Times change. At the turn of the millennium, advertisers were crying out for creative media thinking. Now, the focus has shifted again.
On its launch seven years ago, Naked Communications pitched itself at clients as a creative alternative to media agencies. Potentially filling a gap for those who felt that media had become too process driven and based around execution from huge buying departments.
Now Naked is launching Naked Numbers, hauling itself into the evaluation, data and modelling spaces. Its aim will be to fuse established measurement techniques, such as econometrics, with newer developments, including digital tracking, to offer clients a way of measuring campaigns that integrate traditional media channels with more unconventional activity.
Naked has hired Scott Thomson, the former head of analytics at Starcom, to run the new operation. Thomson, described as "very individual but brilliant" by former colleagues, will be based in London, but has been tasked with visiting Naked offices in other markets to "spread the word" about new evaluation methodologies. "Innovation strategies that work is the mantra," Thomson says about the approach it will offer.
Naked Numbers will work in two ways. First, as a way to underpin all of Naked's work with a more results-based approach. This will be Thomson's task as he meets people across Naked offices. Second, it will work on specific projects for new and existing clients and review the effectiveness of their marketing activity. It has entered into a joint venture with a data specialist called Fuel Data Strategies, which will provide the sophisticated statistical and technical resources required.
Will Collin, a founding partner of Naked, says: "Clients want it, and while it sounds like a stuck record to say it, ROI and effectiveness are still at the top of the agenda. Add to this we now have a mini-network of offices and the demand is there."
While critics argue Naked is getting into the evaluation game late, it seems the agency is still taking the venture very seriously indeed.
1. Naked launched in 2000 and early work included high-profile stunt activity for Batchelors Super Noodles. It was soon winning serious business such as a place on COI's planning roster. Other highlights include the lauded 118 118 campaigns. However, it has attracted criticism for creating stunt activity that had little connection to deliverable marketing goals. Its original point of difference was to capitalise on the lack of creativity in media planning offered by the media buying agencies, Over the years, Naked has invested in diversifying its business, taking stakes in joint ventures with agencies such as Clemmow Hornby Inge and Fallon, and backing launches in the experiential/event area (Lunch Communications) and a creative agency (Odd Communications). But, hitherto, it has steered clear of investing in data and evaluation.
2. Fuel, the company Naked is teaming with to launch Naked Numbers, is a London-based consultancy run by the former PHD data specialists James Harrison, Jonathan Buck and Simon Wall.
3. After Naked's launch, other communications planning operations sprang up with a more "data- and tool-based" approach. Prominent was Rise Communications, the consultancy that launched in 2003 under the leadership of the former Optimedia managing director Simon Mathews.
4. Last year saw the launch of Edwards Groom Saunders from the former Starcom directors Pete Edwards, Jez Groom and Will Saunders. It saw its chance as being able to exploit a gap in the market in offering communications planning grounded in business solutions. Edwards says: "Naked capitalised on the zeitgeist of seven or eight years ago, which was for creative planning. It filled that gap admirably. Where we saw the gap when launching was that there was a lot of creativity, but little media planning grounded in business impacts and effectiveness. So it's no surprise Naked is doing this, since planning in media agencies isn't accountable enough, the only shock is that it hasn't done it sooner."
5. Last week, the OMD directors Phil Nunn and Amy Lennox announced they were leaving to launch a communications planning start-up. Alongside the usual focus on traditional ways of communicating, the new agency will seek to capitalise on Nunn and Lennox's background in digital and direct media. Expect data to form a major part of the offer.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- The ability to provide new services to clients, creating new revenue streams. It also feels it is in the unique position of being able to develop new ways of measuring how unconventional media activity works alongside more traditional media channels.
- It now has the potential to say to new clients that it offers more than fluffy solutions, that it can back this up with some sort of science.
- Observers question if this sort of service will really change the DNA of the company, arguing it is counter-cultural to its intuitive approach.
Rival communications planning outfits- Many already have a head-start in this area. However, they tend to outsource the hard data and analysis work to third parties. This, they say, is an advantage because they are not tied to one supplier in modelling or analytics as the networks, or now Naked, are.
MEDIA PLANNING AND BUYING AGENCIES
- Naked's launch might pose a threat to some agencies, which, while admiring some of Naked's work, have often maintained that it has been lacking the science and media tools to offer an effective service.
- However, media agencies continue to argue that it is an advantage to be close to the implementation of campaigns when evolving a data and effectiveness offer. Daren Rubins, the managing director of PHD, an agency that has invested in data planning and evaluation, says: "It's not down to resource, anybody can buy the resource in. We have had a head-start because we're close to the implementation."
- Naked launching into this area reflects a belief that many mainstream agencies are still not sufficiently focused on delivering business results for their clients. Expect a continued drive towards investment in this area.