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Agency profile: Razorfish tailors next-generation mobile experiences for brands

As the use of mobile evolves, Razorfish, too, is reevaluating how to integrate mobile into its own organizational structure so it can best take advantage of emerging opportunities such as voice-activated ads and smartphone sensors.

The 18-year-old New York-based multi-discipline agency has officially had a mobile practice for six years, currently segmented into three regional groups ? East, West and Central. Yet mobile campaign elements are actually handled on a daily basis by all account reps, with the senior mobile teams called in for special projects and big client campaigns.

?We operate more right now as a hybrid practice center of excellence,? said Tom Cramer, strategy director and mobile practice lead for the East and currently acting lead for the West.

Areas of focus
Razorfish is considering organzing mobile into a more formal practice. 

The international agency has 11 offices across Europe and the Asia Pacific, and eight in the United States, with a global workforce of 3,000. Clients are wide ranging, with a predominance of financial firms, automotive, retail and technology with Microsoft, Kraft Foods, Firestone and Uniqlo among them.

Razorfish won early recognition for a Victoria?s Secret app that became the top branded app on iTunes in 2008, the year it formalized mobile. The agency?s reach continues to cut deeply into creative and technology, where it is determined to be a leader.

?We do some exclusively mobile things like building apps or landing pages,? Mr. Cramer said. ?But we really think about mobile more holistically.

?It starts with what is [the client?s] business need or problem, and we address the communication and how we want that messaging to flow,? he said.

Voice-activated ads
In the last couple of years Razorfish has delved into responsive Web design. The approach uses one standard format enabled to be adaptable or `responsive? to all screen sizes - desktop, tablet and smartphone.

?Many companies have expressed concern over their rising IT costs,? Mr. Cramer said. ?While this is not a perfect solution, it does rein some of that in.?

It has also forged ahead with voice-activated advertisements. This past holiday season Razorfish created a campaign for Best Buy that engaged consumers in a real-time conversation with a blue shirt character via their mobile phone.

?People were a little bit in disbelief that you could talk to an ad,? Mr. Cramer said.

The spot was targeted at a specific audience within a five mile geofence of a Best Buy store.

To activate, the user had to click on a banner ad and allow for microphone engagement. The conversation was only three or four questions, but if ready to buy the shopper could conduct a secure mobile Web transaction.

?Best Buy saw a pretty tremendous incremental performance,? Mr. Cramer said.

The challenges
Of course there are challenges, such as figuring out how to track users in a post-cookies world. Razorfish is currently in pilots with partners to test effectiveness of a couple different approaches per Mr. Cramer.

There is also the ongoing dilemma of getting messages to consumers without being overly invasive.

?There has to be a tremendous amount of respect for how we are engaging with their device,? Mr. Cramer said.

Now and in the future
Finding ways to use Beacon technology is also top of mind.

?We are engaged with several clients to develop both in-store and ambient experiences,? Mr. Cramer said.

For the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Razorfish partnered with Qualcomm using Beacon technology in the Use Me Leave Me bike share program. Riders received a ping alerting them to a nearby available bike.

One of the most exciting areas for Razorfish is the advancement of sensors. It is an area of mobile Razorfish is anxious to tap into.

?The things that premium smartphone models can do now are beyond what we were even imagining five years ago,? Mr. Cramer said.

?[With mobile technology that can now monitor heart and track individual behaviors] it is allowing truly personal relationships between brands and services and their users,? he said.

?We are focused not just on serving the needs of today but for the tomorrow and being on the edge of innovation.?