How do you humanize a software platform?
That was the challenge facing the leaders of New York agency Grok as they developed the first major branding push for Taleo, which sells talent management software to businesses with up to 10,000 employees. The resulting global campaign turns an everyday ID badge into a font of information about staffers.
In one print ad, the message on the badge for a vp of sales—“Was passed over for promotion. Now enjoying a steak dinner with your biggest competitor”—belies the calm grin on the fortysomething guy’s face. Likewise, another ad featuring a smiling evp of operations delivers bad news: “Gone rogue. Management is clueless.”
Each ad ends with the message that “with Taleo, you gain talent intelligence: the deeper understanding and insight you need to attract, develop and retain the best people.” The tagline: “Talent intelligence knows.”
The campaign, which breaks in the U.S. next week, also includes online and outdoor ads and a brand video. Next year, the effort will expand to the U.K., France, Germany, and possibly Asian markets. Total media spending is projected at more than $10 million.
The ads represent Grok’s first work for Taleo, a Dublin, Calif.-based company that hired the shop in August after a review.
Taleo’s software enables companies to gauge the performance of their employees as well as evaluate outside candidates for job openings. With the new campaign, Taleo aims to not only appeal to personnel leaders but also finance executives, given that smart casting can translate into better business results.
“As our first major branding effort ever, it was critical to communicate Taleo’s thought leadership in an increasingly crowded and competitive market,” said Heidi Melin, Taleo’s chief marketing officer.
Melin knew Grok partner Julie Bauer from the late 1990s, when Melin worked in marketing at PeopleSoft and Bauer ran the San Francisco office of Saatchi & Saatchi. Back then, PeopleSoft was a client of Saatchi’s.
Flash forward about a dozen years and the two reconnected after Melin joined Taleo and began a search for a new agency. That old relationship opened the door but the ID badge idea—one of three that the agency pitched in the review—won the business. Grok handles the creative and media account with help from outside shops Acsys Interactive (digital) and TargetCast (media).
Since opening in late 2008, Grok has attracted about a half-dozen accounts, including Taleo, VMWare, i-Health Consumer Products, Luxaire, and New York Burger Company.
Beyond Bauer, who heads strategic and account services, the other agency partners are veteran creative directors Tod Seisser and Steve Landsberg. All three have traded big agency titles and salaries for a chance to create something of their own. Grok now employs about 20 staffers and generates annual revenue of about $5 million.