Andy Scales is a man who likes to do things differently.
The founder of CampaignLab, a Sydney-based communications agency that also has a presence in London, has ideas. And he’s willing to share them with any brand on a regular basis, even those not on his client roster.
Scales has launched CampaignLab ON, a free subscription platform that brands can sign up for to receive ideas from CampaignLab’s creative team on potential hijacking opportunities or campaign pitches.
Matching up with CampaignLab’s philosophy of tracking conversations and then turning them into opportunities for brands, Scales says the service will keep brands fully abreast of the latest hot topics and news trends, develop a brief if there is something appropriate, and send it back to them.
"From that point there’s three options," Scales tells PRWeek Asia. "They like it and want us to run with it; they like it but they’ve got an existing agency or in-house team, in which case they can pay a one-off fee for the creative concept; or they don’t like it and we go back to the drawing board, carrying on what we’re doing anyway."
The one-off fee to secure the idea and take it away is A$1,500.
It is certainly an innovative approach. Scales says he hasn’t seen "anything quite like" CampaignLab ON in the market, and the notion of offering an agency’s pitches and creative intellectual property so freely is not something many would be comfortable with.
"I think it’s going to be pretty impactful," he says. "Because of how we’re set up [in London and Sydney], we’re able to do this 24/7 so we can be constantly flicking through those ideas for brands.
"We always find ourselves looking at a hijacking opportunity and we think ‘this would be a great campaign for…’ but we’re not working with them. Often just identifying that idea and then finding the right home for it is half the battle. You might have hot trends but you haven’t got clients in that space."
Scales is well aware that CampaignLab ON is a bold move, particularly when the first issue that springs to mind to most people seems obvious: the risk of theft and plagiarism.
What’s to stop a brand notionally rejecting a CampaignLab pitch, not paying the fee, and then reproducing the creative itself? Scales’ response is open and pragmatic.
"That’s always going to be the risk, but it’s been a problem for PR and marketing agencies for years. Our model is that if brands want to take an idea and run with it, they make a one-off payment. It’s not ridiculous money – maybe I should put the price up – but it’s a new concept and that’s what we’re going in at."
The potential benefit for brands from CampaignLab ON is clear. But that potential runs both ways, and for Scales’ burgeoning agency it is a shrewd and innovative way of getting in front of more businesses.
"Approaching clients is always a bit of a challenge, particularly as a new growing agency [CampaignLab was set up last year]. Just getting in the door is half the challenge," Scales explains.
The timing is also smart, with the ongoing shifts in the agency-brand relationship and the growing trend for companies to take on project-based work rather than long-term retainers.
"There are a lot of cases, particularly with bigger brands, where they’re part of a global alignment agency-wise," Scales says.
"Sometimes that can be a rigid model because they’re not getting to pick and choose whom they’re working with. So this is just a way to add fresh thinking and test their current partners. CampaignLab ON helps brands stay relevant, by being up to date with consumers and what they’re talking about."
The service is built on Scales’ ethos of looking for conversations to join and influence as a brand, rather than trying to directly engage consumers. He says CampaignLab is reflecting the way in which people, particularly millennials, consume content today.
"I think the mistake a lot of brands make is that they want to tell their audience about themselves all the time. It’s far too direct and it’s not going to get the cut-through," he says.
"It’s a subtle difference, but looking at the conversations that are taking place in that area, and then bring in your key messages on that back of them, is another great way."
The strategy has already worked for several clients, including mobile phone giant Oppo. Tracking the conversations around the exploding popularity of emojis, CampaignLab responded by having Oppo release an Aussie emoji keyboard.
The campaign was turned around in just three weeks, and garnered extensive coverage in mainstream and social media, helping boost Oppo’s brand awareness in Australia.
With CampaignLab ON, Scales is looking to find more homes like this for his team’s conveyor belt of creative ideas.
"We’re also talking around themes. Individual topics might change, and we can develop new campaigns around them, but a generation or target audience having conversations around themes like fashion, sport or lifestyle, continue to have those conversations.
"The details can change and we have to respond to that as we go."