As an agency, Function’s (FXN’s) job is more than to provide expert guidance – we also need to expertly package it.
Securing client buy-in is vital to creating lasting, productive relationships. We aim to accomplish this by helping clients see exactly how we’re helping them: identifying what success looks like, how to achieve it, and, crucially, why these benchmarks are important and why these processes are the best way of going about meeting and exceeding them.
With this in mind, we sat down with Robert Grassl, Managing Lead of Content, Search and Media, to talk through how this happens, his role in helping accomplish it, and how he became the right person for the job.
“Everyone knows they want to connect with their audience. It’s our job to understand what that looks like in terms of actions and KPIs – and to help our clients understand those connections, too,” Robert says. “When clients know why we do what we do, it makes everything easier and more efficient.”
“The most important thing when it comes to data is identifying which data is important.”
It’s not all pouring over data with Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” droning in the background – though there is a fair amount of that, as Robert keeps a turntable near his standing desk, and the album is a favorite of his for just such tasks. Rather, much of his work is understanding who the various client-side stakeholders are and anticipating and addressing their questions and concerns as he and his team work to connect them with their ideal customers.
“The most important thing when it comes to data is identifying which data is important to what you’re trying to do,” he says. “Especially in the digital advertising sphere, there’s so much data available, you have to identify what to hone in on. And even when you know what to focus on, there is a danger in being too beholden to data. Data is usually a good thing, but there’s a fine line between ‘proven track record’ and ‘done before.’ Being too heads-down into data can hamper the creativity that can make marketing transformative. Don’t be afraid to take big swings!”
You have to know which big swings to take, too, though.
And that comes back to understanding the stakeholders involved and their relevant concerns, such as:
- The client (or initiative’s) brand
- What kinds of creative approaches the client is amenable to
- How our proposed approach aligns with the client’s definition(s) of success – and if we need to discuss different, meaningful ways to define it
“The planning phase is where the work that drives real results gets done,” Robert says. “Once the campaign launches, it’s launched, and largely the results will be what they will be, at least in the short term. Guiding clients in how to lay the groundwork for successful campaigns is critical, and a part of that is picking which data is important: picking primary KPIs, making sure they’re clear, and organizing the entire initiative around that. Having the chance to do something creative and off the beaten path often comes with getting buy-in at all levels on the client side. So you need them to not only understand what you’re going for, but you need to demonstrate how you’re going to show them you’re succeeding in your aims, in a way that matters to them.”
That’s one of the main advantages of working with Function, Robert notes. The agency does so much in house, it can take a more holistic view, which provides more opportunities for creative problem solving.
“We have such great people working here, with diverse expertise and skills,” says Robert. “By having all of the resources we need in house, we can speak authoritatively to what’s realistic, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. There are a million companies that do some version of what we do, but Function’s unique combination of people – that includes personalities, perspectives and skill sets, among other things – really helps set us apart."
Room to innovate
This strong focus on client relationships – and Function’s reliable expertise – both build and reward clients’ trust. By working closely with clients to help them understand how and why we want to help them pursue their goals – and demonstrating our success in a digestible, convincing manner – we earn the room in which to innovate.
That space to innovate is also space to differentiate. It’s an opportunity that is sometimes rare in the agency world, but it’s one Robert appreciates – and gets more often these days.
“Before I worked at Function, all my work was with entertainment brands, where really understanding your audience, and understanding them fast, is especially critical,” Robert says. “You pretty much get 2 to 3 weeks in the limelight, and you either hit the mark or you don’t. Way before you even start marketing production, you need to know exactly who it’s for. Often, if you miss on that analysis, there is no second season of the show you’re promoting.
“ In recent years, studios and TV networks have at times allowed the social and digital campaigns to really drive campaign strategy, and when I’ve been part of campaigns like that, we’ve had a blast with it. Very often, with big franchises, social and digital are left to follow in the footsteps of big TV marketing buys and sort of build around what they do. Being on the team in the driver’s seat for a change is exciting.
“Doing that work helped prepare me for my time at Function. While our clients these days may not be releasing blockbuster movies, at the end of the day, you still have to capture attention. You have to have an answer for how you’re going to grab your people in 5 seconds online. And you develop that answer in the planning stage, where Function really thrives. Our approach gives us a chance to help set that kind of strategy.”
The Function difference
“During my time here, people both on the client side and at Function have been open to new ideas,” Robert says. “Feeling that trust in me and my experience and my perspective is nice.”
“If there’s something I feel strongly about – for example, we’re about to kick off market research for a client, something we’ve been pushing for a long time. They were receptive to the idea, but it took us months to get all the buy-in & approvals, and now it’s happening. Sometimes progress can be slow, but at the end of the day, we’re moving clients in the right direction, in large part because they’re willing to be moved, and Function has my back in going after the best course of action.”
Robert particularly appreciates the humanity of working at FXN.
“Something I really like about FXN is that the focus is on helping you contribute, and growing what you do have to contribute,” Robert says. “You don’t really hear Shane or Ash or Chris being like, ‘this is going to be a great money-making opportunity for us!’
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that the money does come in and the checks are reliable. That said, even though part of my job is bringing in money for the company by selling media, I don’t have sales goals; I’m not trying to hit certain numbers or risk losing out on compensation. The metric is client success, and those are metrics we set together.
“I have a great boss. Chris, and I think the rest of the supervisors at Function, understand that your life is not standing in front of this desk and pumping out reports all day. We’re treated like people. There’s flexibility. For example, I’m wearing slippers right now.
“I know not every work environment out there is as solid as what we have at FXN. Not everywhere is willing to give you room to dig deep with clients and try things. I’ve seen some, ah, ‘stuff,’ and we’ve got it good.”