Sandy Fleischer, Managing Partner at Pound & Grain, Talks About The Agency’s Approach And International Success
Acclaimed digital agency Pound & Grain’s Managing Partner Sandy Fleischer shared with us their projects, agency culture and his ideas on digital.
We wanted to learn how Pound & Grain‘s story started and what’s the secret behind being able to work with such prestigious clients. Sandy Fleischer answered our questions about the agency’s opinion sharing platform ‘Mustard’ and his own ideas regarding the digital industry.
Q: As the MP at Pound & Grain for more than 6 years, what motivated you to create your own company?
My partners and I all worked together at a large global agency. We had some great clients and learned tons, but at the end of the day, our love of digital and our belief in a modern and agile model led us to create Pound & Grain.
To get more specific about this, we took a look at how digital and social media was disrupting the pace at which marketing could and should work, thought about how this would play out, and how agencies needed to operate to take advantage of this shift.
We saw the huge opportunities to create, test and optimize tactics on a continuous real-time basis. And we felt that the old agency model of slowly getting work out the door and then sitting back until the results came in, and then working minor updates into next year’s campaign was fully out of sync with this shift.
We saw this need and thought building a purpose-built agency from the ground up that was designed to take advantage of these new dynamics was the way to go. We felt that initially, working with this new type of agency would give brands an advantage, and would ultimately be a necessity for survival.
And we really haven’t looked back since.
Pound & Grain’s Vancouver office
Q: Pound & Grain has clients such as SAP, E & J Gallo, Arc’teryx and OUTtv (which broadcasts RuPaul’s Drag race, one of the biggest successes on Netflix). We’re eager to hear your comments on promoting such prestigious and international clients.
It’s great to be working with brands that play on a global stage. One benefit is that it’s definitely something that attracts top-level talent to Pound & Grain. What we love about these clients is that they push us to be our best. The bar is high, and we’re always up for a challenge.
We also enjoy working with brands that are a bit less developed in their lifecycle but full of ambition. Brands that aren’t currently playing on the global stage, but want to. Working with challenger brands, newcomers, or disruptive brands is always an exciting opportunity, and a challenge we like to meet head-on.
Arc’teryx: This is Who We Are
Q: So again, working with entertainment companies such as Viacom and OutTV, what do you think are the essential needs of these companies and what do they expect from digital agencies?
We’ve developed a solid niche working with entertainment and media companies. When we look at a brand like Viacom, they reach around a billion people, and they are truly driving cultural conversations on a global scale. As their agency, we need to understand the complexities of this and ensure that we can leverage opportunities accordingly.
For entertainment brands, we typically see a lot of opportunities in social media. Given the fact that this category tends to be high interest, it’s a natural fit. Over the last few years, we’ve grown our social offer accordingly.
We always have to be on top of our game. When dealing with media properties, culture, and celebrities things can move very quickly. There is so much potential, but no margin for error. The last thing we’d want to do is anger the Beyhive!
Q: Since your business focus lies in internet technologies and marketing communication, in which ways do you expect an evolution in today’s digital advertising business?
One key evolution that we’ve started to see, and anticipate will continue is the reintegration of creative with media. We’ve worked hard to bring both of these services under our roof in a truly integrated fashion. Digital and social are both driving this need. While we are always happy to partner with pure-play media shops, we remain convinced that the integration of these services leads to the best results for our clients.
Another aspect of change for us is the continued shift in brands building in-house agencies. Many creative agencies are threatened by this, and are quick to point to negative outcomes like the Pepsi/Kendall Jenner fiasco. Yes, that was a disaster, but for every example like that, there is also great creative being done internally by brands like Wealth Simple.
We don’t tend to see this as a good or bad thing, just a shift in the industry landscape that presents different opportunities. For example, we now have employees embedded with several of our key clients, working hand in hand with their internal agencies. I expect this trend will continue.
“Where Hustle Meets Heart” – Toronto office of Pound & Grain
Q: We’ve encountered ‘Mustard’ on your website, a game-changing and blog-like special content feature that revives and keeps Pound & Grain updated and a really helpful resource for the marketing industry. What inspired you to create ‘Mustard’?
Great question! We are infatuated with mustard. It’s the best condiment out there. My business partner Graham MacInnes once made a batch of P&G mustard. It wasn’t half bad.
When it comes to our Website, “Mustard” is the home for our thinking on all things digital marketing. We’ve got a lot of pretty smart people here, and we wanted to have a platform for them and their thoughts.
Q: What would you say will be the next big trends in data management and information technology industries?
We’d like to see a shift towards consumers taking more control of their privacy. This is clearly a hot button issue within the industry. While there is a lot of powerful stuff that we can do as a result of data collection and intelligence, we always counsel our clients to balance this with the consideration that how we/they interact with consumer data must also be considered as an aspect of the brand’s personality. How brands act define who they are.
Other exciting trends for us include the continued output of short-form video for social media channels. Instagram has performed very well for many of our clients and we are currently obsessed with Tik Tok.
Q: What are some useful digital marketing tools that help you and your team accomplish your goals every day?
Google Analytics is our best friend. We also work quite a bit with Sprinklr and Talk Walker. We also like to work with Various Marketing Automation tools like Hubspot.
Q: What publications and online resources would you recommend for digital marketing professionals?
I do regularly check Fast Company, and Digiday, as well as some other industry websites, but to be honest, I find the most value from more general interest sites like Kottke.org. I do like to read DAN’s blog section to get some different perspectives.
Oh and I never ever miss an episode of Pound & Grain’s Version Control podcast or the Weekly Wins, both of which you can find here in The Mustard.
Q: How does being a DAN member contribute to your business?
We find value in a few ways.
Per above, we do find value in reading about other agency perspectives on the DAN blog. It’s also a good way for us to stay on top of good work happening around the world.
Most importantly, being a DAN member has gotten us some great exposure to new clients. It’s really helped build our profile.
About Pound & Grain
Pound & Grain is a digital agency in Toronto and Vancouver. The Pound is big-picture creative and strategic ideas. The Grain connects audiences that drive results.