In our latest of interviews centered on new busisness and growth, Chris Gokiert of Critical Mass chimes in on finding authentic growth opportunities through utilizing a connected ecosytem, AOR relationships, and digital expansion.
When searching for growth opportunities, how do you determine what is the right fit for the agency?
We look for authentic extensions of our service offerings — chances to push clients forward, as well as opportunities that will push us. Stretching to meet a new opportunity is good because healthy challenges breed creativity and lead to bigger successes for our clients. A real win/win. But we have to be very honest with ourselves, too. If a prospective client has an opportunity that is clearly not a reasonable extension of our current offerings, things probably won’t turn out very well.
But we’re also very lucky to be in the digital experience business. To be successful, we’ve had to build up a wide and versatile range of offerings: design, e-commerce, campaigns, data, social, branding, technology/implementation, MarTech/AdTech, online to offline, immersive experiences — the list goes on. As a result, it’s very natural for us to expand and combine our services in new and unique ways and stay ahead of the moment.
Let me give you a couple of examples. We’ve evolved the idea of Experience Design into Ecosystem Design—where every digital touchpoint is connected by data, tech, and design systems so that experiences are more cohesive and customers get more value from engaging with the brand. We also evolved Digital Production into a service we call ArtBot. It’s a studio-based offering that helps brands scale their personalized creative (and collect much more actionable data) without losing a pixel of visual elegance. ArtBot lets us use a systems-design approach to production that is faster, more cost-effective, and powered by automation, personalization, and uncompromising design standards.
So, as we keep expanding and reconfiguring our services, we can be a better fit for this moment’s opportunities while authentically showing clients that we have smart, new ways to solve their challenges.
What does exponential growth look like for your agency? For example, project work vs AOR pitches, geographic, interdisciplinary, etc.
Exponential growth comes from new AOR relationships, including integrated relationships where we team up with partner agencies in our network. We’ve seen some great growth in 2022 due to a number of AOR and integrated pitches, but demonstrating proof and value is the key to winning — then growing — these accounts.
Because our offerings are digital, we’re in a position to help our creative and media partners get more granular insight into marketing effectiveness while making sure creative ideas look brilliant when reimagined or scaled online. In addition, when we enter the picture as a design or performance marketing partner, we use a lot of test-and-learn. When clients see the tests, see our process, and see the proof that our work is working, our scope grows. We just signed a very big expansion of service with a large, global food brand once they saw our services and people in action.
What are the key challenges and / or opportunities for brands in today’s marketing economy?
A key challenge for brands is managing their customer ecosystem — channels, tech stack, experiences, etc. Orchestrating an entire ecosystem is obviously not an easy task. And it’s often made more difficult due to a lack of coordinated technologies, strategies, agencies, and internal organizations. When brands have those discontinuities, a broken experience is almost assured. And customers know it! They see it, feel it, and get frustrated by it. A broken experience drives new customers away and destroys brand loyalty.
But there’s an equal and opposite opportunity here, as well. Investing in a cohesive experience will allow brands to catapult ahead of their competitors because, even in 2023, many brands do not have truly cohesive experiences and connected ecosystems. Brands that prioritize a connected ecosystem and understand how to create more cohesive experiences are going to have a big advantage.
Given the uncertainty of the past couple of years, are there any trend predictions you have about where the ad and media industries are headed?
On one level, I think there will be something of a reckoning. We’re going to continue to see a growing desire for agencies to harness technology and be faster, more effective, and more automated. It’s what everyone has been talking about. But agencies that only talk the talk of insight, technology, and creativity but don’t execute it are going to fall way behind and get weeded out.
The agencies that thrive will be ready to deliver what brands are demanding—access to new tools that will give them more control over their destiny. Brands will partner up with agencies who can demonstrably use this technology in new ways and create valuable, cohesive experiences for customers.