The San Francisco offices of AKQA won a wide-ranging brief to collaborate with industrial giant Caterpillar on global brand and business transformation initiatives.
The Peoria, Ill.-based company, one of the world's largest manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, recently reached out to several agencies. The assignment is unique in that AKQA will work on everything from creative to product and experience design and the development of a "connected ecosystem" driven by consumer data.
"The scope of the work is still being defined. Caterpillar has always been renowned for innovation, and this is the next chapter in their history," AKQA San Francisco managing director Simon Jefferson told Adweek. "The next big thing is now upon us."
That next big thing comes at a time when many clients like Caterpillar are starting to move decisively away from the traditional agency-of-record model in favor of calling the agencies that work on their business "partners" or, in this case, "collaborators." In recent years, Caterpillar has worked with various agencies including Ogilvy & Mather New York, which created TV spots for the brand's #BuiltForIt campaign as recently as September. AKQA will collaborate with all other roster shops on the business.
The agency has never been a traditional creative operation, and Jefferson compares the new assignment to past multimedia projects like the development of Nike+ Kinect Training.
"We were able to look at their end-to-end customer experience and service design components," said Jefferson, "looking for areas we could improve upon."
At least some of the assignment may involve refining Cat Connect, an initiative that essentially turns bulldozers into smart vehicles designed to enhance efficiency on job sites by using past performance data. Jefferson described it as "the largest service of its kind in the industry."
For now, the work will be handled exclusively by AKQA's San Francisco office, which employs 35 data scientists to help inform its business strategies. Regarding future responsibilities on the business for the AKQA network—which also has offices in Europe, Brazil and Asia—Jefferson said, "Who knows over time? It's something of a consultative role, which is why it's so exciting. It's not your typical relationship."