Reprise Adapts Its Search And Social Roots To A Channel-Agnostic World

Reprise is a specialty agency born in the age of channel planning.

What started as a search specialty shop combined in 2018 with IPG mobile agency Ansible and social agency Society as audience-based buying took off. While channel expertise still remained relevant, distinguishing agency services by channels didn’t resonate as much with clients.

So when longtime Ogilvy exec Dimitri Maex joined Reprise in October as global CEO, he pledged to double down on Reprise’s evolution toward channel agnosticism.

“Instead of starting with the channels, start with the customer experience,” he said. “That’s really how I want all of us to think.”

This will require collating best search, social and mobile practices across markets and integrating more deeply with IPG sister agencies, where it brings search and social expertise to holistic media accounts. Reprise’s business is split in three equal parts: client-direct, servicing Initiative accounts and servicing UM clients.

But first, Reprise must get its message straight with employees. The agency has been without a CEO since early summer, when former chief executive Tim Ringel left to lead creative agency Spring Studios. During that period, Daryl Lee came on as CEO of IPG Mediabrands, among other leadership changes in the group, and in the course of the transition there wasn’t much communication about Reprise’s future as an independent agency.

“When you have silence, people start to fill in the blanks,” Maex said. “And when you say things like importance of integration with sister agencies, people think, ‘Are we going to fold into them?’ But that was absolutely not the case.”

Maex spoke with AdExchanger about ecommerce, innovation and Reprise’s future in a channel-agnostic world.

AdExchanger: How do you get employees to stop thinking about media in the context of channels when they’ve done that for so long?

DIMITRI MAEX: First, by bringing in the talent. We have a diverse set of talent, but [we need] people who have grown on the consulting or digital experience side. The other piece is to have an operating system that forces these different capabilities to work together. You need frameworks and a disciplined approach.

Why is creating more consistency across markets a big focus for you globally?

Agencies are good at talking about this stuff, but bad at executing it. Very few agencies are good at creating a process and driving best practices through workflow, but it’s something we’re putting a lot of attention to. Part of it is client-driven, but part of it is common sense.

Why will Reprise be able to pull this off when it’s so hard for other agencies?

Because we’re focusing on it. Agency life can be very chaotic. You have client demands to fulfill every day. It’s a lot of hard work.

We’re writing our best practices. We’re working with an educational design company to create a training program. We’re adapting our audits to make sure all of the best practices are reflected. That’s a suite of tools that takes it from a deck or a Word doc to best practices implemented every day.

How does Reprise balance working with direct clients and supporting Mediabrands agencies?

There’s a natural tension between having a strong identity as Reprise but also being very integrated with Initiative and UM. I’ve worked in agencies where it worked really well and agencies where it worked terribly. It’s a balance.

If you go too far on the integration piece, you lose the identity. It becomes harder to hire. By having a strong Reprise, we stay in pitches and compete against pure plays. But if you go too far into identity, you’re working with separate companies. The strategy is to get people a little more embedded [with UM and Initiative] so they get more familiar with the offering and the way they tell their story.

How is Reprise working with Acxiom?

Data and analytics [have] not been embedded well enough within Reprise. We need people to drive the agenda.

We’re working on how to better integrate [Acxiom’s] capabilities. We’re going to start with the basics. Eighty percent of the effort will be about making the insights actionable and infusing data in the decisions our teams make every day. That’s where a lot of our clients still see upside.

How will Reprise ramp up its ecommerce capabilities?

We’re doing a significant amount of ecommerce work, but we don’t know everything. You can see the difference between a media person who has learned ecommerce and someone who has grown up in it and knows everything from fulfillment to the whole back end. We need people who know how Amazon makes money, when that is in the advantage of a brand and when that’s a disadvantage.

There’s so much more behind the scenes that we just don’t have. And I don’t think our competitors do either.

Where do you want to see Reprise a year from now?

I want us to keep doing the innovative work, but on the big clients. Most agencies do innovation, and it’s not as impactful. There’s a perception that the bigger clients move slower. I want us to do the best and most innovative work on the biggest clients. I don’t want us to focus on smaller clients.

What does innovation look like to you?

Innovation needs to align to the mission of the company. If it’s something that will accelerate how consumers move through the purchase process, I want to do it. Understanding the nuts and bolts of how retail and ecommerce works, that’s innovation. Doing a chatbot for a small brand, I don’t think that’s meaningful innovation.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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