Kepler NA CEO Remy Stiles On Navigating The Pandemic, Talent Shortages And The Post-Cookie Ecosystem

Remy Stiles, Kepler CEO NA

Ad agencies have had an oversupply of crises to deal with over the past two years. Between the pandemic, the ongoing disruption of how the ad industry gathers and uses data and the Great Resignation, leaders have contended with outside forces on multiple fronts.

Kepler Chief Strategy Officer Remy Stiles became the agency’s CEO of North America in January. She’s juggling an equally long list of issues to keep the ship steering in the right direction.

“DEI efforts, leaning into commerce and retail media and the evolution of the whole TV ecosystem are going to be core efforts for us in 2022,” Stiles said.

Pandemic effects on marketing

A badge of honor for Kepler is that it grew its business through the pandemic, including through its acquisition international ad agency Infectious Media in December 2020. Kepler’s expertise in digital media and commerce came in handy as the whole world turned online, and it worked alongside its brand partners’ marketing teams to adapt to rapid changes in consumer behavior.

“These days, it’s less about media execution and squeezing every last dollar in a CPA,” Stiles said. Kepler is moving to a more strategy-focused mindset, where it partners with brands navigating the changes in the industry. “We’re executing their full-funnel media programs and helping them with their data and tech infrastructure and strategy and their measurement solutions and strategy,” she said.

Walled gardens are key relationships Kepler is cultivating in the new ecommerce-focused marketing ecosystem. Kepler prides itself on participating in alphas and betas so it can give feedback on product road maps and product development. Being on retail media platforms is amping up commerce revenue for its advertiser clients.

“We have a robust commerce offering, operating across Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.,” Stiles said. “And partners like Facebook, Google and Amazon have always been an important part of who we are.”

Infectious Media merger and Kepler Academy

Recognizing the need for a global approach in a digital-first world, Kepler acquired Infectious Media to bolster its operations in Europe and APAC regions.

“Prospective clients are increasingly looking for global partners,” Stiles said, and Infectious Media gave the agency turnkey full-service offerings across North America, Europe and APAC. “Within two weeks of hard integration [with Infectious Media], we had a global account, and we’ve now integrated people, tech and processes across our full global presence.”

To address the ad industry’s diversity gap, Kepler launched an e-learning project, the Kepler Academy. The eight-week program is free and aimed at helping diverse candidates learn the basics of digital media, including hands-on experience executing campaigns.

So far, Kepler Academy has graduated two cohorts with plans for a third. Kepler partners with colleges and universities as well as “like-minded businesses and organizations” to foster networking and communication between students and digital media organizations, Stiles said.

“We’ve had over half of our graduates get jobs in the digital media space at media agencies or, on the partner side, with tech platforms or in analytics roles,” she said.

Future plans

For 2022, the agency is preparing its clients for the sunset of third-party cookies. As viewership shifts to CTV and TikTok, Kepler is refining its approach to video-based marketing.

“We’re keeping an eye on new trends and new partners in the emerging channels space,” Stiles said. “We always say, when Kepler started, Snapchat didn’t exist, TikTok didn’t exist. There are new partners every day, and we’re always evaluating where it most makes sense for our brands to connect with customers.”

Adapting to the loss of signal on the horizon, from third-party cookies to walled gardens’ data policies, is another area of focus. “Within the walls of Google, Facebook or Amazon, their data is incredibly rich,” Stiles said. “[After the deprecation of third-party cookies] maybe it will get slightly less rich. Or, with Google Topics, it will essentially be like contextual targeting, so maybe it will be slightly less granular in terms of how we can target, but the relevant data that the partners own will still be accessible.”

So its clients can still get a peek over those garden walls, Kepler is shifting to more holistic measurement approaches, like media mix models. “We’re helping clients navigate the best way to holistically measure all of their marketing inclusive of retail media. And we’re doing what we call data readiness audits, looking at all of their data and tech infrastructure to identify and address any gaps like first-party data management and installing a CDP.”

This article has been updated to clarify that the purpose of Kepler Academy is addressing the ad industry’s diversity gap, rather than addressing talent shortages.

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