Interview: Exposure Digitizes Fashion PR

From e-commerce to publishing, digital technology has dramatically reshaped many of the industry’s business practices. The past few seasons, a number of fashion PR firms have been integrating technical innovations to streamline their admin heavy operations, and progressively minded, multi-faceted agency Exposure has been at the forefront of this shift away from manual processes. JC Report recently chatted with the company’s CEO Raoul Shah about the it’s edgy business ethos, exciting upcoming projects and the power of “word of mouse…”

Feature ImageJC Report: What was the impetus to start implementing digital technology at Exposure?

Raoul Shah: Since 1993, we have always managed to keep the agency open to new technology and shifts in the marketing landscape. As soon as the digital era had dawned, we were already exploring ways to bring this exciting, world-shifting development into our business. Exposure’s fist foray into digital was over seven years ago when we built Disney’s first e-commerce movie site. At the time, we were really exploring new models for distribution, but it was also the beginning of our growth in digital marketing and establishing a channel that allowed our clients to develop an ongoing and fluid dialogue directly with consumers. Bringing digital into the heart of the agency has meant that we now talk about all communications as “inline” (not “on” or “off”), and each of our specialist divisions such as PR, events, design and brand experience has embraced the opportunity to improve its own capabilities.

Our founding principle has been to avoid institutionalizing solutions or indeed the agency’s capability, simply because both the hardware and software are changing dynamically.

JCR: What are some of the digitization efforts that you’ve already implemented?

RS: Firstly, we believe you need to practice what you preach. From brand planning and communication strategy, we always have digital at the center of every beginning—from brief to delivery. Consumers live in the center of a multi-screen world. If we don’t live this too, then we’re fundamentally misunderstanding their needs.

In the fashion division, all our clients’ collections are managed through Fashion GPS and POS, a really smart and detailed system to track the movements of every sample we hold. It has improved our response rates to service media, it has made the agency more accountable to clients when handling their collections and it has brought a very professional approach to our fashion business. The use of iPads to present client collections was another example of how we have integrated digital technology into a process that traditionally relies on presenting physical products. It was slick, in depth and comprehensive—all facilitating the dialogue we have with media, which ultimately leads to better representation of our client’s brands. As a global agency, it makes the agency more efficient, aligned and quicker to respond to the needs of our clients.

We were one of the first agencies to use Augmented Reality technology to engage consumers simultaneously via real time experiential marketing and online engagement for the launch of a new chewing gum for Wrigleys.

Another application of augmented reality saw the agency create a mobile phone app for Tiger beer as part of its Chinese New Year activity. Amongst other things, the app enabled consumers to find restaurants to celebrate Chinese New Year and review consumer recommendations.

Exposure used body-scanning technology to enable consumers in shopping centers to discover jeans brands and styles that match their personal physique

Social media is an imperative to our fashion campaigns, inspiring conversations and sharing content around our brands. Whether it’s beautiful video content for fans to share, discussion and UGC in Facebook, or the power of influence through our network of trusted and respected bloggers, the power of opinion is the most powerful tool in our marketing box right now.

JCR: What problems have they solved?

RS: Beyond simple product presentations, we were able to show more insight into the inspiration for each collection, showcase brand history, preview creative campaigns and advertising imagery and, overall, tell a deeper and more meaningful story about each brand. Media has the benefit of everything on a USB stick, so no need for paper and notes.

JCR: Any roadblocks in your effort to digitize Exposure’s showroom?

RS: Internally, the newer members of the team are fully tuned into digital and the multitude of facets that this world has. Culturally, we have needed to train some of the team who were brought up in the analogue world of telephone lines and mailouts. Externally, some fashion brands have been slower to adopt digital technology and are perhaps still not fully geared up to develop their brands through digital. It’s more than a website and an e-commerce platform. It’s not just a channel or some nice looking hardware. It’s a true revolution that touches nearly every aspect of modern life and business, so it’s an imperative. As smart phone usage grows exponentially, there will be a continual evolution in how individuals and businesses embrace the switch from computers to mobile, especially when it comes to simple things like “search.”

JCR: Are these systems easy and cost effective to implement?

RS: These systems can be simple to implement at a topline level. However, to really build digital into a viable foundation for the whole agency, it takes some serious investment in software and hardware, training for our teams and some organizational re-structure too. It’s a total shift in mindset and operational process.

JCR: What has been the outright return on such investments?

RS: Clients are more satisfied with the impact of our investment. Their collections are managed and presented better, the approach is more professional and the alignment between our different showrooms in London, New York and Tokyo has become highly efficient. This means better client retention, plus Exposure’s digital offer means a new revenue stream for the agency and a broader scope of work when working with our clients. In addition, we can activate our campaigns from anywhere without the necessity to always be based in the office and showroom. Having said that, we have not forgotten the art of conversation and the power of word of mouth when building relationships across our network. It’s just now complemented by word of mouse.

JCR: Let us in on what you’re working on in the near term in this space?

RS: One of the exciting developments as a result of digital integration will be the increased frequency of our press days, possibly to quarterly events, not bi-annual. In addition, we will develop a full online showroom for the media, which will offer a deep insight into every brand and collection plus the opportunity to draw on samples from different showrooms.

JCR: Do you think this is a sustainable trend?

RS: This is more than a trend. It’s a change in business culture. I think the fundamental secret to digital delivering improved agency process and valuable commercial return is the need to be flexible and quick to evolve as the industry changes. Like fashion, digital is a fast-moving and ever-changing world, so the need to be in tune and immersed in the sector is vital. Our digital team now numbers 16 spread between London, New York and San Francisco, and that is growing every quarter.

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