Jason Dooris

HOW HE BAL­ANCES CRE­ATIV­ITY WITH IN­STINCT

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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

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