W2O won one of my favorite awards in marketing and communications a couple of weeks ago: the Holmes In2 Sabre Award for Best Marketing Technology. What I love about this award is that it recognizes achievement in scaling great work, rather than recognizing a one-off campaign. It’s our second Best Marketing Technology win in as many years.

I’ve always suspected that campaign-based awards, which are so prominent in our industry, perpetuate the ubiquitous hero-culture at agencies. While this is a bit of an oversimplification, I’m sure all of you agency veterans know the story: A rock-star creative director, strategist, analytics pro, or similar, creates a one-of-a-kind project for a client, something so complicated, cool and amazing, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else doing it. The resulting campaign is unequaled. The individual(s) who created the campaign are indispensable.

I absolutely don’t mean to be a downer about rock-stars and amazing campaigns. But it is more important to recognize the creative individuals that go one step further and make their talents or ideas scalable, allowing far more people to execute like they do. Those are the people that make agencies great and, ultimately, allows us to deliver better services to our clients.

David Chang, the guy behind the Momofuku restaurant group and creator of, hands-down, the best business-related podcast in 2018, provides a good analogy in the restaurant industry:

“You want to make dishes that people can execute. My biggest pet peeve is when I see someone I’ve promoted to be a chef or sous chef and they put something on the menu and it’s delicious and it’s super [effing] cool, but only they can execute it. What’s the point? [The Chef’s] job is to make everyone as successful as possible. Why would you want to set up [your cooks] for failure by making a dish that they can’t do?”

It’s obviously a different business model. But the gist of what David’s saying is the foundation of our analytics practice at W2O: high quality and repeatable products that can be executed by as many people here as possible.

To that end, I’m very proud that we won the In2 Best Marketing Technology award again this year. We won for a product called Magic-8 Ball that uses organic search data to understand audience’s mental maps of various topics, the language they use to describe those topics, and how we can target them across a range of digital PESO activations.

The approach was conceived by W2O’s search lead, Alan Garcia several years ago. It was something, initially, he was doing manually. Then he wrote some Python code to capture the process and automate some of the more monotonous features of the analysis. With help from some of our software development team, it now has an appealing and easy-to-use UI and most (if not all) of our analysts use it regularly. It’s a great example of a creatively-minded analytics chef taking something that would otherwise be too complicated for anyone else to execute, and making it accessible to everyone. Alan’s also a big foodie, so I think he might have been inspired by David Chang’s podcast. Just a guess.

There’s obviously a place for recognizing amazing work and providing a platform for others to see these case studies and congratulate a job well done. But hero (or campaign) worship is a toxic recipe for growth, for both an agencies’ client base as well as the career development of its staff. I hope everyone joins me in pushing our industry to create awards that recognize agencies that deliver high quality work, time-and-time again, because they’ve developed the right methods, tech and processes to make everyone at the agency/company successful.


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