Announcing the Evolution of The Atkins Group

February 17, 2020

Charles Darwin Was Right

Evolving the Model of a Full-Service Agency

Around us, the world of advertising has undergone a sea change. Well beyond the move to digital and social, clients are facing an advertising world where huge multi-national players are using new, more powerful tools in more arenas than ever before. It’s no longer enough to have a better idea, more clever creative, or a better deal from a specific group of advertising platforms. 

For the first year in 2019 digital ad spending was expected to surpass traditional print and TV advertising.  At first glance when the move to digital advertising started, it appeared that digital could be a force for leveling the playing field between big and small advertisers. Afterall, hyper-targeting could help small companies find their customers with a laser instead of a shotgun approach. While that promise is still there, it’s been more than a little compromised by misleading attribution models (tracking which advertising actually worked through pixels), ad fraud, and the abundance of middlemen taking cuts of every ad placed. Last year Facebook had to pay advertisers $40 million for inflated video metrics, making every advertiser question the reliability of measurement reports on all digital platforms.

Evolving to buy direct on digital platform levels the playing field for brands.

Big brands have the volume that lets them push for accountability; they can buy direct and cut out the middle man; they can work with the most sophisticated systems to ensure they are managing fraud. They can also harness the power of big data. Through massive data warehouses and business intelligence tools, national brands can gain insights unavailable to smaller advertisers. 

At The Atkins Group (TAG) in late 2018, we decided that these barriers for our clients were unacceptable. Our clients’ needs had evolved in ways that the typical agency model wasn’t going to address. From our standpoint, our attention to a highly data-driven approach called for more than current analytic and research models. We wanted a team of data scientists working for our clients. We didn’t want to just look at numbers – we wanted to look through them in order to develop insights that would provide us critical information we had to know before recommending a marketing strategy.

So we decided we needed to evolve – in a big way. And I’m announcing today that we have. 

Our clients needed to have every tool possible to compete with national advertisers, despite the size of their budgets. They had to have the same level of integrity and accountability for their digital buys. They had to be able to harness their data and gain true insights that would hone their advertising spend – and maybe even guide key business and growth strategies, like where to expand their operations. They needed more than a traditional agency. They needed an agency that fused these types of expertise without requiring the higher ad spends of major brands.

The benefit of data insights and direct buying has delivered an average increase of 30-40% in added value impressions for our digital programmatic campaigns.

Steve Atkins

That’s when we decided to establish a Seamless Fusion Model. In 2019 we began investing much more in two key components: Predictive analytics that would draw insights from both client and proprietary databases to derive intelligence, and an external digital/programmatic buying group that would be big enough to buy direct for our clients as well as other mid-range independent clients. 

Predictive Data Labs (PDL), led by Carlos Casas de la Garza, launched mid-2019 and has already developed a True Insights Platform (TIP) to help a wide range of clients. The goal is to not only make sense of their existing data but to convert those insights into implications that better direct and refine target audiences, and also predict new audiences in markets of new potential. It also significantly elevates the efficiency of digital ad spend. Moses Munoz heads up a team of seven at Agency Trading Desk (ATD) and works with multiple entities to buy programmatic directly, bidding and optimizing daily to ensure advertisers are getting the most competitive pricing for their digital buy while also protecting clients from fraud sites and privacy issues. 

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Both PDL and ATD are extensions of TAG. It was a critical decision we made to ensure that we could access these highly specialized skills and abilities in a way that was highly scalable. 

Taking this approach means leaving behind traditional agency thinking. To gain the full benefit of these capabilities, these shops must operate at a scale that is outside the typical budgets of most mid-size independent agencies. Already the results speak for themselves. The benefit of data insights and direct buying has delivered an average increase of 30-40% in added value impressions for our digital programmatic campaigns.

In my mind, not only is this Seamless Fusion Model the smart approach for this ever-evolving marketing landscape; it’s the best way to serve the changing needs of our clients. As Darwin stated, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” If in the near future our clients need to expand or redirect efforts to gain more market success, we will be ready to push the envelope and develop new strategies to meet them.

Steve Atkins is President, CEO, and Brand Strategist at TAG. Steve started this thing with his father, Chip Atkins, in 1974 and today he still leads the way with passion, imagination and lots of hard work. He’s relentless.