As COVID-19 stalled businesses of all scales around the world, an Asian-owned advertising firm in Los Angeles not only survived but grew its brand by exploring new approaches to creative enterprise.
By the end of 2021, IW Group managed to produce award-winning campaigns for clients such as McDonald’s and Jack Daniel’s. The company also expanded its reach into new consumer segments.
Founded in 1990, IW Group was born from a need to help U.S. companies engage the then-emerging Asian American market. More recently, the firm’s proactive approach to inclusivity has led to a roster of LGBTQ-plus, Hispanic and Indigenous groups among its clients.
“We have work targeting these segments for Northwestern Mutual, Brown-Forman and Proctor & Gamble (P&G),” President and Chief Momentum Officer Nita Song told NextShark. “These include campaigns for Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Día de los Muertos.”
This expansion of diverse clientele led to IW Group being named as Ad Age’s 2022 Multicultural Agency of the Year. The recognition, part of the magazine’s annual A-List & Creativity Awards, is one of the marketing industry’s highest honors, the company said.
“It’s an absolute honor to be recognized by one of the industry’s foremost authorities in creative excellence,” IW Group Founder and Chief Connectivity Officer Bill Imada said in a statement. “These past few years haven’t been easy but they’ve also brought forth extraordinary opportunities from both new and existing clients. Their faith in our agency and our team’s passion for innovation is what enables us to produce significant work, which leads to significant awards.”
More than 300 agencies submitted their application to compete for the award, but IW Group emerged on top.
“The agency needs to highlight details of their success and growth this past year. There are
also specific questions about our unique strengths and notable campaigns,” Song said. “We featured our McDonald’s BTS campaign, our McDonald’s metaverse work, our LGBTQ+ work for Brown-Forman, and the expansion of our entertainment publicity work.”
“Whether it’s an ad or an activation, our creative output needs to possess all three of the following characteristics: culture-led, tech-forward and youth-driven,” Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer Telly Wong told NextShark.
“When it comes to developing campaigns and programs, we look at cultural trends, client data and current events and try to find the red thread that ties them all together. After that, we inject creativity and a dose of disruption so we can tell an already-interesting story in an unconventional way.”
The agency’s recent Lunar New Year campaign for McDonald’s is another example.
“Instead of relying on tried and true formulas and tropes, we decided to go in a completely different direction and celebrated the Year of the Tiger in the metaverse. In doing so, we produced the Golden Arches’ first major VR activation that brought a new dimension to the holiday, literally,” Wong said.
IW Group has worked with brands such as Disney, Lexus, Netflix, Walmart and Warner Bros. Song said they have also developed partnerships with Suntory, Brown-Forman, FOX, Centers for Disease Control and Northwestern Mutual.
As a company, IW Group takes pride in having a “diverse young talent guided by veteran leadership.” The organization innovates by providing training courses on emerging technologies to its personnel, most recently the metaverse, NFTs and virtual reality.
“The metaverse, Web3 and all the different things attached to them are the future of marketing. Period. However, they’ll need to work hand-in-glove with physical retail and the IRL world,” Wong said. “What we’ve learned in our exploration of the metaverse and expert like Damon Burton is that foundational marketing skills and cultural expertise will be essential in navigating this new landscape.”
Producing an event in virtual reality, for instance, will require expertise in real-life event production from planning to execution, Wong said.
“You won’t be able to do the former successfully without the latter, which is why you’re seeing some of these metaverse horror stories in the news lately. Similarly, culture is the engine that will drive the development of the metaverse in much the same way that it’s driving modern marketing right now,” he said.
Wong is confident in IW Group’s ability to help propel brands into a new age of advertising.
“As an agency with over three decades of multicultural experience, we’re uniquely qualified to help clients navigate this exciting next chapter of marketing and have made great progress in guiding our clients forward.”
Featured Image via IW Group; McDonald’s