Vittorio Bonori, global brand president (above), describes Zenith as "a growth partner", when Campaign asks him to sum up the value his agency brings to clients. "We are obsessed about what clients want," he says. What exactly do they want? Clients are now looking to reinvent their business models to embrace new tech and drive sales. "CMOs are forcing their agencies to deliver evidence-led results and we are doing this, as the ROI agency. This way, they can simply assess if what you are doing for them is working or not."
Bonori, who has held leadership roles at Zenith and Publicis Groupe for the past 20 years, has noticed growing pressure from clients to deliver unique and personalised journeys, but is more confident than ever in Zenith’s ability to do so. "It’s a positive pressure," he affirms. "We ask clients to trust and push us. It means we raise the bar and the success rate."
Zenith’s new strategic focus as "the ROI agency" is in three key areas: upstream strategy, experience planning and 1-2-1 optimisation. Under the last area of focus, the network has pioneered machine learning, being the first agency to fully automate digital planning using a bespoke algorithm.
Zenith has just been named a ‘Leader’ by Forrester in its Global Media Agencies Wave report, noted for its "vision to master the newly converging media and commerce landscapes" and for its " investment in ecommerce, personalisation, marketing consulting, automation, and AI".
A data scientist at heart, Bonori believes the agency will deliver unique and personalised journeys for everyone, at scale, in real-time.
"For many years, every marketer’s aim has been to deliver the right message, in the right place, at the right time – everyone knows this. We are now making it happen with machine-learning algorithms. And there’s much to do to improve it, but we are ahead of everyone else." Bonori explains that if a client has three million customers, the goal is to design three million journeys – each personalised, factual and real-time. "We’ve set up a platform to deliver this. We design a growth strategy, create a solution and way to deliver this for clients, and we automate and scale it."
More than a media agency
If agency culture across the industry is largely homogeneous, Bonori insists that Zenith stands out: "We are distinctive." The agency defines itself as "driven by detail" "never giving up" and having "an inventive spirit" across all regions, teams and projects. It is these core values, combined with its expertise and top leadership, that makes Zenith perform a greater role than a traditional media agency. "We see a fantastic opportunity to extend our relationship with clients in a consultative way. And we are already doing this," adds Bonori.
He says insight, creativity and scale are core to the business: "A lot of consultancy firms aren’t looking at the broad picture and a lot of them aren’t thinking about significant global growth."
Bonori believes the culture in consultancy firms is very different to media agencies, where there is an emphasis on working collaboratively and in teams. He claims: "Media agencies are more customer-centric. We are tailors, creating value and a personalised vision for each client. We are in a much stronger position."
The agency is refocusing to reflect this new positioning by hiring more consultant-minded individuals who understand client goals and create solutions at the top of the cycle. They are also hiring more data scientists and engineers to grow consumer insights and their advanced technology offering.
"We listen, really listen, to clients and look at their business in different ways, mine into data and harness consumer insight. We come up with a custom-made growth recipe."
Key points in Zenith history
Founded in October 1988, Zenith is the first ‘unbundled’ media agency to service clients in the UK – founded from media departments, including Saatchi & Saatchi.
With 15% of UK media at launch, Zenith had the top market share. The next biggest agency had 5%.
Pioneers of an international network, Zenith launched the first separated media services company in 1995 in the US, and the first media agency brand in China in 1997.