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Lifestyle and word-of-mouth marketing U.K.

Holmes Report

Launched in 1993, Exposure remains one of the most successful independent firms in the UK’s thriving consumer market. The agency was founded by Raoul Shah, a 24-year-old who had held marketing and promotions roles at Pepe Jeans Group. Shah wanted to concentrate on projects that created brand equity, with a recognition that PR was a powerful tool within a broader below-the-line marketing mix. In its 18 years of existence, he has been able to marry traditional PR with less conventional word-of-mouth marketing techniques, creating a $37 million consultancy that employs more than 150 people across offices in London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.

Exposure, in common with many consumer consultancies, places a premium on the impact of conversation when it comes to influencing brand behaviour. But the firm has proven considerably more successful than most at creating and deploying the kinds of strategies that help brands develop never-ending conversations which can drive sales, protect value and enable them to remain relevant. Accordingly, the agency has been focused on earned and shared media well before the terms became fashionable, utilising a variety of content creation ideas to drive genuine engagement and influence.

The agency’s business model aims for the nexus between fashion and lifestyle, where it possesses an intimate understanding of trends and influence, and blue-chip and FMCG brands, centred around three services: planning, creative and client servicing. The wider Exposure Group also includes specialities in digital, sales promotion, activation, sponsorship, advertising, and experiential - giving the agency an impressively rounded offering. This has been bolstered by a new planning methodology called the ‘Channel of Disproportionate Influence’, whereby Exposure attempts to find the channel that has a disproportionate effect on the consumer’s decision.

Shah is joined on Exposure’s leadership team by joint CEO Tim Bourne who joined the agency in 1997, after board director positions at Interfocus and Billington Cartmell. Bourne has proved instrumental in establishing the blue-chip pillar at Exposure, which now includes such clients as Heineken, Sony PlayStations, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Bacardi Martini and O2. Other key senior executives include group communications director Heather Ogie and executive creative director Mark Blenkinsop.

Despite economic turbulence, Exposure grew its turnover by 14 per cent in 2010, driven largely by organic growth from longstanding clients such as Levi’s Strauss and Dr Martens. An increased focus on integrated marketing and global deployment of campaigns helped in this regard, as did the relaunch of its product development business, The Gild. In the US, meanwhile, Exposure’s win of Microsoft transformed its business in that country, while its Japanese operation has also seen steady growth since launching in 2009.

There is no shortage of clever, creative campaigns where Exposure are concerned. To celebrate Dr Martens’ 50th anniversary, the agency developed a multimedia content idea that saw 10 classic music tracks recreated by 10 contemporary music artists in 10 music videos. For Levi’s meanwhile, Exposure created a through-the-line push entitled ‘Craftwork’, to accompany the brand’s new global strategy of ‘return to craft’. Real people were cast as the faces for the campaign, each of whom offered unique craft talents and strong perspectives on creativity. On behalf of Jacques Townhouse, Exposure developed an above-the-line campaign to help the brand appeal to a whole new demographic, using a Facebook hub and blogger relationships along with partnerships with female-friendly brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and Molly Bakes.

“Exposure created and smoothly delivered a stand-out campaign for Jacques cider this summer ensuring the brand featured across a huge range of female targeted media,” said Heineken UK brand director Sanjay Patel. “Hundreds of credible mentions were tracked across a wide range of on and off line titles and blogs. In addition they executed a secret gig during Edinburgh Fringe for Bulmers securing features in every major Scottish newspaper.”

The agency’s biggest clients in 2010 were Microsoft, Heineken—for which it works on Bulmers Cider, Tiger Beer and Jacques Cider—Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Imperial Tobacco, Nike (including Umbro), and Sony PlayStation. New additions in the past 12 months include Twinings, Levi’s Europe, Hunter Boots and UGG Australia.

“We have to work with right partners to help us achieve this and Exposure has been by our side for 10 years now. 2010 was notable for us and for them as they led the European PR for our extremely successful womenswear launch, Curve ID,” says Levi’s Strauss UK & Ireland GM Tim Larcombe. “They also conceived and delivered the ATL and in-store creative for the re-launch of our London flagship store.”—AS

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