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Agency profile: AKQA harnesses mobile’s value-adding potential for brands

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The AKQA agency has been harnessing mobile in ways that provide valuable services for consumers, and sees more opportunities on the horizon. 

One novel app created for Delta Airlines is Glass Bottom Jet, a tool enabling passengers to learn about the regions they are flying over. Imagine looking through a seat down through the floor, and being provided tour-like information including links to Wikipedia. 

“We don’t think of ourselves as an ad agency so much, but as an idea and innovation company,” said Tina Unterlaender, director of mobile for AKQA. 

“We have really been focusing very heavily in the past few years on new services and also products," she said.

Along with that, AKQA has taken a strong interest in `data science’ using measurement tools to ascertain the impact mobile programs are having on consumers and brands. 

After being acquired and divested a couple times, AKQA has developed into an enterprise with 13 offices, including San Francisco, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai, and 1,600 employees worldwide. Last year it become part of media conglomerate  WPP. 

As mobile adoption has spread, it has permeated the agency. 

“Now that we have mobile all around us, we are always considering `what does it mean?’ and `what can we do for our clients using it in the most perfect and efficient communicative way,’” said Ms. Unterlaender. 

Client scope
The client roster is wide ranging from financial to automotive to travel & leisure and entertainment and retail. 

“I think we’ve touched everything out there from a consumer standpoint. But we are also in the B-to-B world,” said Ms. Unterlaender. 


With Delta it reworked the entire travel process, allowing passengers to use mobile devices for booking, check in and receipt of travel information. Development of the aforementioned Glass Bottom tool was driven by the belief that there are still many people interested in learning about the world around them. 

Among numerous efforts for Nike, there is the Nike + Training Club app that provides workout advice from professionals. 

“We worked with some of the top trainers in the world and came back with a slew of different training methods,” said Ms. Unterlaender. 

Brand engagement
Another Nike app, tied to the British 10K London Run, provided runners a photo of themselves as they crossed the finish line. There are also apps that speak to soccer players and basketball players, including the ability for a player to find a pickup game. 

“Out of it, Nike gets a ton of engagement – true brand engagement,” said Ms. Unterlaender. 

For Audi, with input from its dealerships, it created an iPad app for sales associates that delivers deeper and more detailed information on its vehicles. 

“It is a tool to support our sales associates with the best information possible, so they can explain difficult details like four wheel drive,” said Ms. Unterlaender. 

“It has visual material so they can shine with the consumer," she said.  

Business rationale
Rather than focus on selling a specific product, AKQA has zeroed in on crafting strong user experiences with the goal of extending the brand and adding value at the same time. 

“Most of the work we do for our clients is not advertising driven. It is more of a way to engage with the users,” said Ms. Unterlaender. 

“[That] is the biggest thing," she said. "That is how we thrive.” 

“We get more loyal customers that way. It is a no-brainer.”

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Business writer Laura Klepacki has covered retail and consumer products marketing for leading industry publications for several years. She is also the author of a book on the Avon Company.

 
Related content: Advertising agencies, AKQA, mobile, mobile marketing, advertising agency

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