Carat Integrates to Give Digital Its Due

Carat USA and Carat Fusion announced a move to officially morph into a single all-media agency Friday. The rising importance of data is a major factor behind the decision. A digital-intensive campaign for client Reebok is as a prime example of what the combined marketing services agency hopes to achieve.

“[Data is] monumental. That will be foundational to the business,” said Sarah Fay, new CEO of the integrated outfit, which will go by the lone “Carat” moniker. “As we move forward, having a strong service offering, data is going to be key to the value we provide to clients,” she continued. Fay will also maintain her current role as president of digital marketing agency network Isobar USA, another arm of Carat’s owner, the marketing communications firm Aegis Group.

Carat Fusion President Scott Sorokin will work with Fay as president of the new integrated agency. Carat USA President Ray Warren plans to leave the company to focus on content marketing.

Though many agencies have made efforts to integrate traditional and interactive campaign processes, gaps remain. “We’ve always worked over the years to integrate the two,” said Fay. Yet, she said, digital components are often like a fast-food add-on, not fully considered till mid-campaign. “It’s like, ‘Do you want fries with that?'” said Fay.

The goal of the new streamlined operation is to create a process and structure in which ditching digital “can never happen,” according to Fay. “It’s about thinking with both sides of the brain and giving clients a strategy that incorporates digital right into the heart of the strategy.” That’s not to say digital will overtake traditional media, she stressed. Rather, the new process will call for planning all media together from the start to better synchronize multiple elements.

Also displaying closer attention to digital, Carat Fusion bolstered its search marketing operation in April.

A multimedia campaign developed for client Reebok served as “an impetus to bring us together,” said Fay, who sees the far-reaching, digital-heavy campaign as a template for the revamped agency. The “Run Easy” campaign broke a few months ago and entailed delicate coordination among several Aegis network entities including Molecular, Carat Fusion, and even a Shanghai-based operation.

Along with television, print and outdoor media, the still-running campaign features Web and mobile sites, YouTube video mashups, as well as components for Facebook, Google Maps, Flickr photos and Apple iTunes.

“We didn’t want to have divided goals in any way,” said Fay regarding the Reebok effort.

To be sure, clients are clamoring for a more integrated approach, although advertiser clients today often still have interactive teams separate from traditional marketing departments. “Our clients want this,” said Fay, noting interactive execs “have become major stakeholders in the marketing organizations.” The plan is for the cross-media Carat to have one account lead for clients to work with, as opposed to a separate interactive liaison.

“I’m hoping that the market will see [the change] as an obviously good thing,” said Fay.

The Carat collective has taken various forms. In 2005, Carat Interactive combined with sister agency Carat Direct to become Carat Fusion.

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