- Friday, Apr. 1, 2016
Boston-based digital agency Almighty has launched Almighty(X), a division dedicated to advising advertisers on media buying and planning in the wake of what it contends is a lack of transparency relative to certain services and technology consultation that agencies provide to brands.
Named to head Almighty(X) while also serving as chief innovation officer of Almighty is Rob Griffin, who comes over from Havas Media Group’s global network where he was EVP, media futures and innovation. While at Havas for more than a decade, Griffin provided strategic guidance and leadership across all maturing areas of digital, as well as emerging areas like social and mobile. His experience in digital media strategy spans 20-plus years, most recently focused on developing dynamic creative optimization solutions that tapped into augmented and virtual reality for brands such as Kit and Ace, Dish Network, Safelite, and Choice Hotels. Griffin believes that the traditional agency model is ripe for change and he is dedicated to helping clients take ownership of their data, technology, and media—using Almighty(X) as the vehicle for that progressive shift.
He sees a synergy at his new roost in that Almighty has long been dedicated to understanding the full customer experience, meaning that its existing team should naturally dovetail with and benefit from Griffin and the Almighty(X) crew’s expertise in media and technology.
Along with new (X) clients, continuing Almighty accounts can tap into the new division as Griffin examines their current portfolio of media and tech partners, and works to identify redundant service layers, non-transparent vendors, and waste in pre-packaged bundles. Griffin’s team will then devise and deliver to brands a recommendation for the strongest, most economical set of media and tech partners based on specific marketing goals. As a result, brand clients will have more control over their data and technology, enabling them to quickly and astutely adapt to disruptive innovations and changing consumer behavior. Almighty(X) clients will thus be able to optimize consumer touchpoints and give audiences a more personalized, relevant brand experience.
SHOOT: Provide us with a better handle on Almighty(X) and what it hopes to accomplish. What is Almighty(X)’s mission statement? And does it apply primarily to digital since Almighty is a digital agency or is there a broader context?
Griffin: The mission is to help brands take ownership of their technology and data so they can better utilize their first party data to dynamically personalize their efforts from programmatic media to their site, app, CRM, and CMS. This includes helping brands use this data to optimize their customer experience and services from web to store to call center then feed this data back to media. The challenge really is about extracting actionable insights from mountains of siloed data in a timely manner.
As to “is it digital?”, everything is becoming digital. Just like asking if something is mobile. Increasingly how you define mobile and digital when everything is accessed on a mobile device and all media is being digitized becomes a hard answer. Think about it, your big flat screen TV hanging on your wall is just a giant tablet.
The real challenges are around the reverse of this question, which is what we are aiming to address.
As everything digitizes, digital is “traditional-izing”. This is why there is so much attention paid to technology markup, rebates, arbitrage, viewability, privacy, etc. Increasingly brands spend on “digital” tactics and technology to leverage their data is increasing so fast that it is being scrutinized. There was a time when WWW stood for the Wild Wild West not the World Wide Web. Those days are gone.
SHOOT: What was your role at Havas Media Group prior to joining Almighty(X)? How did you connect with Almighty and land the opportunity to head this new venture?
Griffin: I had been at Havas for over a decade. Over the years I built their search practice, managed their analytics efforts, and helped launch a variety of new capabilities. In my most recent capacity there I ran innovation and product development globally.
How Almighty(X) came to be is an interesting story. I was at a BBQ at Chris’s (Chris Smith) house, the CEO of Almighty. Chris and his wife used to work with me at Havas when offline and online media were split between MPG and MediaContacts. We had some cigars, grilled some meat, the kids played, and I told him what I was envisioning. Some months later, here we are.
I am now building out Almighty(X) and acting as chief innovation officer for Almighty. The beauty is that in this case 1+1 adds up to more than two. The combined effort is about using data and insights combined with agnostic and transparent media technology with creative innovation and experience optimization planning to help brands achieve their goals.
SHOOT: Your announcement of the launch of Almighty(X) mentions industry criticism over agency practices and the need for transparency. What are those practices meriting criticism, which areas specifically are in need of transparency and what will Almighty(X) do to attain that transparency?
Griffin: Brands need to own their technology and data. Brands need their agency to be an agent and an advisor, not a middleman. This will increase the ratio of their budget that makes it to working media. And, will also allow the organization to leverage their first party data (which is their most valuable asset) across the entire organization. This centralization is critical to dynamically optimize the customer experience across multiple touch points. As long as this is outsourced to an agency, this is unachievable.
Also, it is more than just paid media that makes a business work. Sometimes it is prudent to not spend any more money on media and create a consistent baseline and a streamlined data ecosystem to ensure proper attribution.
At Almighty we start with strategic consulting plus auditing technology in play and media practices to assess where we can add value.
The difference with us is that we focus on adding strategic value. We depart from legacy agency relationships because we are not the bank in the middle and we are not the trading desk. Clients own their own tech and data, pay their own bills. And removing the agency trading desk and partnering with managed services that already exist in the tech community, we can drive better results more cost effectively.
SHOOT: What were the prime lessons learned during your tenure at Havas Media Group and what does that experience enable you to bring to your new roost?
Griffin: My biggest learnings were about building and maintaining trust in the relationships you create and have.
I have learned that going into meetings without a predefined script as to what I plan to sell and focusing on what is keeping my potential client up at night and what is blocking them from doing things the right way, is my way. And I like to think that my way is what they need and allows me to offer the most value by bridging consulting and agency approaches while offering clients the benefit of bringing things in house without having to bring it all in house.
I like to think of myself as Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction. I clean things up and fix problems.