DigitasLBi has relaunched its social agency MRY as Lost Boys in the UK as it looks to reinforce its commitment to smaller clients looking for brave, provocative creative work and test new grounds.
The Publicis-owned agency launched MRY last year and has since won clients including Ugg and Honda, but will now operate under the Lost Boys brand – the name of the Netherlands-based agency originally incorporated to form LBi, which was later bought by Publicis and merged with Digitas.
DigitasLBi UK chief executive Anil Pillai, who will take on the role as chairman of Lost Boys UK, told The Drum the change was triggered by its desire to retain its creative provocativeness, and the ability to meet the needs of clients with smaller budgets.
“The Lost Boys spirit has been forever present in every corner of our agency – far beyond just the ‘L’ and the ‘B’ in our name. Lost Boys has always represented our desire to stay fresh, provocative and open to new opportunities.
“This year one of our big objectives was to be a bit braver and more confident about what was going on around us. That set off a train of thought about how well MRY was doing, and that we felt increasingly it was attracting a style of business that was very creative, very about brands with social at the core – the kind of brands DigitasLBi wouldn’t normally have a conversation with as we would be seen as to big and intimidating.
“There are brands looking for big grown-up partners to do a number of things over a longer period of time, that digitises their businesses, but when it came to MRY it was about getting inside the core consumer insight proposition and then setting it on fire, through social typically,” he said.
The Lost Boys UK management team will remain unchanged with Alex Jeffries as strategy partner; Gav Gordon-Rogers and Gemma Butler as creative directors; Jacqui Pennington as client services partner; Darcie Tanner as head of social operations; and Ashley Kenerson as head of insight for both Lost Boys and DigitasLBi. Managing director Nadya Powell will remain at the helm.
DigitasLBi’s chief creative officer, international, Chris Clarke will oversee all creative for Lost Boys UK. He said: “You would be amazed if you saw our drawer of dead babies – great ideas that have been pitched to clients, and which they love because it keeps our relationship fresh, but which they haven’t bought.
“There is an increasing divergence in the market between those organisations that have the money and are committed to transformational digital and a handful of agencies that can do that, of which we are one, along with SapientNitro, R/GA and AKQA.
"Then you have clients shopping for above-the-line agencies that throw digital into the mix and we will come up against those too. But then there are the smaller clients with a tiny marketing budget, but high standards, that need to reach audiences in unusual places and they need a place to look, and that’s where Lost Boys comes in," said Clarke.
He admitted that MRY had previously lost business, not because the clients didn’t like the work, but because they couldn’t quite believe that they would be given such a dedicated small team which would “be at one with” their own marketing departments.
“Just coming into our office can scare the shit out of them at times, it can seem terrifying and we want to remove that,” he added.
Meanwhile the change is also aimed at helping reduce some of the complexity in the market for brands, and being more clear about the boutique-style ability of the Lost Boys UK proposition, according to Clarke.
“Digital and technology challenges are impacting the marketing department more than ever before, The CIO and CMO are vying for position in the boardroom, and there is infinite complexity.
“And the agency landscape is doing whatever it normally does – which is ‘I’m whatever you want me to be baby’, while others [agencies] pretend to be what they’re not. I’ve seen cred decks from other big agencies saying they are digital at the core, and they think that writing that makes them so – of course they're not. That causes complexity of a certain kind.
“Then behind that are entrepreneurs launching businesses with increasing levels of specialism, and technology changing things constantly. The most common word we hear from clients is confusion – they are confused and baffled, they can’t stay on top of it. We want to and can stitch all that complexity together for them.”
Pillai conceded that the agency was increasingly coming up against the management consultancies such as IBM and Accenture on pitches for large-scale digital transformation projects, and that these kinds of companies often try to poach his staff. “I’ve lost a few people to companies like that but many have returned because they just don’t have the creative sophistication.
“Yes the big consultancies are marching this way. We will always rub shoulders with those big management consultancies, but they are there anyway on these kinds of projects, in an IT advisory capacity or something similar. Their model has been phenomenal – parasitical in some ways – but phenomenal.
"So we will have to find ways to partner with them too, and the industry must wake up to that, but ultimately of course we are also on a turf war. They will keep coming for my staff – I know that – but we come back to the culture point – that’s much harder to do – to have a creative culture that makes digital natives feel they belong,” he said.
Lost Boys UK managing director Nadya Powell, described the Lost Boys brand as ironic given it was run predominantly by females. “We are on a mission to hire men,” she joked, adding that it is on the hunt for six new roles to add to its 35-strong team – 15 of which are London based.
“It’s called Lost Boys because it’s lost all the boys. We have a rule – people have to be feisty and as a result we just tend to get more women. What we look for comes down to attitude. We want people who want to do weird and wonderful work, and who are entrepreneurial,” she said.
She added that the merger and acquisition cycle typical to the agency landscape has led to a dearth of boutique-style agencies. “We want to bring back boutique-style agencies which are nimble, brave, and quick, that’s what’s missing,” she added.
It will also aim to ensure it doesn’t fall into the trap of creating content “pollution” – a by-product of brands’ increasing desire to be seen as publishers and be continuously creating content to fuel the engines of the likes of Facebook, according to Powell.
“Brands are asking to create content for content’s sake because they are under a lot of pressure,” she added.
The agency ethos will be centred around the idea of helping clients step "into the wild" and locate the digitally-native audiences that are so tricky to find.
The new branding was officially unveiled on Tuesday evening (24 September) at a party near DigitasLBi’s offices in London.