We had the pleasure of sitting down with Beri Cheetham, Executive Creative Director of Arc London, and Jim Carlton, Managing Creative Director of Arc Chicago, to talk all things Shopper. The two filled us in on the future of shopper marketing, some pro tips on brand activation and their long-distance friendship.
Q: What is the current landscape of shopper marketing? How do you see it evolving?
BC: We’ve never worked in a more exciting time in brand activation. Activation has often been perceived in the eyes of the creative community as the least glamorous in the marketing mix. Cardboard. To me, the one thing I hope we see differently is the word “Shopper.” This industry is evolving into one of the most artful, dynamic and immediate forms of communication and, with the increasing importance of mobile, can render other channels redundant. Through “Shopper,” or as I call it, “Brand Activation,” we are able to use innovations, content and technology within a controlled environment in a way that most channels are unable to do. Due to this, in 2014 I see some of the most creative campaigns in Cannes coming out of Promo and Activation.
JC: Why did Beri get to go first? From Big Macs to Intel computer processors to Tide laundry detergent, 2014 is the year that shopper marketing is applied to all of Arc’s clients’ businesses. No longer exclusive to consumer packaged goods, shopper logic and the insights that come from it are best practice for any client who has something to sell. And just as Beri mentioned, Activation is key. Thanks to technology – specifically, your mobile device – planning, shopping and buying take place anytime, anywhere in the palm of your hand. That kind of control means that we as shopper marketers get ahead of the demands of the shopper with easier, more customized and rewarding shopping experiences.
Q: How do you see Arc growing globally this year?
JC: In October, Arc had its first Global Summit, which helped unite us and galvanize our commitment to world-class creative that transforms human behavior – through the lens of a shopper. That was the first step in bringing our brand together across the globe.
BC: The Arc Global Summit felt like a jolt of ambition and purpose, which was exactly what we needed. I believe that to grow globally we need to establish and communicate a cracking global identity that divorces us from the dullness of our competitors. We need to harness the group’s finest activation, innovation and digital talents from around the world. We need to look more global and less local by joining up the work we currently do on major blue-chip brands such as Coke, Kellogg’s and P&G. We need to invest heavily in the next global or regional pitch. And we need to be attractive to clients by winning at the majors such as Cannes! Cannes is now every bit as important to clients as it is to agencies.
JC: To Beri’s point, so many of our clients today look to Arc and the reach that we have with Leo Burnett globally and expect us to use it as a resource to inform the work and to make it better. That is exactly what we need to be doing more of in 2014 and beyond.
Q: What is the secret to catching the consumer’s eye in the retail environment?
JC: Creativity. The retail environment is increasingly cluttered with marketers competing to say so much that they end up saying nothing at all. It’s a mess. Standing out at retail requires capturing the shopper’s imagination and giving them a reason beyond claims or price to put your product in their basket. And that takes creativity, imagination and innovation.
BC: I agree. The secret is capturing their imagination before they get to the retail environment. We can talk about retail science and semiotics all we like, but if a consumer is hell-bent on buying something because the idea of it is nestled in their imagination, we’ve already won. We have to think upstream.
Q: What would be your best piece of advice for creatives in the retail/shopper world?
BC: You don’t work in the retail/shopper world. You work in a consumer world enriched with more possibilities than ever before. You work in film, content, innovation, mobile, digital, social. And, occasionally, cardboard.
JC: Take some “creative” crack. Don’t be constrained by all the parameters. Break out of them.
Q: How do you two take advantage of collaborating with each other? What does that look like?
BC: Jim and I met at GPC in Berlin last year. We sat next to each other and instantly clicked. Or was it just Jim playing footsie with me under the table?
JC: You played right back, buddy.
BC: Regardless, we have a mutual respect for one another. We are able to have very candid conversations with each other about anything from the Arc brand, our work or people stuff. When Arc truly becomes a global brand, it’s important that we have an “always-on” approach to our clients. This means being reactive and proactive to brands in retail and e-commerce 24 hours a day. This is something we can now genuinely offer clients due to our time zones – giving them peace of mind that we have the energy and ability to deliver whenever and wherever. We have each other’s absolute trust in creative decision making.
JC: Collaborating over 4,000 miles and a seven-hour time difference is a lot easier when you respect and like the person in the other time zone. We're pretty different – he drinks pints, I drink everything else. What we have in common, though, is so much to share and learn and reaffirm with each other in terms of growing a brand-activation agency. So that made it second nature to just reach out to the guy who could relate to me most. We talk live when we can – maybe once or twice a month – and email almost weekly.
Q: What is your favorite piece of work from each other’s office?
JC: The Tutor Crowd. Instead of reaching shoppers online or in aisle, it goes to where they are – in the alleys and tunnels of London or wherever you might find grammatically incorrect graffiti.
BC: Thanks, Jim. I tend to judge other people’s work through the bitter lens of “I wish I’d have thought of that.” It’s that little inferiority complex creative people have – jealousy. I hate Jim’s team for the Pantene and Weather Channel mobile app idea. It’s based on a brilliantly obvious insight and seamlessly works in mobile or store communications.
Q: What is one quality the other has that you wish you had?
BC: I wish I had Jim’s waistline. He wishes he had my hair.
JC: It would be amazing if I could have his hair – but then again, I'd take anyone's hair.