Christoph Becker, GYRO (UNITED STATES)

Under its CEO and chief creative officer Christoph Becker, Gyro is transforming perceptions of B2B advertising

When I tell Christoph Becker I see Gyro as “the B2B agency that doesn’t behave like a B2B agency”, he disagrees.“We’re the B2B agency that declared B2B dead,” he says.

Becker is good at statements like this. The CEO and chief creative officer of Gyro is tall and imposing, with the longish hair and dark clothing of a rock star who majored in philosophy. In fact he studied Bauhaus and has a usefully exotic mixture of influences: born in Germany, he was brought up in Madrid and entered the agency world there.

Later he ran Latin America for Bozell – which was later bought by FCB – while based in Mexico City, a place he clearly loved. He ended up as chairman of FCB’s New York office, but the experience left him disenchanted with large, conventional networks. “They are out of step with today’s reality. It was very difficult for me to sit in front of a client and say that 360 degree marketing exists, because it’s an invention. In fact it just means you have 360 friends who need money.”

Later he observes: “In business now it’s not what you’re doing that’s important – it’s why.”

Becker followed this rule when he helped to build Gyro ten years ago. “The idea was to create a culture first, then the positioning of the agency.”

The culture is one of collaboration. “No creative apartheid here” is one of Gyro’s mantras – all the disciplines sit at the same table from the start, along with the client. The process of building a campaign is not the 360 degree approach of ticking boxes, but more like curating the best ideas, no matter where they emerge.

Similarly, all of Gyro’s 16 offices around the world are working towards the same bottom line – they’re not in competition with one another. Gyro calls this approach UNO.

The agency is big on missions. Another reflects the theory that, in a world where the border between work and home has become porous, there’s no point in trafficking purely commercial messages. What you have to do is appeal to individuals, or “Ignite emotions in business minds”.

 

HUMAN RELEVANCE IN BUSINESS

So after the culture, what about the positioning?

Gyro, explains Becker, is pioneering a space he calls “business to people”. He says the idea was inspired by technology companies, which often set out to revolutionize the way we live – and work. “There has to be a way of communicating that the business agenda is connected to a higher purpose. For that you need to be extremely creative, but also very business savvy. And that combination is what we’re trying to crack.”

His shorthand for this is “human relevance in business”. One his favourite recent campaigns, from Gyro in San Francisco, was for HP’s education solutions. Although its target was schools, its central idea was the transformation of education, with a new focus on individual creativity, or “Unstandardized learning”.

Similarly, from the Paris agency, a paper product was the inspiration for a heart-breaking film featuring a cute robot.

This is not business advertising as we used to know it.

“If you think back, ‘business’ used to be an off-putting word, a bit dusty. These days, business is as sexy as music,” Becker says. The number of graduates who’d rather launch a start-up than join a corporation seems to back this up. “Eighty per cent of people I hire at Gyro, when I ask them their dream, they say, ‘To have my own business’. If you think about business as a creative process, then you have a completely different conversation.”

Young people naturally make that connection, he points out. “One of the first thing kids learn to today is to sell their image on the internet, so they’re sales people from day one. Steve Jobs is their rock star. The most influential business people on the planet are wearing sneakers. There’s a convergence now between business, power and creativity.”

Which is why, he adds, many people who come to work at Gyro have an entrepreneurial DNA. They are also, like him, frustrated with the mainstream advertising system. “Here they have an environment where they feel it’s safe to innovate.”

All the offices around the world follow the same template – a single open plan space, with light-enhancing white walls – and staff are encouraged to change places every six months. “We live in a world of constant change, so you need to be adaptable.”

As a business, Gyro is evolving: in July it was acquired by Dentsu Aegis, although it will retain its unique personality. “We’re accelerating their agenda, and they’re accelerating ours. Dentsu has become one of the most innovation-driven networks – they buy leading technological and avant-garde companies. Gyro had the content very well defined, but the context wasn’t so strong – we didn’t have the depth of technology and data which we have now, thanks to Dentsu.”

Size is not as important as resources, he adds. “It’s like being a kid walking into a room full of toys. Unlike the other big networks, Dentsu Aegis is an open collaborative system, so we have immediate access to any of their companies. And as you know, collaboration is the essence of how we work.”

There have also been some changes in the Paris office, where our meeting takes place. Since former agency president Didier Stora left to pursue other projects, Gyro: Paris is headed by the duo of Nathaël Duboc, director general and Sébastien Zanini, director general and creative director.

Becker says: “Didier wanted to concentrate on other things, which I greatly respect, but the culture we created together remains intact and we have been able to elevate two great leaders. I like it when change comes naturally, from inside.”

In some ways, he says, the Paris agency sums up Gyro’s approach. “We’re here in France, the home of avant-garde. And if anything, this agency represents exactly that. In my opinion this is just the beginning of a great story here.”

 

By Mark Tungate, editorial director, Epica