360i’s Fresh, Tech-Driven Thinking Pushed Its Clients to New Heights in 2017

Adweek's Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year used innovative twists on classic strategy

From left, Abbey Klaassen, CMO; Bryan Wiener, executive chairman; Jason Hartley, svp; Sarah Hofstetter, CEO; Patrick Affleck, managing director of media.
Sasha Maslov for Adweek

“Let me start out by saying that here, creative is an adjective,” says 360i chief marketing officer Abbey Klaassen when describing her agency’s approach to media in 2017. “It’s not a noun, like, ‘that’s the creative.’ We are all creative.”

Before war rooms, viral tweets and voice specialties, when the phrase “social media” was still confined to executive brainstorms and theorists’ theses, 360i built its core business on search engine marketing. The 20-year-old agency has since evolved to become one of this industry’s most sought-after media partners on the strength of its creative approach to what is often a purely transactional business.

For the Dentsu agency, last year was all about releasing and refining several new services designed to address customer and client challenges that ranged from low brand awareness to clogged pipes while also adding an impressive number of new names to its growing roster.

This ability to win business while consistently producing innovative, tech-driven twists on classic media strategy makes 360i Adweek’s 2017 Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year.

ESTIMATED REVENUE 2017: $160-$180 million

ESTIMATED ORGANIC GROWTH 25 percent year over year

WINS Mini U.S.A., Kate Spade, HSN, Chico’s, Champion, Stonyfield, National Geographic (creative and media), Shiseido Group (became media AOR), Hanes (added search), Chili’s (won integrated media); sister agency Vizeum won global AB InBev review.

LOSSES Spotify media, Strongbow creative.

STRATEGIC MOVES Hired former Deutsch New York ecd Menno Kluin as chief creative officer, replacing outgoing CCO Pierre Lipton. Launched Amazon Marketplace practice and hired Amazon veteran Will Margaritis to lead it as vp of ecommerce. Developed Voice Search Monitor to help brands use platforms like Alexa and Siri. Began implementing Contextual Actions Platform (CAP) to help use existing data to improve the intelligence of clients’ media buying operations. Hired chief talent officer Tiffany Francis, promoted Patrick Affleck to managing director of media in New York, promoted Jason Hartley to svp, national head of search and paid social.

Standing out in a crowded field

Over the past 12 months, growing client-side demands for transparency and efficiency have driven a new wave of global and national media reviews, forcing many big-name agencies into a defensive crouch. Yet, in this punishing climate, 360i turned away a remarkable 80 percent of inbound new business leads.

“We’re not for everyone, and we’re very happy with that,” says CEO Sarah Hofstetter. “We’re not going to pitch unless we have a team that can win without sacrificing other business.”

President Jared Belsky adds, “Generally, we think there’s a massive, underserved well of clients who recognize that they don’t want to just buy the spaces available—they want an agency that thinks about what’s possible.”

While the phrase “full-service agency” has been rendered all but meaningless by overuse, at 360i it’s a mantra with teeth. The shop is so dedicated to anticipating all of a given brand’s needs—from robots to radio spots—that it recently eliminated individual offices and converted them into rooms dedicated to single clients like NBCUniversal and Canon.

In 2017, the agency’s “adaptable” approach was responsible in large part for a slew of new business wins including Chico’s, Champion and Stonyfield (media AOR), HSN (digital AOR), Mini USA (digital) and National Geographic (creative and media).

The shop also recorded $25 million in organic growth by expanding its relationships with established clients like Shiseido Group, Hanes, DSW, Ben & Jerry’s and Chili’s.

“They’ve demonstrated tremendous accountability,” says Steve Provost, who became Chili’s evp, chief marketing officer last March before discovering that 360i—which began working with the fast-casual chain in 2016—had “taken our SEO operation and figured out how to get the same impact on sales with almost no cost.” Provost says this track record made the decision to pick 360i during Chili’s larger media review last year an easy choice. “We had six agencies in the search,” he says, “but we called it off after the first presentation by 360i.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 19, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended articles