5 minutes with Zocalo Group CEO Paul Rand

As Zocalo Group moves away from Ketchum to digital specialist Critical Mass, its CEO and founder Paul Rand answers a few questions from PRWeek.

It’s a new day at Zocalo Group. Parent Omnicom Group said this month that it is making the digital and social media specialist firm an affiliate of Critical Mass. It was previously a part of Ketchum.

Omnicom said Zocalo will give Critical Mass’ social capabilities a boost, while Critical Mass will provide Zocalo with a global footprint.

PRWeek asked Zocalo CEO Paul Rand a few questions about the transition.

What do you see as the big differences, before and after the move?
I think that Critical Mass is regarded, inside Omnicom, as an incredibly progressive digital and experiential agency, and they are very actively winning some extraordinary new pieces of business.

I think [Omnicom DAS chairman and CEO] Dale Adams had a good quote saying that [Zocalo has] established an incredible presence in digital and social, and Critical Mass could not be more progressive and growing in the experiential design business. And I think he thought if we put those two together, they could interact and build upon each other.

What’s the downside of leaving a firm like Ketchum?
There are wonderful people at Ketchum. I had an agency acquired by Omnicom many years ago and put into Ketchum, and I had many roles and I had a long history with them.

What’s the difference between being a part of a PR firm and an agency like Critical Mass?
The digital and social space by the day is becoming more sophisticated and demands a really strong commitment to learning, investment, and innovation. I think the competition for ad dollars among the big players is really driving the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to create an ability to drive, track, and manage your content.

If you look at the early days of direct marketing, you had addressability, and now you are getting addressability at scale, and to be committed to pursuing this is a really big strategic decision. At Zocalo, it’s something we have made incredible progress in, but we wanted to expand our geographic footprint and expand in the way the market is shifting. It was going to take a lot more resources, and a lot of those existed inside Critical Mass, and a lot of what they wanted already existed inside Zocalo.

What are your goals for the firm?
My great hope is to really continue to grow -- to grow capabilities but also to create new opportunities for our team. If we don’t evolve and help lead clients into all these changes, we’re going to get left behind.

One thing we see is there is a giant gap between customer expectations and brand experiences. Technology has advanced in many ways faster than brands can keep up with, but the expectations of customers are there. If we can get clients there faster, that’s a big competitive advantage.

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