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In the midst of this crisis, the drive to do things differently may well be born just as much from necessity as traditional entrepreneurial spirit, as Kate Bosomworth and Justin Tindall are demonstrating with Platform.
How do you solve a problem like marketing in the midst of a global pandemic? It’s a challenge that marketers across the globe are grappling with and a question that the new agency Platform is aiming to answer in a different way. Constraint has long been a driver of creativity, but the perfect storm of consumer disruption and business pressure has conspired to make transformation more than an empty buzzword for marketing and agency entrepreneurs alike.
Platform, which was launched by former M&C Saatchi duo Kate Bosomworth and Justin Tindall, is one such creative spark. The agency has already secured their first client, Suffolk-based Fishers Gin.
The new company is based around a drive to build ‘brand platform ideas’ powered by creative strategy. With a simple, three stage, set fee, pay-as-you-go model the agency aims to deliver a more flexible model to brands. Platform works by building tight, focused teams that work very closely with the client, in short, collaborative, highly productive sprints. Clients can buy the brand platform outright or license it from the company.
Why shouldn’t a client have the freedom to take their new brand platform elsewhere or in-house for development?Kate Bosomworth
The team believes that brands are actively seeking greater flexibility and collaboration from partners. As Tindall explains: “The traditional agency model essentially keeps clients locked into a long and very expensive journey and over the last decade, this ‘funnel’ has come to serve the ad agency more than the client. This model’s priority is to ensure the cost of large teams and expensive offices can be maintained and is also restricted to the talent and services available in the agency.”
According to Bosomworth, the new model is not suggesting that the more traditional agencies don’t do great work, rather it is suggesting an alternative. “Why shouldn’t a client have the freedom to take their new brand platform elsewhere or in-house for development? Why can’t they take creative concepts, based on the platform and make them in house or with their existing production teams?” Bosomworth asks.
The agency is based just as much on a new proposition for creative talent as it is on establishing a new creative proposition for brands. The enforced moment of reflection that the coronavirus crisis has ushered in has prompted talent across the industry to reassess and reappraise what they want from their careers and lives alike.
Aside from Tindall and Bosomworth Platform’s team, are all freelancers. The agency will pull together bespoke teams for each client project and are in the process of creating a proprietary tech platform to help manage this community. As Tindall explains: “The freelance marketplace is alive with world-class talent looking for work and so we wanted to make the most of this without building huge costs into the business or compromising the economic model for our clients.”
An algorithm within the talent platform will enable the team to manage the talent pool and also enable that talent to say exactly how they prefer to work, when, what time zone and what their availability is as well as sharing background on their skills and experience. Combined it's an approach which gives creative talent control of their time and greater flexibility, while enabling Platform to match them to the right projects.
It's an approach that reflects the growing pool of creative talent who want something different from work; to gain control of their own destiny rather than have it dictated to them by Outlook calendars and back to back Microsoft Teams Meetings. As Bosomworth explains: “We know they want to work on their terms; we want to support that. We know they want to work in small, focused teams without layers of account teams. We know they want to work on a diverse range of projects, and we know they want the freedom to work for whoever they want, whenever they want to. We‘re totally supportive of that.”
When brands, businesses and the economy are under huge pressure, clients need an alternative that doesn’t compromise their brand.Justin Tindall
This flexible approach also extends to how Platform plans to work with brands. “Greater flexibility, set fees, a more economical process, access to world-class talent without the world-class price tag. When brands, businesses and the economy are under huge pressure, clients need an alternative that doesn’t compromise their brand. Platform does this,” adds Tindall.
It’s an approach that lends itself towards the plethora of direct to consumer brands which have launched in lockdown. This is reflected in the fact that Platform offers brands the opportunity to license the brand platform, targeting young businesses which may not have the cashflow necessary to buy the brand platform outright.
The new agency is focused on collaborating more closely with these brand partners, working in focused tight teams in concentrated sprints. As Bosomworth explains: “We’ve moved away from the big reveal, the ‘ta-da’ moment. Instead it’s an incremental shaping of the work, with the client involved throughout the process and in this way, getting to the right place quicker.”
Long prior to the current crisis, at many brands the in-house model has come of age and a growing number of marketers currently sit on the precipice of wanting to implement some form of in-housing. It’s a shift which is continuing to open up new opportunities across the agency landscape.
“Most CMO’s have opted to invest in the in-house option to not just cut costs but to build skills into the business for the long term. That way, it becomes a longer-term investment where skills and knowledge are retained, and key brand personnel are also able to upskill. This is all great for client businesses. Some also say it allows them to move quicker, essential in an e-commerce and social media led customer relationship,” says Bosomworth. The Platform model is flexible enough to allow in-house teams to develop work.
The new agency also has its eye on the phenomenal rise of the direct to consumer market in lockdown. As Tindall explains: “As the D2C market becomes ever more vital, with less opportunity for a hands on, face-to-face brand experience, brand strength also becomes ever more important and the need to invest more in the brand becomes critical.”
Times of economic downturn and struggle force reflection and innovation and you can think more clearly and work faster with fewer distractions.Kate Bosomworth
At a time when many across the creative industries are struggling just to get through their email inboxes or get a break from endless digital facetime, launching an entirely new business proposition is no mean feat. So, how did the Platform team approach the challenge?
“Times of economic downturn and struggle force reflection and innovation and you can think more clearly and work faster with fewer distractions,” says Bosomworth. She is refreshingly honest about the team’s experience explaining the duo both “left an agency and teams that we loved during a very challenging period.”
She continues: “We’ve had hugely rewarding careers and been privileged to work on some amazing campaigns and with some wonderful clients. With time to digest all of this and determined to keep doing it in some way, we instinctively knew we would probably not find what we were looking for in another big agency.”
It was this realisation that Platform was built on, as well as the clear desire and energy to build back better. “The sector was struggling, even before COVID, and as we know, this has tested each and every agency to the limits, but has also accelerated a natural wave of change already under way and definitely due,” adds Tindall.
Of course, the crucial point is that Tindall and Bosomworth didn’t just talk about change or new ideas; they took the time, creative energy and risk involved in building something new. The duo began talking about the idea many months ago, honing the proposition over the summer.
As Bosomworth explains: “We really did interrogate every aspect of the agency model looking to turn it on its head. What if we did it this way? Or just didn’t do that bit anymore? What happens if we liberate this aspect of the process or that? How does that affect the client’s experience and the quality of the output, and how does that affect our bottom line?”
Notably, while many of Platform’s more traditional competitors have been fixated on office return, Tindall says, “having an office didn’t even figure in the conversations.” Instead the duo focused on testing the concept with CEO’s, CMO’s and founders.
In the midst of this crisis, the drive to do things differently may well be born just as much from necessity as traditional entrepreneurial spirit. Yet it doesn’t negate the fact that business as usual simply isn’t an option for the creative industries. The growing wave of direct to consumer brands and agency start-ups underline the fact that even in the midst of a global pandemic as individuals and organisations, we still have the opportunity to drive change.
For Tindall the message is clear: “you just have to go for it.” “Follow your instinct and, to some extent, let go of the pressure. If we’ve got it right and it works, we won’t look back. If it doesn’t, then we will have plenty of learnings to take with us and the knowledge that we had a go,” Bosomworth adds. If there was ever a year to celebrate the creative pioneers having the courage to have a go with a fresh platform 2020 is it.
Platform’s Co-Founders Kate Bosomworth and Justin Tindall on the power of a brand platform to build brands.
A brand platform is both outward and inward facing. A ‘big creative idea’, or creative platform, is outward facing only and, consequently, much further downstream and, usually, short-lived.
Brand platforms are long term, high value, difficult to arrive at, foundational ideas that inform, guide and direct a business in all that it is, all that it does, all that it stands for and all that it stands against. As such, they inform how a business makes all its decisions.
‘Every Little Helps’ is an excellent example of a brand platform. Not a new example, granted, but a particularly good one nevertheless. It informs how Tesco do everything. The design of their stores. Their policies. The kind of people they look to hire. How they reward staff and structure incentive schemes. New product developments. CSR. I could go on, and yes, of course, their extraordinarily successful and long running advertising campaign.
Brand platforms make every decision a business has to make more simple, consistent and easier to communicate and activate both internally and externally.
In that respect, big creative ideas can’t get close to the power or value of a brand platform.
Core to our promise is that we are specifically designed and structured to deliver brand platforms and we have the track record to prove it.
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