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New Year Honors Marketing

Known... for living up to its name: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020


By The Drum Reporters, Editorial team

December 29, 2020 | 4 min read

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.


The ’It Starts on TikTok’ global campaign was started by the fledgling agency Known

Was there anything more pervasive in 2020 than the Ocean Spray/Fleetwood Mac viral video? Well, here’s a lesser-known fact: the ’It Starts on TikTok’ global campaign was started by the fledgling agency Known. The campaign that leveraged that viral moment – and many more – has generated more than 4bn impressions.

Still, the bedrock of the effort was more than just capturing lightning in an Ocean Spray bottle. The campaign began with the deployment Known’s PhD data science and strategy teams to conduct the agency’s most ambitious audience research and segmentation project to date. The results speak for themselves.

Known, which calls itself a modern marketing company engineered for the unprecedented challenges and opportunities facing marketers today, has an impressive client base. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Citi are just a few of the agency’s high-profile ’original’ clients. It was founded in February 2020 when the research and data strategy firm Schireson Associates acquired influential independent creative and brand strategy agencies Stun Creative and Blackbird.

Known’s model is to pair PhD data scientists and engineers with award-winning creatives and expert research teams and strategists. About 50% of that staff is comprised of data scientists, engineers, analytics and research professionals with deep research capabilities across 100 countries worldwide.

The formula appears to be working. Known signed 26 clients (11 of which are agency of record deals) this year. New clients include PepsiCo, Spotify, NBA, Univision and the aforementioned TikTok.

Some of the agency’s other best-known work:

  • For ViacomCBS’s launch of The Drew Barrymore Show, it reworked archival footage from Barrymore’s 1982 appearance on The Johnny Carson Show to interact with her today.

  • The launch for Season 3 of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight for HBO featured the line ’If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for all of us’. The phrase became a viral sensation.

  • The Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, featuring Jada Pinkett Smith and her family, has become a cultural hit. Known handled all creative for the show’s launch and continues as lead agency for the new spinoff, The Estefans.

  • For HBO Max, Known set the record for the most amount of content ever published at one time on Instagram, sparking a surge in paid subscriptions.

Known is calling for double digit growth over 2019’s $100m in combined revenue. Its staff grew 25% to 280 people and it is actively hiring. Still, the metrics it is most proud of is the fact that Known optimized $1.9bn of advertising dollars, machine learning tested 6.3m models and accurately predicted over 28bn viewership.

”We launched in February with the unifying belief that art, science and technology together form the promise of a new, more powerful and precise operating system for marketers today,” says Kern Schireson, chairman and chief exec of Known. “It’s thrilling to see this vision coming to life in real time and in real ways that help our clients win.”

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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