By KERRY FELTNER
Super Bowl ads, a new location and a fourth anniversary are on the minds of the leaders of Truth Collective LLC as 2017 gets underway.
The agency employs 14 people and expects to add a handful this year. This week, the firm moved to a new 6,000-square-foot office at 25 Russell St. in the Neighborhood of the Arts.
The company’s 2016 capitalized billings were $14 million. Leaders expect to grow capitalized billings to $18 million by year’s end.
“We’re not a startup anymore,” said Bob Bailey, partner and business lead at Truth Collective. “We graduated into more of a thriving company in growth mode that really shifted our thinking in a number of different ways.
“We find that our company sort of reinvents itself every six months or so because of that growth.”
For 2017, the agency is focused on three areas: acquiring top talent, adding two to three brands to its client roster and increasing its profile.
“It was really important to us that before we start to overly promote ourselves that we had the offering right, that we were doing the level of work that we knew we were going to do and (that) we were having the impact that our clients needed us to have,” Bailey said. “We’re now focused on being regarded as an agency of affirmative choice for both clients and talent regionally and nationally.”
LensCrafters Inc. has been a client for the past two years.
“Truth Collective is best-in-class in strategy, creative and scrappiness—the top three qualities I look for in any partner,” said Sarah Landsman, senior director of LensCrafters brand strategy and eye care marketing. “Truth Collective has a deep appreciation for consumer insights that lead to high-scoring creative for the most impact in market.”
Growing a creative agency is different than other firms. With the nature of the industry being based on creativity, the right people are crucial to creating quality work, officials say.
“Everything we’re asked to do for a client has to be completely original and completely unique,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot that goes into that. There’s a lot of sweat, there’s a lot of pride that goes into that, and so that makes it competitive.”
In 2017 and beyond, agencies will be judged differently than in years past. There are a lot more voices weighing in, thanks to technology, he said.
“Our work and any advertising agency’s work is really public,” he said. “It’s judged by everybody, and some people are going to really like it, and some people may not like it at all. So I think that sort of ups the stakes and the game for everybody.”
While more established today, the business still faces similar challenges to its start in June 2013.
“There’s always going to be the uncertainties of client businesses,” Bailey said. “Our business is heavily reliant on the success of our client’s business and their industries. We work really hard to stay on top of that and monitor it and help them exploit opportunities or mitigate risk, but at the end of the day all we can really focus on is the things that we can control.”
Super Bowl ads
In terms of the Super Bowl, the leaders of Truth Collective see ways for local marketers and advertisers to learn from such a highly visible platform that the big game offers.
“When you think about that in the context of the Super Bowl, the primary role for any marketer is to make people feel something positive about their brand,” said John Roberts, partner and strategy lead. “Most people believe that strategy is about minimizing risk, and that’s a fundamental flaw. Strategy, that’s about maximizing opportunity. And therefore, they should really maximize the opportunity by doing something to be distinctive, because otherwise you’re going to be one of 60 ads.”
Expect exaggerated humor, celebrities, puppies, babies and the like, says Jeremy Schwartz, partner and creative lead.
“I think that there are some tried and true formulas for Super Bowl advertising that will very likely appear,” he said. “Great creative pedigree will always be there from long-standing campaigns.”
Some differences this year include the evolution of online brands, live streaming and storylines that play to the multiple screens that complete a viewer’s experience today.
“It’s a huge investment, so this isn’t your normal ad development,” Schwartz said. “Everyone is an ad critic in late January, early February, so that puts a lot of added weight on your shoulders from an agency standpoint.”
Ads with a strong story are what viewers are seeking. Success centers on connection.
“You’ve got to come up with storylines that are going to resonate,” Schwartz said. “Today the ad is not just about the 30 or 60 seconds that plays during the game. Now with the rise of social media and technology, teaser campaigns are becoming more prevalent parallel stories on social media. The whole second screen experience is happening.”
Despite trends of declining viewership of TV and even the NFL, some 115 million people will be watching during the Super Bowl. That platform still matters, officials said.
“We think it’s less about falling TV viewership and more about how do you brand engagement across multiple channels,” Roberts said. “Millennials may not be watching on a TV screen, they might be streaming it live. People are now just much more connected while they’re watching TV as well as actually engaged in social.”
With the rise of technology, ads are critiqued long after they air—another point for advertisers to consider.
“The challenge is that those storylines have to be killer. They have to be great to keep the conversation going around the brand,” Schwartz said. “And I think that is why so many brands have bought into the exorbitant ad buys, because they know it goes well beyond.”
One thing that would be unexpected: Advertisers referencing the election of 2016 or the new Trump administration, Roberts said.
“This election is so raw still and so contentious, I would be very surprised if advertisers really connect to something political,” he said.
A move like that could backfire across multiple channels and do the opposite of what ads are supposed to do: creating affinity for a particular brand.
Local advertisers should take more risks with their Super Bowl spots. The point is to make a statement, the firm’s leaders said.
“In a general sense, I think what Rochester marketers can learn from the Super Bowl advertising landscape is that brands can really benefit from taking some conceptual and executional risks,” Schwartz said. “Of course, the work always needs to be culturally relevant. Personally, I do feel it’s a bit of a letdown when advertisers play it safe, especially in the Super Bowl advertising slots.”
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