Inside The Creative Agency: Isobar President Gehly Starts With The Customer’s Journey

isobarDarryl Gehly is president of Isobar, a digital creative agency. He spoke to recently about his agency and industry trends. First, a bit of background on Isobar and how you position your agency?

DG: Isobar is part of the Aegis Holding Company. We’re integrated, as in not doing media buying. Therefore, as part of Aegis Media, we have strong sister agencies that don’t overlap with what we do such as Carat and Vizeum, who do communications planning, media planning and buying; we have iProspect that does performance marketing and search; we’ve got Posterscope that does out‑of‑home; and Isobar, which is the creative agency.

So, we’re participating in the planning, and we’re doing all the content creation and the digital executions.

Are you seeing a branded entertainment world steadily seeping into your business?

Yes, it’s coming.  It’s all about the immersion in brands and trying to understand that connection between the brand and your target audience – as it has always been.

You’re seeing a lot of agencies, and particularly digital agencies like ours, making containers whether it’s an application on a mobile device, a website and so on. Some of those containers are being filled by user‑generated content, but only if you successfully engage [the consumer with] them.

It’s all about activating the social platform and getting people to share stories with one another. If we’re successful doing that, we have a much better reach.

Given the complexity that digital is introducing, what’s happening today between the creative and media sides today?

At Isobar, we saw that challenge coming, and we developed a proprietary approach called the Integrated Communication Planning System. It’s a tool that we deploy throughout all of our agencies such that when we’re doing communications planning, there are hooks for various players to ensure we’ve got a “360 degree” media plan.

It does a good job making planners aware that there’s more to the world than bought media and helps them effectively plan so that the social community is activated and consumers see similar messaging regardless of where they’re tripping over the marketer’s brand.

It seems that creative should have a hand in the media planning, and that media should have input, as well, on the creative side. Is that something you agree with?

I do. It’s an interconnected world. We actually use another proprietary tool called CCS, which is a consumer study – basically a panel of thousands of consumers where we’re studying media consumption. And whenever we get an assignment, we first want to know, “Who is the target?” We grab that information from CCS and look at their media consumption, which tells us who are all the players we need to get into the room to figure out what our opportunities are. So oftentimes, you’ll have creatives, techs, and media planners, all in the same room, thinking through how we’re going to engage and effectively influence any target audience based on whatever our plan is.

Digital has a reputation for being very direct‑response‑focused. How do you get the client over the hump, from a creative perspective, to where digital is a brand‑awareness opportunity and not DR-only?

It’s a tough one. And they’re getting a lot of pressure from “above” that digital media is accountable, therefore you must count, and the best way to count is through direct response.

The way you do it is to start with good customer journeys and understand the branding pipeline, the time and a place for it and direct response is still important. But your brand play, particularly around brand utility, and experiencing the value before you make a purchase consideration, is incredibly important.

Thinking ahead, what do you expect might be the areas of particular momentum for your agency beyond Facebook?

We’ve been hearing this for a long time, but mobile is here and exploding. And once we truly tap into the power of mobile, it changes everything. A component of mobile is near‑field communication – not just for transactions, but also for applications. We are looking at different ways to apply NFC because we think QR codes are dead. They’re too complicated for the mainstream consumer but NFC makes it easy, and that unlocks the power of mobile.

By John Ebbert

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