There's a new buzz at Syzygy UK. A highly awarded creative as the managing director, a new-look management line-up behind her and a shake up of company culture to promote more fun and productivity. These are the key ingredients with which the Clerkenwell-based digital agency is planning to reshape itself for 2010.
Syzygy is a name you may have heard of. Not so well-known is the fact that it's the London arm of a European network with 300 staff and billings of £74 million last year. WPP owns just under 30 per cent.
This summer, Syzygy UK began ramping up its creative resources and management depth, drafting in a new senior team of executives, all with integrated marketing backgrounds.
A specialist in digital marketing, the agency's calling card is brand-building via new technology, social media and good, old-fashioned creativity. Having established its Web 1.0 credentials at the height of the dotcom boom in the late 90s, it is now revamping that reputation in today's Web 2.0 arena and beyond.
"We're great believers in breakthroughs at all four levels - the business model, the insight, the idea and the technology," Meera Sharath Chandra, the Syzygy UK managing director who joined from RMG Connect India earlier this year, says. "If you come to us, you get strategic value much beyond a website. You get a holistic answer to a business issue."
This approach is part of the agency's ambitions to embody the etymology of the word "syzygy" - "seamless alignment". In this context, the alignment is between the brand, consumer insight and creative solutions. If a client wants a complete online brand solution, Syzygy says it can build the website, incorporate social-media formats, set up e-stores, manage the online PR and plan the media on the web or mobile network.
The 75-strong Syzygy UK belongs to the Syzygy Group, along with other same-name offices in Frankfurt and Hamburg, the media specialist Unique Digital and the brand-design consultancy Hi-ReS!. As such, Syzygy UK is not restricted by geographical boundaries. "Most agencies have either inside-only expertise or outsource non-core services," Marco Seiler, the chief executive of Syzygy Group, says. "We have the ability to in-source everything within the same group. We are One Syzygy."
Chandra is supported by a UK management team that includes recent appointments and senior promotions, such as the executive creative director, Richard Pittham, the group account directors, Matt Brown and David Skerrett, the head of technology, Fabio Fabrizio, and the new-business director, Mark Ellis.
With her strong creative pedigree, Chandra believes creativity is essential at all levels within the agency. Indeed, one of Syzygy's strengths is its ability to specialise in out-of-the-box, disruptive and innovative concepts, she says. "We are passionate about being truly refreshing, yet extremely relevant. We don't come up with ideas in the comfort zone, but with the surprising and unique. What you need is something that is tough to sell to the client, takes the brand to another level, and delivers."
Chandra continues: "The whole focus is on the 'big idea' because being ahead of the curve is important to us. And having the technology to deliver whatever we want creatively is a lovely net to have under us - so we can be as adventurous as we need to be."
The agency's output can be seen in the auto, finance, luxury goods, telecoms and media sectors. Assignments include those for HSBC, De Beers and Mazda Europe, its biggest pan-European account. Other clients include Orange and Sky, and, recently, it clinched the Q Finance business. Despite today's recessionary cuts, Syzygy UK feels well placed to ride the tide towards recovery. Chandra is buoyed by Forrester Research's prediction that interactive marketing will grow, reaching $55 billion in the US alone in five years. That scenario is encouraging Syzygy UK to expand into new sectors, especially health and education.
Syzygy's "360 degrees" philosophy equally applies to employees. It is overhauling its culture to encourage everyone to be client-centric. During "Tue-gether" on Tuesdays, the agency's teams gather to catch up and brainstorm about clients' strategies. And during Ding!, another weekly meeting, young talents are spurred to come up with innovative and edgy ideas.This, plus a "fun@work" atmosphere, aim to foster a more relaxing environment and hence a more productive workplace.
As Chandra says about the syzygy of the business: "We see ourselves as an extension of the client's marketing department. This seamlessness leads to a more cohesive team that roots for the brand's success."
