When former Mondelez head of global media innovations Pete Mitchell announced he had signed on as a partner at a relatively small content agency in Singapore, a few industry eyebrows were raised.
For former Ogilvy exec Mitchell, however, the move was a no-brainer. Mitchell, who left his role at Mondelez International last November, explains: “Kudos has grown well over the last three years, and now it is time for the next step. I have known its founder Lee Boden for many years and have invested in becoming a full partner.”
He says he firmly believed “content agencies are the future” as online and offline silos break down. “I had to decide whether I was going to stay in a corporate role, go back to an agency or be part of the change that’s going on. I’m really confident and buoyant about where this element of the industry is going in the next three to five years. Success is a given, if it is done well and properly.”
Kudos was formed by former MediaCom exec Lee Boden in January 2013 and focuses on video, copy and graphics for brands including SAP, Google and tourism body VisitBritian. The agency also works with Sunquick and Suntop drinks brands in Saudi Arabia.
“We are both from very similar media backgrounds and that is very important,” adds Mitchell. “We understand audiences and data, and how it has moved on.”
Boden was one of first to be awarded an ecommerce degree in Australia. He then moved to London to work with an ad serving firm, then LBi (now rebranded DigitasLBi) and then on to MediaCom as its first UK head of search. In 2008, he started an agency in London, MI Media, before returning to MediaCom, based in Asia.
“The level of accountability in the European markets is still a lot further ahead than it is here,” says Boden. “Every time I spoke to a CEO in the region, the conversation kept coming back to content and how they didn’t want to invest in digital because they hadn’t had a good content experience. So three years ago, I created Kudos.”
The agency’s guiding principle, says Boden, is to provide content for all channels at a price that is sensible. “We have invested in our own production capabilities, and now it’s time to go back to my roots and marry it to the media side. That’s where Pete comes in.”
According to Mitchell, now more than ever before, media investment is the arm that moves the needle. “Media is the part that really matters, and the really big clients have started to understand that,” he says. “It’s a huge investment. It’s the bit that drives the business ... The creative business is still vitally important, but with budgets moving into a matrix of different channels, we can help clients do this more intelligently.
“The big platforms like Facebook are all about targeting the individual at scale. What we do is to help clients produce content for the individual at scale. That’s the nut no one has cracked yet.”
The duo say their attitudes to data and talent will also help them better meet client needs. Boden claims his background in direct response is “the most valuable thing” he has learnt in his career. The duo are also planning to create bespoke teams of specialist freelancers for each client.
“This gives us the access to people that brands wouldn’t normally use, and also to incredibly talented people who are increasingly coming out of big agencies,” adds Mitchell. “We are not looking to build an agency with lots of people. We will have very senior leadership and then flexible senior talent and resources we can call on for particular campaigns. The beauty of this is that you can scale it up and scale it down depending on the client’s needs and budget.”
Despite the pair’s optimism, they concede that ‘content’ is a crowded marketplace and that more needs to be done in terms of transparency and educating clients. Boden insists on transparency with clients about the cost of content. “At the minute, they just do not know what the cost of content is and that is why they are not investing. We are very open. If we are getting content from multiple markets and some are cheaper than others, then the client will be told.”
Mitchell adds that content, in a lot of cases, is an extension of the brand’s PR message, repackaged for any given platform. “Our approach is a little bit different. We take the view that content is media which you need to get to the right people and the right time on the right platform and that you should work backwards from that.
“When new media channels came along, all people did was push what they were already doing on to it. Providing content for the world we live in today is very different and has to come from what people are interested in.”
Advertising agencies have a role to play when a brand has a perception problem across the board, continues Mitchell. “But if brands are looking to connect with individuals around shared interests, then they need to do two things: to decide if they have the right to enter that space and to have quality content. And these decisions should be fuelled by data.”