the rapidly changing consumer market. One of the biggest challenges clients and agencies are facing is marrying the available new media technology with their existing business objectives and tech stack. Media partners who are able to help clients overcome this are typically the most successful in the new media market.

Rebecca Buck
Media Director, Digital Media RAPP


How do you utilize data analytics to create more engaging campaigns?

An understanding of how users progress along their end-to-end journey funnel is essential in crafting an engaging campaign where the right audiences are targeted and served content that is tailored and personalized towards them.  We have to understand how effective our media is in driving users to their intended destinations, what content those users are engaging with when they arrive, and how they progress through the funnel towards conversions. This is only made possible through a robust and intentional analytics strategy.

On the front-end, the right measurement frameworks and KPIs help identify those elements driving success, including within creatives (imagery, messaging, themes), site/page content (layouts, articles, videos), and the connected experience.  Through frequent testing, analysis, and reporting, we can garner insights and learnings that not only deepen our understanding of our audiences, but also can scale out to impact the broader business. 

On the back-end, strategic considerations around instrumentation and technology will ensure that we are capturing the data necessary to enable end-to-end measurement as outlined above.  Tagging, tracking, and taxonomy need to be correctly aligned to measurement KPIs and requirements.  Data sources and pipelines need to be stood up and connected with accuracy and efficiency.  If not done properly, we will find ourselves misinformed in our optimizations.  

By leveraging a robust data analytics strategy, we can ensure that we are continually and correctly informing our next-step actions. Through these ongoing efforts, we can keep our campaigns engaging, relevant, and alive for the user.    

Jay Ro
VP, Experience Analytics RAPP


What contemporary forms of new media are you planning on using to reach audiences?

We’re always looking for new ways to connect with audiences. But not in a generic way, in a meaningful one. Using our data and insights, we see what platforms particular audiences are engaging with and target them in ways that are more like experiences than sales techniques.

We’ve created Snap AR lenses so people can ‘try on’ products and compare functionality before they part with their hard-earned cash. And adapted TV campaigns to create a bespoke AR Lens that lets the user control different elements of the creative. These made Snapchat’s top 10 favourite campaigns of the last two years, because they played on the strengths of the platform.

We also created campaigns specifically for platforms like TikTok, as the product we were promoting was popular with Gen Z. So, we created Tiktoks, rather than sales ads, and hashtag challenges, which proved to be extremely successful.   

But it’s not just the platforms that can make a difference. We’ve worked closely with influencers to create content that is entertaining and used their skills to show them off in their best light, not just looking cool and holding the product as a fashion accessory. For example, we created a gameshow with an influencer as the host and the product featuring in a more natural way. We’ve also worked with Instagram influencers who are experts in a particular field such as photography, using their particular set of skills to create content that highlights relevant features of a product with epic results. 

Sid Gordon
Creative Director RAPP