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Extreme Reach streamlines its services and launches tech-forward XR rebrand

19 January 2024

Powerhouse industry player Extreme Reach earlier this month announced its rebrand to XR - marking both a streamlining of its services in a unified platform and a fresh emphasis on the game-changing insights the company can offer.

Ahead of the rebrand, AADC sat down to speak with Louisa Wong - who was appointed CEO of Extreme Reach in 2023 - about her vision for harnessing the company’s data to enable clients to unlock new creative frontiers.

AADC: What are the big ideas that you've been pursuing in this first six months in your role and that you want to make progress on in your first year at Extreme Reach?

Louisa Wong: Everything that we do is in service of the client, right? So, it's not what I want to do. I think it's much more about what I've observed in the industry and with my background – having worked with various CMOs all over the world – understanding what's keeping them up at night.

I think when you look at – whether it's media or technology or data – the world has become more fragmented.

I remember in 2008, I think there was about 3,500 companies on the Luma map. Today, there's 11,000. So, when I think of the fragmentation and the complexity that we have to help clients navigate, my pure focus is around connectivity and simplicity.

One of the great things about Extreme Reach is that because it grew through acquisition, it actually acquired a lot of point solutions along the way… [and] what XR or Extreme Reach has successfully done is actually, from a technology standpoint, integrated all those capabilities into a single source of truth.

But, we never told the story. And so, my role coming into Extreme Reach is to help this organisation better tell its story, but also help clients better understand how to interact with Extreme Reach moving forward.

XR Logo Lockup Off Black RGB

"XR is harnessing AI and data-driven insights to help Marketers make smarter decisions and drive return on investment," said the company when the rebrand launched on January 9.

AADC: In terms of getting clients to actually interact with the full suite of what you're offering, what's stopping that happening at the moment? What are the barriers that you need to overcome?

Louisa Wong: The interesting thing is we are already operating with the top 200 brands in the world… but the challenge today is that we've been operating with them on individual point solutions.

They'll know us for TV delivery, they'll know us for digital delivery, they'll know us for campaign affairs, for post-production services, and a whole suite of tools that sit within the creative supply chain wheelhouse.

So, they know they're interacting with us, but they don't know how the sum of parts come together. And actually, the value that Extreme Reach drives is not through the sum parts solutions, but actually the metadata generated through the activities of the services that we provide them.

What was interesting was we did this piece of research for a client – a large CPG client – to understand what percentage of their assets were being utilised globally.

They came up with a hypothesis that at least 80 per cent must have been used… If you're creating these beautiful ads, and only 20 per cent are being used, there's either something wrong with how your individual markets are thinking about using it, or there needs to be more insight being given to the creative agencies around what is working and not actually working. Around what is fit for purpose in market.

When you start thinking about local adaptation, when you start thinking about versioning, you're better informed, and there's a more science-based approach using that metadata to inform how you're optimising your creative process right through to your production process as well.

AADC: Why do you think that flow of the data and the adoption of data by the creative side of the business has been slower?

Louisa Wong: I think that in the creative space, I don't think it's a lack of desire or access to data, but it's actually understanding where to start. Because often creative agencies will start with consumer insight.

And, you know, my career has been built on the media side, and for the longest time we've been trying to build the bridge between media and creative. And the two never meet. Now, I actually think that there is a real opportunity, because Extreme Reach really focuses around how we manage and distribute assets on behalf of our clients.

And with that asset, we've created what we call a Universal Creative ID, which is a unique identifier against every version of an ad that's been created. And we can track that through the full lifecycle.

I would love to empower the industry to use the Universal Creative ID…because the metadata is, quite frankly, the truth.

I think everyone has used surveys that use, you know, panel-based insights, but no one's really harvested the metadata, because we've been sitting on that metadata for years. We've actually been building up to this moment, this moment in January when we will start revealing how we can help brands better unify creative and media ROI [return on investment] in a single source of truth.

…As an example, one of our other capabilities is we track global rights associated with every creative that's developed. The rights associated with the talent in the ad, music rights, and any other rights that get secured, right through to things like sponsorship and partnership.

I'm not picking on Hugh Jackman, but if you have Hugh Jackman fronting your campaign globally, you could actually look – if you were to correlate creative ROI in with media ROI – you now start to quantify; does it work having Hugh Jackman? Or should I really be considering Nicole Kidman?

And maybe different people for different segments of your market?

I'm being somewhat facetious here, but being able to correlate how you're investing in creative, how you're investing in brand sponsorships, correlating that to sales data… correlating that to media ROI, now gives you a much more 360 view around your marketing investment.

AADC: There is a sort of interesting push and pull around versioning and personalisation where I think it’s highly valuable when it's for purpose, but is there a tension there where if you start to get maybe too seduced by the data you can lose sight of the bigger brand story?

Louisa Wong: I actually think you would do a better job of being able to tell a better brand story.

In a world where we're trying to move away from cookies and where we think about privacy, what does targeting look like?

Targeting doesn't look like the final mile of action. And actually, context is really important, right? And representation's really important. So, when you think of personalisation, it should be at the point of inception. Not at the point of media activation.

My whole point was really when you think about versioning, because we did a DEI report last year… which looked at representation in ads, and it showed that the needle hasn't really shifted. That 75 per cent of representation is still male-led voices or male-led actors.

And so, in a world where we're all championing DEI and we want to see more people like us in ads, the needle hasn't shifted.

So, why do you think that personalisation in the final mile is what is going to get people to respond?

What I'm trying to do is surface data so that when we think about personalisation, we're thinking it about it at ideation and inception. Not in the final mile.

AADC: I wanted to circle back to the question I intended to ask you first – what was the attraction for you with this role? What made you think, yes, this is what I want to focus on?

Louisa Wong: Quite frankly, I was approached. I've been in media and advertising now for over 20 years of my career. I've worked on the publisher side, I've worked in ad tech. I spent the last 15 years on the agency side. I believe that my diversity of experience has really got me to where I am today.

And they presented me this challenge of, ‘this is a really interesting business, it's been around for 50 years – it's known for the pipes. It's known to be this legacy business. And there's a real opportunity to help retell the story’.

As I did more research into the company, I felt that, hold on, this is a data company. It's not an ad delivery company. It's not even just an asset management company, it's a data company.

And it didn't realise its potential yet.

That’s what I leaned towards – transformational stories. And I felt that I could be the right person to come in to help bring this company together and this business together and try and lead it into the future.

I'm a big believer that you don't solve problems of today. You solve problems of tomorrow.