If you’re ever at the Us&Co Britomart base around sundown, don’t be surprised if you find the team engaged in a fierce battle for the top spot in a game of Counter Strike. It’s usually a brief respite before kicking back into gear for the nightshift, but according to founders James Polhill and Jose Alomajan, it’s this competitive spirit that’s put the agency on the path to success.
Polhill and Alomajan founded the agency in 2012 and have spent the last few years investing in the future. The model, the services, the clients, the staff and the work has resulted in a multi-million-dollar business boasting double-digit year-on-year growth and they’re just getting started.
The duo have both done their time at the largest multinationals in town, constantly searching for an agency that could keep up with consumers, or possibly even lead them. As the larger networks continue to feel the pressure and hold on to traditional business models, Us&Co has created a new one, creating advertising for 2016, not 2006.
“Our vision for Us&Co is to become the agency that reinvents the ad game in New Zealand,” says Polhill. “I haven’t lost the hunger to do something great. As the industry continually changes around us, we need to find new ways to create incremental business value for our clients, new ways to connect with consumers and fundamentally create new ideas that get consumers to do something, change something or make them feel something special.”
Us&Co prides itself on creating work that sits at the intersect of creativity, technology, media and the consumer. The founders place a heavy emphasis on their high-end creative product, their agency’s ability to influence consumer behaviour and understanding that the primary role of advertising is to make the tills ring. Their recent campaign for Movember helped raise over a million dollars, their digitally-led campaign for F. Whitlock & Sons drove double-digit growth, their Rugby League Live III social media campaign had games flying off the shelves at The Warehouse and their three-year digital vision for SKY TV ensured the business could compete against new streaming operators in the future.
“It amazes me to see how much marketing effort and budget is still being wasted in traditional-only approaches with diminishing returns. People are no longer forced to watch advertising and technology allows consumers to circumvent it,” says Alomajan. “Brands need to understand how to become more relevant and ensure they’re in tune with how we’re now living our lives. Since opening the doors we’ve worked with like-minded clients to transform their businesses online, ensuring they’ll remain competitive for years to come.”
The ad game is continually changing and Us&Co have learnt to adapt, fine-tuning its model to connect with consumers and create new revenue streams to ensure it remains at the forefront of the industry. Over the last three years, Us&Co have built the largest and most powerful influencer marketing network in the country. Us&Co Talent was formed in 2012 by Polhill, Jay Reeve, Alomajan and former All Black Ali Williams.
“We’ve always been fascinated by the rapid global growth of the celebrity and their ability to not only connect with consumers but to influence their behaviour,” says Polhill.
“Social media has fundamentally changed the balance of power between consumers and brands because it enables peer recommendations to play a much greater role in purchasing decisions,” says Polhill. “This year will see influencer marketing establishing itself as a key part of the marketing mix and it will become even more valuable if done in an ordered and manageable way,” he adds. “The launch of our influencer marketing product, Populr, is a huge leap forward in the art and science of influencer marketing and will set the bar as a world-class tech product built to connect influencers with brands.”
Populr is robust, with proven case studies demonstrating strong return on investment. It’s underpinned by a commercial model where key influencers have an equity share of the business to incentivise growth. The proven business model led the team to set up shop in the UK, where Populr will roll out under the watchful eye of Williams.
“The multi-national agencies have been feeling the pressure for the past couple of years and I’m confident we’ve built a brilliant platform for growth as the industry changes,” says Polhill. “Our ambition is to make our clients’ lives easier. We’ve spent a lot of time simplifying the model. We’re smaller, we’re senior, we don’t have large overheads and we get it right first time. We make a complicated game easy to play. Great people, great thinking, great like-minded clients and a hell of a lot of hard work gets results.”
- This article first appeared in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing.