Digital agency TH_NK has been landing a few interesting projects lately, including a big role in the development of the online world of Pottermore. John Hill catches up with chief executive Tarek Nseir to find out how the company thinks.
SOMETHING’S going on up there, in the blue building perched next to the Tyne Bridge.
They can’t always tell you what it is, but there’s a sense that interesting experiments are bubbling away at 55 Degrees North, the home of self-styled “digital innovation agency” TH_NK.
It’s the curse of the agency, it seems. For months, you’re sitting on a project that’s got you buzzing, but you can’t tell anyone why you’re bouncing up and down like a bowl of jelly strapped to a rodeo bull.
While the details are often under wraps, TH_NK is currently beavering away on “digital innovation” projects with the likes of Sony, The Sun newspaper, Formica, Audi, Bupa, Blackberry and the BBC.
Back in the day, it was more of a web design firm. However, it’s spent the last few years re-styling itself as a “digital innovation agency”, with a broader scope and its own strategy team.
It’s got offices in Newcastle and London, and is looking to boost its workforce significantly in the near future.
So what does a “digital innovation agency” actually do?
“We do a whole range of things”, says chief executive Tarek Nseir.
“We’ve earned a reputation for our ability to deliver digital strategy and really big digital ideas.
“We used to be a web design agency. We still do that, but the web design market is highly commoditised and we’ve had to evolve the business fast and hard.
“There hasn’t been a single project which is the same as another, and it’s been that way for the last three years.”
In business terms, TH_NK offers clients a range of services which help them reach customers and get their attention.
There are digital marketing services such as email marketing, mobile, search engine optimisation and web analytics.
There’s strategic planning, as well as industry and business analysis. There’s creative design and copywriting, technical design and development, and even hosting services and maintenance.
What makes the company really interesting, Nseir says, is that it usually gets to use its imagination, cooking up projects which encourage clients and customers to interact in a completely new way.
“The pillars that make up digital for a business aren’t going to change in the near future. The challenge is how to approach it in a different way. What if you can use digital to create a brand new relationship with customers?
“For example, an agency could help a bank to make its online banking better, or it could step above that and start looking at what it could do with digital to conceive an entirely different way of banking; an entirely new set of products that might be more socially conceived.
“What’s often most exciting is when the brief is to define the brief; when we’re asked: ‘What should we be doing in digital?’, rather than ‘Can you build us a mobile app?’
“We’ve used digital to help clients not only to deliver their ambition but to refine their ambition.”