Living In The Future With Agency 3.0 Today

In the corporate world, the first few years of the digital revolution meant establishing e-mail accounts for employees, deciding between Netscape and Internet Explorer and hiring a person, perhaps a high-school kid, to create a company Web presence.

But businesses quickly discovered that things like e-mail, Web browsers and Web sites were merely the tools of the revolution, and companies needed more than just software and their corporate names preceded by www. They needed long-range plans, goals and a complete understanding of what it meant to be a player in the digital millennium.

That is why Agency 3.0 is a company you need to know about.

Formed from an alliance between the William Morris Agency and a group of entrepreneurs that had already proved their digital acumen, Agency 3.0 represents the next step on the business evolutionary ladder, a multiple-platform environment combining strategy, technology and content. And a lot of business smarts.

One of the first things noticed about Agency 3.0 is the accumulated experience among the founding partners.

Peter Adderton, the company’s chairman and CEO, was founder and CEO of Boost Mobile, a mobile phone service that targeted teens and young adults, and Amp’d Mobile, a mobile entertainment service that targeted the 18-35 demo.

Greg Johnson, partner and president of brands and agencies, has more than 20 years of experience in digital marketing campaigns for major players like McCann Worldgroup and Digitas. He was also responsible for creating the Interpublic Emerging Media Lab.

Partner and chief creative officer Scott Anderson, creative head and cofounder of Boost Mobile and Amp’d, is one of the most highly respected designers in the telecommunications industry.

"We’d had, I think, some good experience building businesses in the digital world," Steve Stanford, Agency 3.0 partner, co-founder and president of content and entertainment, told Pollstar.

"And we felt there was an opportunity right now, particularly as lots of technology companies are finding themselves in the business of having to market to consumers, and a lot of consumer brands find themselves in the position of having to develop initial strategy, to bring some of that expertise to others who are going through some of the things that we have already gone through on several occasions," Stanford said.

Stanford, whose credits include the creation of ICM’s Digital Media Group as well as acting as a co-founding partner of Internet entertainment company Icebox, co-founder and VP of Marketing at Boost, co-founder and COO at Amp’d and general manager of the HBO / AOL comedy joint venture, said William Morris was a partner of theirs back in the Amp’d days when the talent agency helped the mobile entertainment company form relationships with content creators.

"It’s something that kind of grew out of a conversation that was happening post-Amp’d," Stanford said. "They were in the corporate advisory business already, but I think they saw there were opportunities to go beyond what they were already doing for clients that we could help them do. So, I think we were both thinking about it from the opposite perspective, and over the course of a lunch, we decided it might make sense to start a company to go out and really institutionalize these ideas."

What is Agency 3.0 about? Actually, it might be easier to say what the company is not about. It’s not about building Web sites or doing ads. Instead, it’s about building brands, customers and territories. In short, it’s about building businesses.

"We want to help our clients to build businesses, or market their businesses in different places," Stanford said. "We certainly don’t pretend to be the experts about the music industry, but from our Amp’d experience we learned a lot about how to market music, certainly in the mobile world. If you look at all the content Amp’d downloaded, almost half of it was music.

"It was because of the way we promoted music on the device, the music interface we built, the world that we built around a song. For our customers, music was more than just a song, it was a lifestyle.

"We allowed people to search in different ways. We allowed people to consume music in different ways, and really tried to build a consumer-friendly interface for people to engage with the products. And that really drove consumption on our platform dramatically. It’s probably more of a technology problem that we solve, a technology interface and usability problem, than [that] we’re going to come in and reinvent the music industry, because that’s certainly not where we come from."

Agency 3.0’s emergence as an important player is as much about the current state of the entertainment industry as it is about a group of digital-savvy business execs forming a company with a legendary talent agency. In a world where Hollywood both welcomes and fears technology, where computer companies sell music and recording artists bypass labels to sell directly to fans, there’s a definite need for those who can connect the seemingly disparate factors involved with, say a movie, TV show, CD release or concert tour and utilize technology toward a successful outcome.

"When it comes to the Web, Apple has really defined distribution of the product, and has done very well. Now that they have their iPhone platform, they’re working on lots of innovative ways to do it," Stanford said. "There are lots of other technology companies out there that are trying to market music devices. If you think about it in the perspective of the consumer electronics company that wants to be competitive in the distribution of music or any other content tied to consumers, [our goal is to] help them better shape the experience to be one that consumers want to take advantage of."

If anything, the folks at Agency 3.0 understand how the world has changed. It’s not the world you knew like the back of your hand only a few short years ago. Companies that once dealt with retailers are selling directly to consumers, and companies that market directly to consumers are looking to technology to stay competitive. TV ads and billboards are just voices amid the clutter of messages trying to find recipients.

There are solutions that haven’t been tried, ideas that haven’t been presented and methods waiting to be exploited. It’s not just thinking outside the box, but thinking outside today’s business environment, combining technology with content with distribution channels that will bring about victory and long-term success.

"We started seeing there were more and more companies that found themselves in the situation of needing to do either the consumer side of the business they weren’t in, or the technology side of the business they weren’t in," Stanford said. "We feel we are uniquely suited to help solve some of those problems."

Agency 3.0 is a joint venture between the founders and the William Morris Agency, which also has an investment stake in the company. Stanford said his people wanted to leverage the talent agency’s knowledge, relationships and access. In return, William Morris wanted to leverage the founders’ expertise in the digital world so that both parties could jointly build new businesses. In addition, each side is there to lend their expertise to the other’s clients.

"We talk about it a lot internally, but I don’t know if we’ve communicated it effectively," Stanford said. "One of the original tenets of the business was really to go out and to build businesses … What we really wanted to do was partner with others to build new businesses in this sort of hybrid digital content world, and every aspect of that, in some cases the partner might fund it, and in other cases we might go out and get third-party funding. The business is really about creating new opportunities for our partners, and participating in the upside of those things more than it is just functioning in the traditional agency mold."