IPG’s Golin goes all in on creative, but says it is not a threat to traditional creative agencies

Despite the addition of the new offering, Golin is not moving away from doing traditional media work.

Interpublic-owned public relations firm Golin has boosted its creative offering to clients by adding creative content agency Hurrah Productions to its Asia-based offices.

Hurrah, which counts brands such as Netflix, Aston Martin, UD Trucks and Jetstar as clients, will be added to Golin’s Digital, Analytics and Creative (DAC) team in Singapore, to help the firm develop creative insights across its regional portfolio of clients. Founder James Rotheram will now hold the title of executive director in Golin, while its staff and clients will become part of the firm.

Tarun Deo, the managing director of Singapore and South East Asia at Golin, tells The Drum the firm started dabbling into certain elements of visual content through the DAC team 18 months ago, from GIFs to design, because it wanted to move on from the traditional static media formats in the digital era.

“We used to hire journalists and good writers, and that was really a preferred form of communication,” he explains. “But now with the internet and with social media, all these platforms are visually rich, which means we now have the ability to create content that was appealing, emotive and visual.”

“We started dabbling in some elements of that, and guess what? It caught fire. All those avenues opened up for us as a public relations agency and that standalone piece of content becomes much more robust, it becomes much sharper.”

One creative campaign that DAC has already produced is with Japanese confectionery company Ezaki Glico, makers of the Pocky sticks. With the Singapore government interested in making coding one of the future skills for children to learn, Golin wanted to create a similar English version of Glicode, Glico’s fun-educational programming app that allows kids as young as five to learn the basics of programming using Pocky sticks, in Singapore.

Glicode uses advanced image recognition to turn every pack of Pocky into bite-sized programming lessons where kids can lay out and arrange their snacks, capture the sequence and watch it turn into code that moves a character through increasingly complex challenges.

According to Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee, the executive creative director at Golin, the agency created an integrated campaign to show how kids went from not knowing how to code to using Pocky sticks to learn how to code. The firm produced a campaign video for digital, while it also helped organize offline activities like programming classes for young parents and their children.

Despite the addition of the new offering, Tarun was quick to add that this does not mean Golin is moving away from doing traditional media relations work as well. “I think that will continue to be very important for us. But adding this additional element is also critical,” he says.

Jonathan Hughes, the co-chief executive at Golin, also stresses that the firm is not moving into creative to challenge traditional creative agencies. Instead, Golin wants to produce earned first content as consumers are ‘sick of being bombarded with ads’, and they want to seek and see things that resonates with them.

“We believe that if an idea is good enough to be read about in a newspaper, people will go search it out on YouTube and spend time watching it, all those kinds of things,” he explains to The Drum, adding that Golin’s sister companies in the IPG group and other agencies on the advertising side are also discovering earned first content.

“Then if that earned first idea is good enough, it will always work in a paid format. It is a very different way of thinking end first creative. You approach it differently when you just do it in a paid format. We have spent 60 years of our corporate life focusing on content and right now that is coming to the fore for all the obvious reasons. Just look at how the rise of people who are installing adblockers on their phones.”

When it comes to pitching for creative projects, Golin will not chase for every brief but will instead look at what is the job needed to be done and using the customer journey as a lens. That means using state-of-the-art analytics to work out where a brand has lost customers in the marketing funnel or which stage of the funnel the customer is at with a brand.

“We do not start necessarily just with the medium and say since we have a video capability, all we are going to do is chase video briefs. That is not the way it is. It is more of, in order to communicate a particular aspect of the journey, we start with the consideration of the marketing funnel,” explains Hughes.

“So, if a brand is looking for something on consideration, we will check if they have driven consideration of products and then we would say: “right we will probably need more video content or better engaging content and explain why our products are useful”. So that really is where we start when we decide what briefs to go for.

“From there, we then decide what is the different tools and techniques that we need to use to make that short-form video content, for example. Once we have done that, then we look at channels to use and so on. We are finding from research that this method makes your return on marketing investment about 50% more effective because you are really laser-focused on which part of the journey that customers are going through.”

That said, Hughes is not averse to purely producing creative campaign videos. “If we had someone come up to us and say, 'hey, we want to commission you to produce beautiful videos for us', then, of course, we will say absolutely, we have that. However, that will not always happen because we do not solely chase content briefs. It is more holistic than that, which is what we are really trying to do for brands.”

IPG chairman and chief executive Michael Roth recently credited the group's media and creative networks for the rise of its third-quarter revenue to $1.9bn for Q3 of 2018, an increase of 3.4% on the same period last year.

Net revenue for the first nine months of the year stood at $5.62bn, up 5.2% on 2017, as the marcomms group recorded net profit of $292.7m.

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