Emakina’s Arnaud Grobet: only truly integrated digital agencies will survive

Author: Alex Papanastassiou

Swiss leading communication website and e-periodical Cominmag interviewed Emakina.CH partner Arnaud Grobet for their Live talk series. Editor in Chief Victoria Marchand has been following Arnaud ever since she saw him speak at a conference for bankers, many years ago, where he opened their eyes to the digitisation of the financial world. ‘It was as though an extra-terrestrial had landed to talk to them,’ she says.

Arnaud Grobet at Emakina’s office in Geneva

Technology was always part of the equation

Technology fascinated Arnaud Grobet even when he was a small boy. His parents dreamed of him to becoming something ‘traditional’ like a lawyer, a banker or doctor. But he was going in a different direction.

I had more fun taking my toys apart,
to discover the hidden mechanisms inside.

Very soon he started his first business ventures, always with technology as part of the equation. At 16 he was organising events for major hotels together with some buddies, combining creativity and technology in innovative ways. And when he had the opportunity to stay in the US for some months in 1993, he discovered the power of the a new thing called the Internet. And it changed his life for good.

From first projects to his first agency

Next, he was teaming up with two friends for some exciting web projects, to then fully focus on a business idea they baptised ‘WorldShow’… an ambitious plan to digitise business trade shows across the world. After 6 months of hard work, they had to accept that not only the market was not ready for their dream, neither was the technology.

It was time to get ‘a real job’, and Arnaud launched his first agency, a ‘traditional’ agency for the Sandoz Family Foundation. Their initiatives mainly focused on banking, outside the scope of Novartis. With his two friends he was asked to consult companies, and they launched Switzerland’s first major digital agency, Net@rchitect. Two years later, the company had grown to 120 employees. Arnaud combined this with further initiatives for the Sandoz family Foundation, and helping out some other friends, developing the new technology project of Reuters.

Label: combining communication and technology

More ground-breaking projects followed, from real-time and delayed data distribution with a tailor-made invoicing engine to recommendation tools with legal tracking, and more.

End of the 90’s, Arnaud was ready to launch Label Communications, and six months later the web agency Label Technologies.  In 2006, the two agencies merged, to create the first integrated agency in the market, taking onboard the team of Marvel Communications, bought some time before. ‘Not without facing all the challenges this kind of integration throws at you, of course,’ Arnaud adds.

It was difficult to find the people who were ahead,
in a country staying behind

Although their vision was right, Arnaud and his colleagues were still perceived by many as crazy geeks. The strong Swiss currency was a second challenge for clients, wanting to hire local talent.

Emakina Group: a growing family of digital innovators

The solution was to go international: Label entered Emakina Group, becoming Emakina.CH. Arnaud stayed on board, as a group partner, and immediately felt at home in the group, amongst business leaders with the same spirit. They all shared similar adventures as digital innovators, and hazardous experiences, like creating giant Enterprise Content Management systems.

Every project helps to transform companies,
keeping them relevant in their market,
and connected with their users.

Thierry Willer, Managing Director of Emakina.CH with Arnaud Grobet

Looking back, Arnaud finds that the challenges boosting digital businesses have not changed that much over the years, in contrast with technologies, methods and processes. Arnaud and his colleagues approached challenges from a business perspective. The idea that the web would open up information to everyone added a magical component to the work.

He learned that many people in business had a wrong idea of what an agency is about. Although Emakina was fully focused on business results, they were often seen as artistic designers wearing a backwards baseball cap. Wrong! Of course, the agency has creative talents, and does great campaigns, but it mixes creatives with more rational minds like marketers and IT experts. It has always been about performance marketing.

Side experiences: testing new opportunities for your main business

Arnaud believes in keeping an open mind to the changes in digital by now and again trying out new ideas. For instance, as an interesting business side project, he started a social media company in Barcelona with a partner, who wanted to live there.

Together they learned that timing is important, but location as well. They saw there was plenty of talent available in Barcelona, but the epicentre was elsewhere, in California. So, after two years, they moved their business there. Linqia is doing well, focusing on finding US influencers and matching them with brands, more and more powered with AI.

Emakina.CH: from a local player to an international force

With offices in Lausanne and Geneva, Emakina manages complex platform requests in international teamwork. Account and client managers, creatives, strategists, technical team leads, and most front-end developers are local, while backend work is done by expert colleagues in the group. With more than 1,000 experts in many countries, Emakina is big enough to grow its strategic partnerships with the leading global digital platforms and share the know-how in the group.

International teamwork is part of everyday life at Emakina.CH

At the same time, the Swiss agency also manages creative work for other group entities, especially when it comes to high-end luxury brands.

Covid-19: instability is our new reality

Of course, Corona brings lasting changes in society and business. Our work and consumer behavior will never be the same as before. Arnaud Grobet believes the pandemic simply accelerated the idea that instability is the rule in our world, instead of the exception. This is not surprising for people at the frontier of digital innovation. It’s not ’business as usual’, but when the continuously evolving digital landscape is your home, you get used to ups and downs. So, this is simply a new bump in the road we all have to pass.

Well before COVID-19, Emakina’s experts on 3 continents already worked together as one team, sharing screens, tools and ideas every day. When the pandemic shook the world, they were already organised and used to digital collaboration and project management.

Emakina is well placed to handle these new challenges.
It is used to be a real partner for companies looking to accelerate
their digital transformation, improve their processes,
user experiences, and digital journeys.

So,  what will bring 2021, Arnaud?

What the ‘new normal’ will be is still not clear, but it’s a good idea to re-examine your view on your clients and users, persona, user journeys, and more, says Arnaud.

New models will emerge, taking into account the experiences of companies and their users, the changing opportunities and legal context. Logical for agencies and especially digital agencies, because they are guides through transformation, already with one foot in the future, to then better respond to today’s challenges.

‘it’s like the surfer who has to catch the right wave.
You need the right balance, and move at the right moment,
not too soon, and not too late.

Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty, Arnaud concludes that for Emakina the world is full of opportunities, and there is plenty to reinvent. We will all have to take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we will fill in our jobs in the future…

‘La vie n’est un long fleuve tranquille’
Life is not a long quiet river’ (big smile!)

You want to see the full interview with Arnaud Grobet? It’s here:

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