Drive: evolves into a brand experience agency
Drive: evolves into a brand experience agency
A view from Ben Fender

Why Drive has become a brand experience agency

Ben Fender, the CEO of Drive, explains the industry developments that led his company to change from being a creative production agency to a brand experience agency, and the risks of doing so.

For the very observant, or for any avid fans out there, you may have noticed that Drive has morphed from a creative production agency to a brand experience agency. To us, this signifies an important development, but it is also part of a wider change among our peers.

This type of expansion is prolific throughout the industry. PR companies offer events services, marketing companies do social media campaigns and brand experience agencies have whole departments that specialise in emerging technologies such as virtual reality and 360° filming.

Why? It's just much easier for marketing directors to have one contact who they have worked with before and trust. The fewer agencies information has to be disseminated to, the better, for clarity, communication and efficiency’s sake. The onus is on agencies to make life as simple and streamlined for clients as possible.

It’s also useful if an agency knows the brand from previous work. Creating genuinely meaningful and engaging experiences requires market research, in-depth analysis and insight, and the more you can include in-house, the more of these deeper connections a company will develop.

For the past 10 years Drive’s offerings have been evolving, the jobs we’ve produced have been more varied, the range of skills at Drive has increased and we’ve learnt an incredible amount just by existing in this industry.

It’s difficult to say what comes first, expanding your core offerings or working with an innovative company who see potential and develop with you.

We worked with the Drum and Bastille HP Connected Music to create a gig with a bespoke interactive dance floor. It allowed every person to have a visible, real-time effect on the show they're watching by jumping.

Without our client's aspiration this technology and knowledge wouldn't be part of Drive’s toolbox.

Continuing to call ourselves a production company was selling ourselves short and clients were finding it hard to work out where we sit as an agency.

The work that we are doing is more conceptual, creative and strategic; ultimately a brand experience. It was important to acknowledge this publicly to clarify our position to our clients, and ultimately to get more of the work.

One of the main challenges faced by companies who do choose to expand in this way is that the number of competitor's increases.

Companies that would have been considered potential clients are no longer interested in your services if you are seen as a potential threat.

The only thing you can do is make sure your services are as strong as possible so they stand up to the strain of a congested environment, and your agency can grow and climb further up the food chain.

There is definitely a temptation to expand wherever the market and clients take you. Drive has tried to grow in areas that we already knew about and that were complimentary to our other offerings.

Our work in projection mapping, for example, brought us into the world of technology, multidimensional environments and visual content, since this is an arm of the business we've defined, targeted and grown.

It has been said that this kind of convergence will dilute the diversity and creativity of the industry, however we believe that as long as you maintain the quality of staff and invest in their development there's no reason not to expand in this way.

There are plenty of brilliant webinars and round table events to aid in-house training. Drive staff have used: UK Trade & Investment seminars; meetups with Motion North, a group for motion designers, animators, filmmakers and vfx artists, and webinars from service providers like Pulse360 and Brandwatch.

Essentially what sets you apart remains the same, creativity. Whether it's in-house or establishing prosperous relationships with experts in other fields.

Knowing that your activation doesn’t stand-alone and understanding the wider campaign and your clients' overarching objectives is half of the battle won.

Ben Fender is the chief executive officer of Drive