EXECUTIVE Q&A WITH GREG KEATING, VICE PRESIDENT
Describe your agency in 100 words or less.
Hangar12 is a family agency currently owned by my father, Kevin Keating. He got into the business working with his father, Jack, in 1990 as Co-Account Executives at UVG&N, a creative agency in Chicago. Even though Jack was planning to retire in a year or two, they instead tripled their business and worked together for the next 12 years. In 2000, Kevin purchased the agency and grew its services in CPG marketing and package design. We’ve since pivoted more into the digital space working on social media and shopper marketing.
What are the top three trends your agency is leading the charge on?
1) Omnichannel CPG Strategy
2) ConnectedTV Activations
3) Asynchronous Work
Describe how clients perceive your agency and the people that work there.
Here’s a review from one of our clients: “If you need an agency that hears you and works with you to deliver your vision, Hangar12 is for you. Not sure what you want? They can do that, too. Comfortable thinking big or working small…they tailor to what you need, and treat all clients as equally important.
“I have known Hangar12 for many years at many different companies. They would be my first agency of choice for anything…and they are always my first recommendation. The best part of Hangar12 is that they are small enough to take care of you personally (no bait and switch), but adaptable enough to tackle the big programs, too. Packaging? Activation? Innovation? 360 marketing communication? Insights? Yup, they have you covered. The beauty: You only pay for what you need.”
Tell us about one of your favorite campaigns in 2020.
I’m super proud of what our agency has accomplished during this crazy year. One of the biggest projects we kicked off is our Masterbrand advertising campaign for Frigo CheeseHeads. The campaign dives head-on into the discussion of whether people chomp or peel string cheese, incorporating talent as well as brand influencers to fuel the longstanding debate about which way is better. Our video content incorporates a 1974 track, “Right is Right,” by Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan, with a beat that’s sure to get bodies moving. We want to draw families in with the hashtag #ChompOrPeel and invite everyone to express themselves, challenge their friends, and challenge the way they eat string cheese. But most of all, we want people to have fun with it. In the end, this brand is always about great-tasting cheese and fun. Frigo® Cheese Heads® brand is supporting the campaign with ConnectedTV, digital media, social media, and a Times Square billboard in New York City.
What separates a good agency from a great agency?
A good agency delivers results; a great agency delivers results and educates the brand team along the way. Marketers reach out to agencies because they need to rely on outside expertise. Too many agencies feel they need to conceal their methodologies to maintain their perceived value with a client. The reality is that the client will value the agency so much more if they are willing to educate the brand team on the why and how of a marketing strategy. Sharing that expertise builds trust and fosters the brand/agency relationship.
How has your agency evolved over the last few years?
Hangar12 shifted to a completely remote model in 2015 after having an office in the West Loop of Chicago for a number of years. This obviously proved to be a bit ahead of the curve given the current state of world affairs, but it speaks to how we evaluate our work environment. We are always thinking from a consumer perspective and we apply that to our own internal operations as well. Each of our employees is productive at different times of the day and we want to give them space to thrive. On the marketing side, we constantly evaluate shopper habits to adapt our strategies to fit the ever-changing way consumers devour information and make purchase decisions. Often this takes the form of testing new digital media channels to see how we can better reach millennial shoppers and resonate with people in an authentic way.
What sets your company apart as a leading agency?
We help brands create omnichannel campaigns that deliver double digit sales lift, plain and simple. We focus on creating brand consistency at every touchpoint in the consumer journey to lower customer acquisition cost and jump-start growth.
What is the culture like at your agency?
Hangar12 is a family of smart professionals after success for all their clients. Everyone is closely connected to achieve the best work for clients, even given the remote working environment. Working remotely instills an entrepreneur spirit in everyone to further push unique thinking and collaboration, which instills a solid sense of ownership. While everyone works hard, the work/life balance is beyond comparison from any other agency. Upper management ensures everyone enjoys their personal life and pushes a healthy balance, which in turn brings an attitude that makes you want to come to work.
For all the other agency professionals out there, what’s it like working at your company?
We are masters of the Zoom call, but we do our best to get together in person on a regular basis (COVID notwithstanding) to build camaraderie. Our teams are often working asynchronously to achieve results at a faster pace than traditional agency shops, though we are constantly in communication via a slew of different tools like Gchat, Basecamp and Zoom. Respect is a core value at our agency and that means respecting everyone’s time as well. We try to avoid extraneous meetings and give people time back to live their life during the day so that they can work when they are most productive.
What are the biggest challenges or pain points for marketers in 2020?
A great deal of our client portfolio is in retail food & beverage products, so they’ve actually seen a spike in demand during COVID. Interestingly, this has created unexpected challenges on the supply side to meet the demand surge when plants can’t operate at 100 percent capacity safely. Some companies have elected to throttle ad spend to avoid pushing consumers in-store when there may be stock outs on key SKUs resulting in a decreased marketing budget. Our agency is taking a long-term perspective towards this issue knowing that supply issues will eventually be resolved and marketing will re-enter the fold as an imperative lever to maintain the demand experienced during the pandemic.
What are the biggest trends marketers should be on top of to stay ahead of the competition?
Supply chain innovation. People tend to frame this up in the context of ecommerce vs. retail, but it’s much more nuanced than that. In the grocery space, we’ve seen grocery delivery explode due to COVID. Big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes are carrying less inventory on hand and then providing curbside pickup at the store for online orders. The online and retail experiences are continuing to blur, and marketers need to be baking this into their consumer messaging. Brands should be communicating to consumers all the different ways their product is readily available and treat that as differentiating value.
What marketing techniques or technologies should brands consider expanding or adding to their arsenal this year?
If it’s not already a part of your media package, ConnectedTV needs to be included in your advertising strategy. The ability to programmatically deliver engaging video content to a very targeted audience on a platform like Hulu is a game changer. Linear TV still has a place for big brands, but CTV delivers more measurable results at a lower cost. It’s a no-brainer.
What are the most important questions marketers should ask when choosing a new agency partner?
Far and away the biggest question marketers should be asking is, do I trust this agency to execute on behalf of my brand? That stems from a couple things: building rapport with the team that will be working on their business and evaluating the agency’s existing body of work to determine agency fit. We typically utilize case studies to demonstrate not just our capabilities, but also our ability to problem solve in unique ways. It’s a challenge to dive in headfirst with a new agency, but ultimately the brand team needs to feel comfortable empowering the agency to do their best work and operate in the best interest of the brand itself.