William Rosen

Chief Executive Officer at VSA Partnersc.

Widely recognized as a leader in cross-channel marketing and branding, William Rosen leads VSA Partners as Chief Executive Officer. William oversees the firm’s commitment to artfully crafted, user-centric solutions that build brands and business on behalf of clients, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Google, Nike, Procter & Gamble, IBM, McDonald’s, and Allstate. He was previously President and Chief Creative Officer of North America for Arc Worldwide, the global marketing company that is part of Leo Burnett Worldwide and the Publicis Groupe. William has been recognized more than 300 times with major creative awards around the world and served as president of the jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Exploring the IMC Process at an Integrated Agency

As a marketer, do you see a world that is purely driven by behavioral data to identify the right customers?

No, I see data and creativity being linked inextricably, and that’s the leap that the industry has yet to make. The answers can’t all come from data. There has to be an inspiration, a human element that when you work on the insights, you’re going to get an inspired strategic solution that no dataset could ever produce. So I believe it’s the marriage of data and creativity, and the ability to utilize both the left and right brain. I think the winning companies are going to be those who have a mastery of the data, but still have this intangible creative capability that can take the data and do something inspired with it.

What according to you is an insight? And how do you discover a true insight about your target?

To me, an insight has to be both fresh and actionable. It has to be a new way to understand how or why people do what they do, a new way of reframing the problem. We use a variety of techniques to get to insights; qualitative research, quantitative research, data science, behavioral science, design thinking, predictive analytics, reframing, etc. We use them all and in different combinations depending on the challenge, because you never know precisely when and how you’re going to unlock a real insight. Our goal is to hit on such a unique insight into human behavior or human motivations or the opportunity to emotionally connect with the brand or product that our creatives end up having an unfair advantage.

What are your thoughts on the idea that existing customers are three-times more profitable than new customers?

I think that is logical, because it is always less expensive to retain a customer than it is to gain a new one. So I would imagine that it’s the cost factor driving this theory. If someone is a current customer, you can assume there’s a degree of loyalty, which can often be turned into advocacy, and that is the highest-value customer there is. You’ve got to make sure that once you engage with a customer, you are doing your best to drive toward that long-term relationship, creating value at every touch point. Because if you’re not, you’re going to lose those folks, and it’s always easier to keep someone than it is to gain someone new.

There are endless means to deliver messages to customers today, like experiential marketing. What are your thoughts on it?

Experiential marketing to me is about participation and interaction, an experience of a real tangible event. Something memorable I’ve done, somewhere I went and participated. Experiential marketing has become more powerful with the rise of social media, because suddenly now I can share my experience with everybody in my social graph, and there’s a certain one-ups-manship of “look what I did.” I got backstage and I got to taste the product that’s not out yet, and this has social currency. So, interestingly, the rise of the digital and social world has made physical experience more valuable, because now it is amplified and shared and has a greater reach. So I didn’t just reach one person on the street with a sample. When he took a picture of the product and shared it with the rest of the world, now 100,000 people know that we’re launching a new product next week.

What is the difference between loyalty and retention?

Retention is describing a customer who stays involved with the brand. Loyalty to me is describing how I feel about the brand. Retention describes continuing to engage, whereas loyalty is a higher level of emotional connection that generally comes with advocacy, which is a very powerful tool. Because as much as the work we do is wonderful, it’s always more powerful when a real person recommends a brand. I would always like my retained customers to be advocates for me on social media, because that to me is the greatest ROI possible.

How critical is the evaluation process in marketing?

It is absolutely critical. One of the things we do before any project starts is establish the key performance indicators. We define success very precisely before the project begins; not just sales, but how much sales, from whom, during what period, and at what cost. We want to be measured, because that quantifies our effectiveness. But it’s important to set up the measurement criteria before you start doing the work, because the decisions you make along the way are governed by how you define success. So if I’m looking to increase the visits or looking to increase trade-up among existing customers, those are all different objectives that are going to result in different solutions. So the more precisely you can define the measurement criteria at the outset of the project, the more successful you’ll be.

How would you describe Integrated Marketing Communications in one sentence?

It is using all of the appropriate tools available, to reach the right customer at the right time with the right message to drive engagement and affinity with the brand.

Interview by Payal Jhawar, Medill IMC Class Of 2018

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