HOW HE BALANCES CREATIVITY WITH INSTINCT
Jason Dooris has been around the media block. He has worked with some of the largest media and marketing agencies in the world. In fact it’s an agency who’s who: Ogilvy and Mather, Mediacom, Saatchi & Saatchi, Razor and Aegis.
Back in 1994 when he took his first position at Ogilvy and Mather, client representation was a full-scale affair. It was based not only on delivering relevant media solutions, but also on relationships. Back in those early years when Jason was forging his career, he was learning how to lead. He was learning what made a media agency tick and how to win and retain clients. He was working with small and large agencies and learning about scale.
“When you work with businesses the size of Woolworths, with a high attrition of people, you realise the value of the right people,” Jason says.
Woolworths was Jason’s chief client before he made the move to Atomic 212°. This was a move that came about through the desire to launch his own business and apply all that he had learnt since his career began.
“I thought I was better prepared for business and the responsibility of driving an organisation.”
He was on a mission to apply new school media methods with old school relationship sensibilities. Something he laments is lost.
“Many agencies have lost their way in following their core proposition to their clients. When a client is leading you in terms of product and services and when you hire staff to purely meet their needs, you are in trouble. You are in regression.”
One of the problems with agencies is that they are not moving as quickly as their clients or the consumers of those clients. And it seems to Jason, some are refusing to move. He cites one business attempting to take the industry forward through a progressive ‘creative connections’ approach. This business was torn to shreds for trying something new.
“Here’s a business having a crack at moving the industry forward and we need more of that.”
Atomic 212° is looking to lead the industry. It is attempting, successfully, to change a mindset and create relationships that are beneficial to the client, the agency and ultimately the consumer.
It is attempting to create something new. The name of the business hasn’t been chosen at random. It denotes a boiling point; a point where liquid turns to gas, molecules separate from each other and roam free and something new and exciting is created. Whether water or media the conditions need to be just right to create this boiling point where creativity occurs.
“At Atomic 212° we focus on trying to create just this kind of environment and set of conditions.”
Once, the agency was the custodian of a client’s brand; there is no real reason why that custodial perspective has disappeared. This is despite the move away from channel planning and the role of individual channels to sell a client’s message.
“You would plan your media strategy and the channel planning pointed towards core channels. Agencies jumped
on the bandwagon and started to hire creatives as creative channel planners, all vying to influence where ads went and into which channel. Channel planning is now dead and useless because the customer has moved much faster than the media and creative industry.”
Agencies are still coming to terms with this change, yet they are not trying to differentiate themselves. Where Atomic 212° is different is that it has handpicked staff that are multi-disciplined. There are no channel planners who would be locked into one channel. The media planners and buyers, strategists, creatives, data experts, and digital specialists are cross-trained in disciplines such as content marketing, sponsorship and partnership management and creative ideation. There are fewer clients per manager. As Jason says, “You simply cannot truly get close to your clients while working across a portfolio of a half dozen of them. By increasing the responsibilities of each team member and decreasing the number of clients, we foster a much greater environment for getting closer to our clients’ businesses.”
The final point of differentiation is a belief in the continued practice of leveraging creative and instinctual thinking, where following gut instinct is a critical success factor.
“To nurture and protect this we created a planning process that marries gut instinct with evidence based data points to substantiate thinking and stimulate further insight.”
The process is known as SCP - Substantiated Creative Planning. It is based on data, which Jason says must be used to drive the new media paradigm.
“We developed a process called Sherlock 2.0, a tech based research tool, where we do expansive work with our clients. The system allows us to understand how people feel, act and behave with different content.
“When someone has an experience, we track their pulse, where they are looking, and how they feel in relation to a given situation. We looked at the impact on three generations of women who grew up in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, who were exposed to 50 Shades of Grey. We found that the older the generation, the greater the impact of the stimulus. So we use that type of data to help us plan our advertising and the type of content that best serves the needs of the advertisers.”
This is information that can create better decisions. And according to Jason it is cheap to run and can be undertaken very quickly. Where 10 years ago the technology was limited, today there is no excuse to use all the resources available.
“The agency of the future will enable much more acute targeting and messaging around customers,” Jason says. “As agencies we want to survive and we will adjust accordingly. The agency of the future is flexible and agile and developing their way of working with clients; developing their products and services and delivering those in an agnostic way to be applied at a relevant time. I saw the opportunity to do that with Atomic 212°.”
Another facet that sets Atomic 212° apart is its approach to staff. Accountability is a large part of the business model and remuneration is performance based. Jason’s theory is that Atomic 212° gets paid when its clients are selling. This means that the creative must be good. It means that PR needs to be good. It means fostering an
entirely new level of collaboration.
“In addition to that, we have the opportunity to control our own destiny and invest in an agency of the future. The learning curve for staff is dramatic. I remember years ago digital staff reading manuals on coding and programming. It dawned on me then that the learning curve is continuous. I started to embrace the philosophy that staff need to constantly learn and that customers change, technologies change and our industry evolves daily.”
An experience whilst travelling in Bali in 2002 also influenced the way in which Jason approaches staff. He was standing only metres away from the infamous terrorists’ bomb which killed hundreds of people. Miraculously he survived, but his close friend did not.
“My friend was killed in the Bali bombing. In that period I had come from a media world that could be brutal and ruthless and in which people are the collateral damage. I came out of that Bali experience determined to be a part of an environment that treats peo- ple well and invests in them and their education. This means that ethically we have a better team, but ultimately a better business.”
It is a team made up of diverse people and one that empowers senior female staff members.
“Superb expertise disappears out of the workforce when families are created and the industry loses that intellectual capability. So we cater to mums who want to come back to the workforce. That has been very good for us. We wouldn’t succeed as an agile business existing in old world practices, therefore we have made unusual appointments.”
For instance Clementine Robertson is an 18-year-old, who leads the company’s youth division because Jason understands that you can never presume what kids are thinking.
Atomic 212° has been recognised as one of the fastest growing media companies in the country. Jason has built a strong team, with multiple skills, who balance an old school ethos around the importance of relationships, with a new school technology, data and media representation approach.
They have adopted this approach since picking up foundation clients such as AMP and Dick Smith, who have stayed the course and have helped push the business forward.
“Dick Smith is a wonderful company who moved its entire business to the agency because they could see they were working with an agile industry partner who could sit with them and work on their marketing, rather than dictating their marketing.”
Clients have come via referral and have remained. Jason believes it is because Atomic 212° operates with honesty and integrity. They take a marathon, not a sprint, approach to deliver good, ethical practices and Jason believes that agencies that have had their heads in the sand are now paying attention to this new way of operating.
Certainly Atomic 212° is leading the way and will continue down this path to change the media agency landscape.
ABOVE: Atomic 212 Sydney office