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Creative leap

Creative leap

If Kipp wasn’t such a coward, we’d start our own business. But it turns out we’d stand a better chance of success if we tied up with a branding agency…

January 23, 2011 2:24 by

If Kipp had a little money and a little more patience, we would have started a business. But as we all know, developing a business from scratch is a big step. Perhaps instead we would first invest in an existing business to see how that works, and then consider jumping on the start-up bandwagon.

Some creative agencies, however, don’t seem to think like Kipp. Over the past few years, a handful of agencies have stepped out of their area of expertise into “brand investment.”

One of the largest creative agencies that has ventured into brand creation is UK-based Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) (Kipp loves the name). The agency’s motto is “when the world zigs, zag.” And zag it did. In 2006, BBH launched a brand invention company called, well, Zag.

Since then, the agency has launched rather unusual products: Ila, a stylish personal alarm system that emits a loud female scream; and Pick Me, ready meals for vegetarians. It also launched a style blog that captures the fashion sense of US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Full service agency Atom created a brand invention division in 2008 called Atom Ventures. The first project to be launched through the new division of the Dubai-headquartered agency was The Green Foundation, an electronics recycling company. It may not be as unusual as a woman’s scream at 120 decibels, but the concept is fairly new to the region.

“Atom Ventures was tasked to look at businesses of excellence around the world that we felt had opportunities here, and that we could invest in with our marketing services,” says Dennis Gothard, Atom partner who took over The Green Foundation as CEO. “We spoke to a lot of people here and around the world [about the idea of recycling electronic items] and it was quite clear to us that there was an opportunity here.”

According to Gothard, Atom currently owns 54 percent of the new venture, and has invested in it through equity, cash and “ongoing marketing services.”

Gothard says that, if an agency invests in a brand, there is a chance to develop a level of loyalty that isn’t always there in a client and supplier relationship. “[Generally], you don’t know from one morning to the next which clients you are going to have. It doesn’t matter how good you are and how well you perform, because at the end of the day, clients move on or their budgets get slashed—which is sometimes understandable.” But if the agency is a part of the brand, the two sides can build a strong relationship, with mutual interest in mind, he says.

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