Pete Rope, co-founder and executive creative director at ArtScience, believes that his agency offers a unique perspective on social media.
“Our clients say they love us because we don’t just understand consumers and technology, but we ‘get’ how brands work and are driven by the commercial agenda,” he says. “I think because we’re a creative agency specialising in social we’re much more brand-focused than social agencies that come from either a pure PR or technology background.
“We also have quite a challenging mindset, trying to make a difference, trying to do something big and unique. Fortunately, most of the brands that come to us want to feel a bit different and shake things up a bit. That allows us to come in and ruffle a few feathers without upsetting the entire establishment.”
Founded in 2000, early successes for the agency came in the gaming and music sectors, including developing ad campaigns for Grand Theft Auto 2 and websites for Coldplay, MTV Music Awards and The Beta Band. ArtScience then became computer game retailer Game’s full service agency throughout the late-noughties, covering TV, radio, outdoor and digital.
Rope says: “We even redesigned its own-brand packaging and saw sales increase by 65 per cent, so it was an important client for us as an agency and provided us with a tremendous platform for growth.”
Dan Worrell joined ArtScience as managing director in 2009, having previously worked with TBWA, Karmarama and, most recently, BBH, where he was a business director on Unilever accounts. He recalls: “When I arrived, my key objectives were to broaden out the client base and round off the proposition a little, allowing us to go and have some of those harder conversations with clients at a more strategic level.”
Worrell adds: “It was also clear that the agency had developed many skills over the years, in areas like branded content and online distribution, which could be transferred directly into the social space and provide us with a real advantage over our competitors.
“ArtScience was doing ‘social’ campaigns in the blogosphere for brands like Tropicana before Facebook or Twitter were even considered as brand activation platforms.”
In 2013, ArtScience became the retained social agency of TalkTalk (the telecoms operator and current X Factor sponsor) representing another significant benchmark in the agency’s evolution.
Pete Rope says: “They had reached an impasse in social media, where whatever activity they did (particularly on Facebook) became lost among customer service queries. What we did was to introduce a whole new way of working, where customers are helped quickly and in a personal manner, with a set of ‘community rules’ to make sure customers can get what they need easily, with feedback used constructively and in a socially acceptable way.
“This meant the audience were now far more receptive, not just to acquisition and sales messages to demonstrate strong ROI, but also some really cool games, apps, infographics and videos which transformed the brand’s Facebook presence into an entertaining and informative place which is able to meet the business’ needs. As a result net brand sentiment has been transformed from -20 to +20, amongst the highest in the sector. This meant that social was a key channel during last year’s Cyber Attack, with the business distributing news and updates to concerned customers as well as responding to individual queries around the clock."
Worrell points out that ArtScience now manages most of TalkTalk’s social brand activation including the X Factor sponsorship, as well as working alongside the clients internal customer service team in social channels, plus driving some “crunchy, direct response sales-driving activity” too.
He says: “It’s a FTSE 250 company, marketing and sales driven and one of the fastest growing providers in its category, so it’s a tough brief, but a fun one as well. It is very much up for trying new things and scaling them up quickly if they work.
TalkTalk is an increasingly big spender on social channels, which allows us to do quite a lot of quite interesting experimental development work with various platforms.”
The social ‘X Factor’
Despite ArtScience’s success in harnessing creative social for brands, Rope doesn’t believe there is any particular ‘magic’ to the process.
He says: “It’s the quality of people, from account managers through to planners and creatives, that makes the difference. Our friendly, open culture provides the atmosphere in which talented people can thrive. The most important thing is you should be able to share any idea without fear of ridicule – you have to free every idea and often a slightly ropey idea will lead someone else to a blinder.”
Collaboration with other industry players is very much a part of the ArtScience approach, says Worrell: “A lot of agencies say, ‘yes, we’re collaborative’ and then get upset if their fingerprints aren’t on every single element of a project. We’re happy to work with other creative or PR or media agencies or whoever might help us get to a better result and we’re genuinely not precious about that. Working closely with Syco and Fremantle on the X Factor is great fun.”
Moving forward, Worrell identifies the FMCG sector as a key target for ArtScience, as well as “brands with reputational issues in social that they’re looking to turn around”.
He says: “In an era of lots of noise, it’s the great creative that will cut through – that’s what people want to share and talk about. That said, there’s so much content out there that distribution strategy is more important than ever. You need to be thinking of targeting influencers, using a smart spend strategy and organic seeding in relevant and effective areas of the blogosphere. It’s very easy to waste disproportionate effort in the wrong areas and waste time and client money.”
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