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Where They Really Want To Go


Where They Really Want To Go

by Steve Smith, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BRANDS ARE ALL ABOUT consistency, reliability, familiarity. But at the same time, their strategies have to change with media, technology and circumstances. The Minneapolis-based agency space150 is famous for embracing the concept of change by reinventing its own identity every 150 days—new Web site, business cards, the whole nine yards. Something like this approach also holds true in its mobile strategy, which launched into a new division last month. I touched base recently with its vice president of modern media, John Grudnowski, to discuss how a company that works with brands like American Express, Discovery, and Dairy Queen plans to leverage mobile both within the agency and for the brands. As we discuss here, by getting close and personal with the user, mobile media could teach us a lot about how to execute strategy across all the platforms.

Mobile Insider: Do you really reinvent yourself every 150 days?

Grudnowski: We do, actually. We have been doing it for eight years now and we are on our 20th version. It’s really about overcommitment to evolution and showing ourselves that you do need to embrace the fact that technology moves and shakes—and if you don’t embrace it yourself, you are going to fall behind. It takes the form of almost everything physical that you see and feel at the company. All of our business cards, the signs on the doors, the letterhead, our Post-It notes. It depends on the version. For version 16 we had a Scotch label.

MI: Is mobile going to have a prominent place in the next iteration?

Grudnowski: It is. It really has had a role in most of our media planning and plan strategy for the last three years. But as adoption is increasing and as clients considered mobile as a viable option, not just something we were bringing up in a meeting, we do need to place more emphasis on that. I founded the media group about six years ago and we had dedicated media individuals from day one. In mobile we are taking time from each department lead and allowing those individuals to add input into our mobile discipline. So we do not have one full-time individual on it because it really is a part of strategy or account management. Applications development we have been doing for mobile for a couple of years, and on the media side of course. We feel that is the best way to do it at this point.

MI: In terms of the design philosophy of mobile, what is the unique space150 imprint on the discipline?

Grudnowski: The user experience on each is somewhat unique. So we develop most of our sites unique to that interface and through detection technology to determine what type of browser and display you are on. So we have an iPhone version, Blackberry, WAP. It’s really essentially our philosophy to take the utility of mobile and to simplify the site experience on that device so it is something more specific to that need.

MI: What kind of mobile work are you doing for clients? Are you flying ad campaigns or developing mobile presence?

Grudnowski: Dairy Queen is a good example. We are not actually doing ad campaigns with them. We’re walking them through investments in mobile advertising, not just location-based information, but also through the way to develop sites. We use a method of progressive enhancement we call FAUST that layers CSS, HTML, Javascript and Flash to provide a customized and simplified experience based on what type of browser you have. On the iPhone, for example, you can navigate just as you would on Firefox or IE. We also are doing some application development for some clients.

MI: Must all brands be mobile now? Is a mobile presence of some kind as necessary to a brand strategy as the Web?

Grudnowski: I would say yes to that. It is very similar to search years ago where individuals were questioning whether they needed to buy their brands on Google and Yahoo. I feel that right now the absolute value hasn’t yet been seen like search. But you need to start thinking that way, and brands need to start thinking that way, because those extension points are so vital to everyday communication to their customers…. From an advertising standpoint, though, I don’t think all campaigns need to involve mobile for paid advertising. It is the development of the site itself and if possible using mobile advertising in an effective way to learn how it is impacting the business.

MI: Are we finally upon that proverbial “year of mobile”?

Grudnowski: I am optimistic that it’s coming. I feel if you just say that any one year is the year, it is short-sighted. We need to think about it and let it define itself. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered right now across mobile components of campaign development. You just need to be there to get through it so when you come out the other side you have a really great understanding of where to go.

MI: From an agency perspective, what are those chief hurdles?

Grudnowski: On our end it is client awareness. So in understanding from CMOs and VPs of marketing as well on the technology side too, what impact it can have at the investment level that they are willing to get. It’s not going to compete from an ROI standpoint with some other forms of online media, and it’s not a really great standalone at this point. It needs to be part of something larger, a component, to really show a lot of great value. That is a large barrier from what we are seeing right now. The acceptance of testing it needs to come a little bit further.

MI: Does mobile have the potential to teach us how we conduct business elsewhere, to change the way we think and operate on all the other platforms?

Grudnowski: I think it has a lot of impact on how individuals react within social media within widgets within any form of quick hit messaging. I think that the idea of mobile and the access you have to that individual is a very personal device so you need to create something very personal for that individual. So the engagement rates there will show that if you create that kind of connection through other touch points, whether it be a widget or application in social media. I think we will learn a lot from that customization piece from mobile and extend it.

MI: It may be the device that teaches us the personalization game we have been talking about but not doing on other platforms.

Grudnowski: I think so. A lot of investment needs to take place. That is one reason why a lot is not happening. It takes a lot investment to get that personal with an individual. But I think we can learn in using mobile… [to] take an aspect of your content on a site or action you want on that site and simplify it down into those core actions of what you want [consumers] to do. At Dairy Queen people want to know what the location is. That is what they want. How do we learn from that and use that same type of thought when doing information architecture on the Web site itself? We are getting things directly in front of individuals where we know the actions will take place and allow them a quicker experience to where they really want to go.