AdNews Spotlight: PR shop Poem focuses on feels over figures

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 19 October 2018
Founders Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes

 This is from the October issue of AdNews Magazine. To see it in-print first, and to support AdNews, see here. 

Spotlight shines a light on more unique companies in the industry making a big impact. This month we speak to winner of AdNews' Emerging Agency of the Year award in 2017, Poem. 

Poem was looking to fill a gap in the PR agency market, but without the red tape and bureaucracy that accompany large agency models.

Founders Rob Lowe and Matt Holmes tell AdNews all about the business in our popular 'Spotlight' feature, which first appeared in print.

Why did you start this company?

We saw a gap in the market for a more modern, creative and collaborative PR agency, unfettered by traditional practices and free from the slow bureaucracy of a large agency and the interference of a holding company.

We also wanted to create a more human environment to work in; good people, working together to do meaningful work with great client teams.

What do you do? And how has this changed since you launched?

We create ideas that move people — ideas that people care about enough to read and share. And that are culturally relevant so have news value, bringing consumers closer to brands by making them feel something about them.

Then we share these across multiple paid, owned and earned media channels (hence the rational explanation of our name). These can include, but aren’t limited to, editorial media, content, events, brand partnerships, owned media, social media and influencers. We work with big and small brands, alongside creative, digital and content agencies, or solo managing all aspects of a campaign in– house and outsourcing specialists. As we’ve grown and gained clients' trust in taking this new approach, we’ve added new skill sets to the team. We’re now an un-traditional and eclectic bunch of experts across publicity, digital, content, influencer, creative ideation and strategy.

What is the company’s point of difference?

We’re a modern hybrid of a traditional PR, social and creative agency. We’ve taken the most useful practices from each and developed our own more practical and efficient processes.

We describe our USP as our MPP (our Move People Proposition). We believe that emotion is the single biggest influence on human behaviour.

"For consumers, perhaps the most important characteristic of emotions is that they push us toward action. In response to an emotion, humans are compelled to do something," Dr Murray, Psychology Today.

We use human and cultural insights, greater creativity and a collaborative approach to pinpoint problems, find creative solutions and leverage human emotions. It drives greater business results on more efficient budgets.

What's the biggest business and also wider industry challenge right now?

Consumers are aware of marketing now, more than ever, and more adept at simply ignoring most of it. New ad–free platforms like Netflix or online ad–blockers mean people are increasingly less exposed to traditional advertising, or don’t even notice it.

Traditional media, especially in Australia, is also dwindling. The industry is therefore constantly searching for new ways to reach and influence consumers, hence the clamour around influencers as the next silver bullet in recent years (rather than just being another tactic amongst many).

It’s caused a flattening of the landscape, putting advertising, media and PR disciplines on more of a level playing field.

What matters now is not the channel, but the creation of a central insight, strategy or idea, that people are going to care about.

PR is in a great position to do that as we constantly have to question why consumers care about what we say. It’s earned rather than having the luxury of paying for people to see it (paid is extremely important for social content, but we’ll save that conversation).

How do you view the competitive landscape?

PR agencies can broadly be split into five types:

  • traditional media relations– based agencies
  • advertising group bolt–ons
  • a new breed of news–jacking types that employ ex–journos to create stories
  • hybrids
  • niche specialists (corporate comms, finance, beauty and fashion).

There’s also competition from media and ad agencies that now see earned reach as important on campaigns as the paid media reach, and so are creating campaigns based on what we’d describe as a PR idea.

Why is Poem one to watch in 2018?

We’re building the PR agency of the future; having started with a fresh perspective at a time when the lines between marketing agency disciplines have never been more blurred. We’ve garnered a strong client base in a short space of time, through the way we work and by delivering real business results, having now truly ‘emerged’.


Office the pet: Fenway - a poodle and retriever mix

Top three ads:

Reclaim moments' the - Wotif little

Brief: Reconnect the brand with Aussie hearts and minds.

Idea: Use branded content to show what holidays are like through the eyes of kids.

Outcome: 10% increase in brand consideration and considerable lift in sales' leads.

Detroit: be Human’ - Sony PlayStation

Brief: Launch a niche video game based on androids that rebel in a future society.

Idea: Create a social experiment to test how ready Aussies are for our AI future.

Outcome: Top selling game of the month.

Alternative Meat Co

Brief: Drive awareness of a new soy–based meat alternative amongst socially conscious millennials.

Idea: Create a spoof Australia Day lamb ad that provided a voice for flexitarians and non–meat eaters.

Outcome: 10% vegetarian shelf market share in three months.

Spot office the other office pet 


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