DigitasLBi plots global realignment to accelerate growth

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 7 February 2018
DigitasLBi 2018

Six years ago to the day, on 7 February 2012, the Sydney brand of digital shop Lost Boys International (LBi) opened its doors.

It later merged with Digitas after being acquired by Publicis Groupe to become DigitasLBi.

Now, the agency is set to reveal its revived global positioning that aims to bring more consistency to its offering across its 35 international shops.

Four months ago it appointed Michael Kahn (MK) as global brand president tasked with auditing the company and identifying areas it could tighten up its positioning, processes, and messaging.

Shortly afterwards, he promoted long-serving DigitasLBi execs Laurent Ezekiel and Jodi Robinson to jointly run the North American business and handed the remit for the network's international footprint to Ezekiel.

Since then they have visited every international office to understand their clients, cultures and process, and to build it into a more unified positioning.

MK admits that until now the agency brand has “meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people” and didn’t have strong enough brand across the network.

The positioning of the group has landed on is built around the agency's ability to build better connections between disciplines and between its clients and their customers.

MK, whose role is global, says: "What we're trying to do is have a definition for what we stand for, the capabilities we have and the model so that we can raise the floor everywhere.

“The holy grail would be that you get to a point where a multi-market client can visit offices anywhere and go ‘wow, you feel the same, you are the same, and the teams are rocking that’.”

In the Sydney office, half of the current staff have joined from DigitasLBi offices elsewhere around the globe, which local MD Adrian Farouk saying this puts it in a strong position already.

But the concept of ‘connections’ is not new when it comes to how agencies define their purpose.

Sister Publicis agency Leo Burnett Sydney introduced its ‘Connect Strategy’ back in 2015 as a way to bridge the disciplines when it branched into media.

Back in 2016/2015 former UM Australia CEO Mat Baxter made a bold statement about his media agency being the ‘creative connections agency’. GroupM's MediaCom has long called itself the Content + Connections agency and GroupM introduced its Connections tool way back in 2006.

There are countless others, so what makes 'connections' the defining articulation of what DigitasLBi offers?

MK says it’s the bond of disciplines the agency has under one roof that mean it can truly deliver connections.

“The words we use are to be a ‘fully enabled connected marketing agency’. We feel like that's our compelling position and the manifestation of how brands make more meaningful connections with the consumers they're serving,” he says.

“It's become a very specialised business. You have creative shops, data shops, performance shops, user experience shops and digital shops. DigitasLBi was created in a way that has all those capabilities in-house under one roof. We have data folks, we have tech folks, we have creators, media folks and strategy folk.

“We feel like that is really compelling because everyone wants to be focused on the consumer journey and only if you can cover all the touch points can you design the right strategy and engineer the right response.”

Ezekiel explains it like this: “In the words of one of our longest-standing clients American Express, they call us the glue that holds their marketing mix together. For them there is a real alchemy that brings all the components together. What we want to do is take that and express it much more clearly as we go forward.”

L-R: Laurent Ezekiel, Christine Peyton, Michael Kahn, Adrian Farouk.

L-R: Laurent Ezekiel, Annette Male, Michael Kahn, Adrian Farouk.

DigitasLBi was formed in 2013 when Publicis Groupe merged Dutch agency Lost Boys with Digitas, and Ezekiel says he has a soft spot for the Sydney business since he was part of the launch team here six years ago. He says the network has come a long way since then.

In Australia, while the agency has been growing for six years and has clients such as Samsung on the books, it doesn't have the clout the agency brand commands in other locations, such as London.

Ezekiel, who is based in New York, says it is “honing its proposition” adding that it will bring an acceleration of what it has been doing, rather than a departure.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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