Agencies as varied as Euro RSCG, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and JWT track and analyze consumer interests, cultural trends, buying behavior and other activities to understand what's hot, what's not and, just as important, why.
Now, Interpublic Group's Lowe is entering the trend-spotting space with Lowe Counsel, which launches this week with the hiring of Richard Welch and Zoe Lazarus. Welch and Lazarus, former executives at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, will be co-directors of trend analysis, based in New York and London, respectively. Welch, 32, and Lazarus, 34, report to worldwide CEO Tony Wright.
"It's really to bring intelligence to clients on this stuff in real time," said Wright, who worked closely with the duo in his previous position, as worldwide chief strategy officer at Ogilvy. "It's all part of our real refocusing of our strategic resources."
Wright, who became CEO in November, also described Lowe Counsel as a piece in the puzzle of evolving Lowe into a marketing services company that offers more than just tradition ad solutions. The evolution is key to Lowe's turnaround, after years of client defections and lackluster growth.
Wright sees such "cultural analysts" as idea starters for both colleagues and clients. He added that Welch, a former club promoter, and Lazarus, a former DJ, are adept at recognizing trends early because they employ a group of about 160 "influencers" in some 30 countries who act as their eyes and ears.
The group includes designers, journalists, architects, bartenders and photographers who range in age from 18 to 35. They work from briefs that ask for examples of behavior in categories such as food, lifestyle or telecommunications, Lazarus said. "What it is and why it is interesting" is what they seek, she added.
Similar efforts at Havas' Euro RSCG are led by chief strategy officer Andrew Bennett and Schuyler Brown, associate director, strategic trend-spotting and research. BBH's London-based Profusion unit specializes in dissecting fashion trends, while WPP's JWT has Sonar, a unit it inherited from the former Bates. (JWT is now working with consultant Marian Salzman to fortify its trend-watch efforts, a representative said.)
"This is an area where an advertising agency can add value. It's kind of related to research," said Arthur Anderson of Morgan Anderson Consulting in New York. "Provided it's substantive and a point of difference, I think it's good. … It's not easy to get share of mind with clients on this sort of thing."