How TBWA NY transformed Thomson Reuters into ‘The Answer Company’

In 2015, Thomson Reuters had a conundrum. It needed to find a way to clarify what exactly the company does to customers, a problem consistently faced by many in the world of B2B marketing.

It turned to TBWA New York to help figure out how to communicate its purpose as a company, a tricky brief considering Thomson Reuters has roughly 500 products and services under its name, all of which are tailored to specific industries. As a company that offers an array of databases, analysis tools and technologies to help professionals do their jobs better, the media organisation found itself struggling to unite its various offerings under one brand platform and explicitly communicate its value to prospects.

“We have historically been a very hard company to categorize,” says Stephen Sonnenfeld, vice president and global creative director at Thomson Reuters, explaining that while the firm enjoys high levels of brand awareness, people often struggle to articulate what exactly it does.

When his team first approached TBWA NY in 2015 during an agency pitch process, Sonnenfeld says unaided brand awareness for the company was at a whopping 98%. But when it came to brand familiarity and understanding, the numbers weren’t so hot. He was looking for an agency to address the latter issue, particularly because an overall increased understanding of Thomson Reuters would lead to a “more positive selling environment” for its salespeople.

Lucky for him, the idea that TBWA NY came up with for the pitch ended up being the one that was ultimately executed and rolled out later that year. Called ‘The Answer Company,’ the brand platform and ensuing campaign clearly explained that Thomson Reuters has the answers for a business’s most pressing questions.

“It became a simple phrase that everybody could articulate,” says Rob Schwartz, chief executive of TBWA NY. “As soon as this line was written, everybody just rallied around it. Everybody knew that this is going to be really powerful.”

Before going public with the new strapline, Sonnenfeld says it was first launched internally at Thomson Reuters. “When we announced it to the employee base, it became immediately apparent that there was such a strong appetite for that type of clarity around who we are and what we do,” he says.

When taking the campaign public, Schwartz says the agency adopted a “hyper-mega” strategy that involved reaching the company’s target audience in a big way. With the help of TBWA, Thomson Reuters blanketed New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal for the entire month of September in 2016 with ‘The Answer Company’ messaging targeted at the very people who walk through it every day: lawyers, accountants, bankers, media execs and other business professionals.

“When it comes to amplification, we looked at who their key customers were, and it turned out that the geographic nexus was Grand Central Terminal,” Schwartz says. “You had the top law firms, top accounting firms, top media and all top banks going through.”

Filling the entire terminal with messaging proved to be a crucial aspect of the campaign, one that Sonnenfeld says helped Thomson Reuters make its “presence seem enormous” on a relatively small budget.

“We took over the entire terminal for the month of September, and owned every single placement in the terminal,” he says. “It proved to be really successful, particularly for a company like us that doesn’t have an extremely large customer base, but a very concentrated customer base.”

The agency coupled the out-of-home activation with mobile geo-targeted ads that included a custom Snapchat filter, so that passengers arriving at Grand Central would begin to see messaging from Thomson Reuters before they even exited their train.

“We enhanced it with a mix of mobile ads and social content that was all geo-targeted when you were in that area,” explains Schwartz. “As your train pulled up from Westchester or wherever you’re coming from, you started to see some activity on your phone.”

According to Sonnenfeld, the monthlong campaign proved to be a major success for Thomson Reuters, helping it increase unaided brand awareness by nine points. According to Schwartz, familiarity of Thomson Reuters - which was the campaign’s key objective - increased 29%.

Although it’s been nearly two years since the Grand Central takeover, the firm continues to build upon ‘The Answer Company’ platform within its marketing efforts to further drive home its message.

“It’s been a very successful platform from just about every perspective,” says Sonnenfeld, noting that it’s helped with everything from employee engagement to external recognition. In addition to winning accolades from the Association of National Advertisers, ‘The Answer Company’ campaign received the Grand Prix at The Drum’s B2B Brave Awards USA last year.

For Sonnenfeld, the simplicity of the campaign is a major reason why it’s been such a success to date.

“We’re a complex company. There’s no doubt about it. So the ability to state in three words what we do and have that resonate and mean something makes it stand out,” he says. “It’s a very clean, simple and elegant way to present our brand to a bunch of really smart people.”

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