Createthe Group, one of fashion’s first and most-prominent digital agencies, is reinventing, moving beyond its focus on flashy digital flagships to a broader emphasis on all the digital touch points between brands and consumers.
This story first appeared in the July 23, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Leading the struggling agency into its next phase is Michael Tagle, a veteran of Clinique, Digitas and Razorfish. He quietly joined as executive creative director three months ago and has been working with former chief creative officer Diana Hong to figure out the firm’s next steps. Hong left the company on Monday after six years on the job.
“Ten years ago [agency work] was really focused on large digital experiences — [such as] your flagship,” Tagle said. “Now, almost 15 years later, it’s about micro experiences and smaller flagships — and that is every single channel that you have, whether it’s Instagram or Twitter or anything in between. It’s not just about your big beautiful shop, but how it connects to everything else.”
In a sense, Createthe Group is coping with the kind of sweeping change in the business landscape that it has helped its clients navigate. Brands that for years were looking for Web expertise, now feel surer on their own feet and are building in-house e-commerce capabilities.
In turn, Createthe Group is looking to trade on its creative expertise and intelligence in the retail environment.
Now, Tagle said the agency is looking to put “a little more muscle” behind strategy, user experience and understanding data. He wants to help manage brand communication through any channel — not just build big Web sites.
The shift comes on the heels of a turbulent year for the agency.
Cofounder and chief executive officer James Gardner was ousted last summer. And then the company shuttered its proprietary CTS e-commerce software system in March. There was also talk of a possible data breach affecting CTS clients, but the agency said an independent investigation led by PCI Forensic Investigator Pen Test Partners found no evidence that data had been compromised.
Since it no longer powers e-commerce sites itself, Createthe Group is connecting clients with service providers such as Demandware and Magento. Oscar de la Renta is in the process of transitioning off the CTS platform, and a spokeswoman for the brand said it doesn’t plan to work with the agency once the transition is complete later this year.
The firm also no longer has active engagements with high-profile clients such as Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan. Tagle remains optimistic and Createthe Group recently signed MCM and still counts Links of London, Reply, BLK DNM, Eileen Fisher, Peninsula Hotels, Godiva and Vimeo among its clients.
Tagle wants to give the digital firm the feel of an advertising agency.
“Do we have the right creatives who think about storytelling rather than designing a Web site?” Tagle said.
Createthe Group’s services are distinct from those of Morpheus Media, the interactive marketing agency it acquired in 2011. (Morpheus Media has undergone leadership changes, as well. Cofounder and chief media officer Shenan Reed left in December, and was succeeded by Toby Evers, now the company’s managing director. He is spearheading Morpheus’ move out of paid placement.)
The U.K.-based Hargreaves Family invested $12 million into Createthe Group in 2009 and has been remaking its senior management team.
Tom Cox has served as Createthe Group’s chief operating officer since April of 2013, and Allen Kung, cofounder and chief technology officer, is the only remaining member of the original executive group. Tagle is the third executive hire since Gardner’s dismissal, after Evers and Lynn Fischer, vice president of business development strategy.