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Albion relaunches PR division Drive to exploit marketing’s shift toward commercial innovation, as founder Keane departs for Atomico

Businesses seeking to build a new business model or entirely new customer experience haven’t got the time or inclination to bundle together artificially separate marketing disciplines. They’re looking for a partner KBS Albion believes can take a proposition from finding its first 5,000 customers right through to being a household brand.

Albion Drive founder Bryce Keane has left the agency.

It’s why the agency combined the PR expertise from Drive with its skillsets in content, data analytics and communications to create what it calls a "go to market team". Led by director Cath McElroy, the division will work in tandem with fellow KBS businesses The Media Kitchen (media tech planning and buying agency) and the Influencer Programme that will launch in LA and the UK next year.

If KBS Albion is increasingly building new products or services for established businesses (as it has been doing since it helped O2 create its Giffgaff network) then Drive needed to change to understand how to push those investments out into the market.

On the other hand, Drive had seen and in some cases supported some of the more traditional press office services that were once a core part of its business being moved in-house by clients. Had it continued to operate like this, the PR division would have found it harder to dovetail with the marketing demands of clients that are increasingly looking beyond campaign-centric strategies.

“The skills required to go from zero to one – to take a new offer to market and grow it to its first hundreds of thousands of customers – are often missing in both early stage and corporate clients,” explained Paul Jakimciw, chief executive at KBS Albion (see pic below).

“This was prompted by a couple of trends we saw in our work in Drive. On the one hand we’ve found ourselves supporting clients to move more traditional press office skillsets in house (just as we did with social media management 6 years ago). On the other hand we’ve been increasingly combining PR with skillsets in Data, Social, Content and Media to create modern go-to-market approaches.”

Pitched as “growth hacking”, this recalibrated service will be offered to KBS clients such as Farmdrop and health-tech startup Ada as well as used to help launch upcoming products the agency is concocting for corporate innovation clients like Compare the Market, Thomas Cook and Vodafone. Having the knowhow to straddle the more traditional marketing demands of clients, while offering commercially-driven innovation is what Jakimciw believes will be essential to the agency’s new partnerships with Camelot, Vodafone and Zopa.

“We’re not really seeing ‘agencies’ offer this service,” he added. “We think there’s a new kind of professional services business, of which we’re an example, along with Fearlessly Frank, Bow & Arrow and Made by Many, who are including some marketing skillsets in a broader business outcomes and product focused proposition.”

Given KBS Albion has been building this approach for some time it believes the remuneration models are already in place to make the PR offering work. From classic time materials models through to performance based equity agreements – sometimes even investing its own cash in clients – the agency finds having that flexibility works on those projects where it is creating completely new offers for clients – because measuring impact is easier to identify.

“We’re always worked collaboratively, and now our clients are asking us to focus more on building their capabilities, transferring our knowledge of modern ways of working to them,” said Jakimciw.

As part of the revamp, Albion Drive’s founder and director Bryce Keane is moving to technology venture capitalists Atomico, where he will be part of its newly-formed Value Creation Team as head of communications. He will work alongside former head of growth for Facebook, Benjamin Grohl and Niall Wass, who was previously on the executive team at Uber.

Meanwhile, Drive’s creative director Nick Darken joins Atomico-backed startup Farmdrop as chief of brand. Both Keane and Darken will continue to work with Albion in their new roles.

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