- Meera Sharath Chandra, managing director
Global creative award-winner and international awards jury member. Former president/national creative director of RMG Connect India. Nearly 30 years in advertising includes a decade in digital, plus senior positions at Tribal DDB and JWT Group. Owned a US-based, Intel-funded dotcom enterprise with 250 staff in India.
- Richard Pittham, executive creative director
At the cutting edge of digital for 15 years. In 1997, he made Webfactory the most-awarded agency in Ireland. In 2002, he helped Modem Media UK to a string of new-business wins and awards. Worked at FullSIX Group and SixandCo, before joining Syzygy in 2009.
- Matt Brown, group account director
Cut his teeth at Lowe Lintas, where he worked on the pioneer online bank Egg. Previously headed major accounts such as Diageo and Unilever at Craik Jones. Broad experience includes online customer-relationship management and awareness-building campaigns. Moved to Syzygy in September 2008.
- David Skerrett, group account director
Handles Syzygy's biggest pan-European account, Mazda Europe, since joining in June. Moved from Weapon7, where he spent four years on the multi-award-winning Smart car and Mercedes-Benz business. Experience spans automotive to consumer electronics at Proximity, Agency Republic and Claydon Heeley.
- Fabio Fabrizio, head of technology
Marketing-technology wizard who joined in November 2007 to drive solutions for Mazda Europe and other key clients. Digital marketing background began in 1997 developing websites for major record labels and Mini cars. Spent time in interactive marketing at APL Digital, Zentropy Partners and MRM Partners.
Mazda3 - 'Make your mark'
The rich content within Syzygy's website for the latest Mazda3 enabled the manufacturer of this small-medium car to communicate directly with choosy potential buyers in a very competitive sector and sought to inspire creative responses from them.
Launched in May, the 25-country European campaign used a microsite (www.newmazda3.com), banner ads and e-mail marketing to highlight the car's new looks and high tech features.
Via videos, blogs, behind-the-scene footage and other flexible rich content formats, the site told the Mazda3 story from the viewpoint of its designers, researchers and developers.
They spoke directly to affluent, young individuals with attitude, who see their cars as extensions of themselves.
They were invited to make their mark, literally, by drawing light art on the site or on their own uploaded images.
Within months, 130,000 plus people in the UK alone interacted with the microsite, leading to at least 50 directly related sales.
QFinance - QFINANCE.com
QFINANCE.com, the financial information resource created with Bloomsbury Publishing and the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, targets finance and business undergraduates, professionals and writers worldwide.
The site contains more than 280 best-practice articles and 9,000 dictionary terms.
The task for Syzygy was to create a site that leveraged a database of more than two million words (and growing) in a user-friendly and accessible manner.
From primary research, the agency was able to create detailed audience personas and user journeys to craft the site. Features included scanable content with more detail behind it; jump navigation; advanced active and passive search capabilities; easy output formats for data collection; and information architecture for various groups to find the appropriate information quickly.
Navigation and easy access to such a breadth of content was achieved through a multi-faceted search function, intuitive user-experience architecture and elegant design.
Samsung Jet - 'Impatience is a virtue' website
Samsung UK's campaign for the Jet mobile phone, the first work from Grey London for Samsung, launched in July 2009 during Big Brother. The integrated "impatience is a virtue" campaign featured TV, cinema, press and poster ads, POS, PR, below-the-line and a site produced by Syzygy UK. The campaign features a group of hedonistic young revellers living for the moment. The site showcases the "faster, brighter, better" features of the new super-fast phone, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the TV commercial.
Fun, irreverent, sexy and fast-paced, the site is a strong example of how TV and online can interlink and work together to promote a brand and product launch simultaneously, as part of a wider integrated campaign.
The Syzygy Insiders:
To meet the people inside the Syzygy UK office in Hatton Garden's Johnson Building, see the agency's caption-tastic film at www.campaignlive.co.uk/audiovideo