Media Buying Briefing: CourtAvenue aims to be a pioneer in a new offering: AI AOR

This Media Buying Briefing covers the latest in agency news and media buying for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Monday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Mini holding company CourtAvenue is once again pushing aggressively into the AI space, launching two new offerings with the goal of creating a new category of client: AI AOR.

Just four months after launching its first AI-centric product, Genjo (short for generative journey), CourtAvenue is quietly rolling out Catapult, a generative AI copy generation tool, and Uplift, which enables AI-powered content development, Digiday has learned.

The group is actively pitching the products to several existing and potentially new clients, said Dan Khabie and Kenny Tomlin, two of the co-founders and partners of CourtAvenue.

The two explained they believe the time is right to guide clients through the still-very-unclear morass of opportunity that generative AI has brought about in the last few years. Beyond positioning CourtAvenue as an agency that can be a client’s AI AOR, they are also helping clients with IT needs around new ad-tech options, AI included. It’s not only about marketing and advertising.  

“We’re seeing the early stages of what we believe a future agency is going to look like and what are the components of it, what does it mean?” said Khabie. “We’re now in a situation where people are trying to make sense of the entire enterprise — they’re trying to make sense about how they connect to customers, and all the assets in between. We’ve invested a tremendous amount of money off our balance sheet, and want to figure out where’s our industry really going? What role do we play in it? And ultimately, where to clients want us to go?”

“It’s not like it’s completely changed our business 100%,” added Tomlin. “Obviously, we’re still doing a lot of digital transformation and agency services work for clients. But it is starting to really influence how we get work done” for clients.

In some senses, CourtAvenue is seen as trying to punch above its proverbial weight, Jay Pattisall, vp and senior agency analyst at Forrester, said though larger agencies may be more advanced in their generative programs, “CourtAvenue developing Genjo and other generative AI powered applications is notable for the size of the agency.”

Having hired David Dettmer last year to be its CTO, CourtAvenue has put him at the helm of the agency group’s three AI products/services: Genjo, Catapult and Uplift.  Each of these products aims to translate brand efforts into an AI-friendly way — optimizing the content or ad or engagement with the consumer to speak and be understood in a way that when AI is looking for it, it finds and recognizes it and puts it to the forefront of consideration.

About Genjo, Dettmer explained: “We believe it is the most powerful, most persuasive AI agent out there that turns browsers into buyers. We have a real point of view around how you can leverage AI to help users get the data that they’re looking for, create comfort, confidence and then trust with your brand, and with that be able to either transact from an e-commerce perspective, or give you their information to actually generate a lead.”

Genjo was put to use for client Kia, which is on track to deliver 6X sales results through its AI sales agent, according to a CourtAvenue document Digiday saw. But other clients using Genjo include Boundless, a promotional marketing company focusing on medium to large organizations, and a CPG client the company declined to name.

“We’re just getting started with Genjo, but so far, we’re impressed with the information it’s been able to extract from the lead who’s engaging with the tool,” said Delaney Seebold, manager of marketing & sales operations at Boundless. “Having information that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to collect using a traditional form has been the biggest win so far.” 

Catapult is just being rolled out, said Dettmer, and is best used for brands with lots of different variations and retail outlet options (think CPG and the myriad points of purchase for CPG products). The copy generation tool helps create the thousands of derivations for each sub-brand and retail outlet, in a fraction of the time it would take a marketing team to do so. 

“They’re using this to increase performance,” said Dettmer. “If they’re going to increase performance across all of those products by 10%, versus increasing 1% of their products by 15% because they did it manually … well, you do the math.”

“AI is used often to like reduce workflow and reduce labor, and that’s awesome when you can help augment those processes,” added Tomlin. “But in this case it’s also being used to optimize and improve quality of the creative process, for each for each platform.”

Getting closest to images and video is Uplift. Dettmer explained that CourtAvenue partnered with an external firm called Vizit, which helps evaluate images from a performance level (attracting attention) and provides suggestions to improve them. “This is the crawl phase of imaging,” said Dettmer. “We’re not necessarily generating images but we can actually leverage AI to help us figure out whether or not these images are going to work well out in the wild.”

Ultimately, work like this changes how CourtAvenue seeks compensation from clients, moving from traditional FTE models. Tomlin explained there are license fees as with any kind of SaaS service. “It’s kind of a licensed technology and then a services component on top of it for the integration and implementation” of the tech, he added.   

Color by numbers

The consumer packaged goods market only seems to get more competitive these days. Influencer marketing platform Captiv8 released a brand analysis study on social media and which brands are going to battle it out this summer — from sauces to sunscreen. —Antoinette Siu

Some highlights:

  • 25% or more of the CPG sector’s budget is allocated to marketing and advertising, compared to the retail wholesale industry’s 14.5% in the U.S.;
  • Condiment brands have an average month-over-month following growth of .68%, engagement rate per post on Instagram of 1.04% and an engagement rate per post on TikTok of 4.31%;
  • #Sunscreen has more than 3.2 billion views on TikTok and 4.1 million posts on Instagram as the weather warms up. Top performing sunscreen brands include Vacation, Bioré, and Sun Bum.
  • More soda and alcohol alternatives are taking over: In convenience stores carbonated beverage sales grew 7.4% to $10.7 billion between 2022 and 2023. Some top brands include Celsius and Culture Pop.
  • 75% of TikTok users make the majority of household purchase decisions for CPG products, per TikTok Marketing.

Takeoff & landing

  • It seems lots of AI companies are readying to go to market with ad campaigns, as a few media agencies landed their business. IPG’s UM won media duties for AI service Perplexity, while independent PMG landed global media duties for AI platform Service Now
  • Stagwell folded its 2021 Eastern European digital commerce acquisition Brand New Galaxy into Assembly. BNG leaders will join Assembly’s leadership team, including CEO Piotr Morkowski, who becomes Assembly’s global digital commerce CEO, while Julia Dziurbiejko and Kacper Kłos respectively become COO and global head of digital commerce. 
  • In retail media news, IPG Mediabrands expanded an existing relationship with Ulta Beauty by picking up retail media network duties to be handled by Kinesso … Reports have under-the-radar big box chain Costco launching an RMN … Albertsons is adding non-endemic advertisers to its RMN, working with AI tech firm Rokt
  • Account moves: Dentsu’s Carat picked up Pernod Ricard’s planning and buying for EMEA, which moves from OMD, which is reported to not have defended the business … IPG’s Carmichael Lynch landed brand and media AOR duties for champagne maker Korbel, which worked with CL in the past.    
  • Personnel news: OOH specialty shop Talon hired Ryan Laul as its new North American CEO, hiring him from Omnicom, where he was president of OMnet … Data-intensive digital shop Clue Digital hired Michael Rosen, formerly of OOH firm Intersection, as its global chief revenue officer.

Direct quote

“I don’t think we recognize that AI is really an existential threat to the collective industry goals of trying to decarbonize media and advertising … The unconsidered use of AI is on a collision course with us trying to achieve this collective industry goal of reducing the environmental impact of our industry.”

—Anne Coghlan, co-founder and COO of Scope3, an ad-tech firm helping brands, agencies and media companies reduce their carbon emissions. Check out Digiday’s story on AI’s energy use.

Speed reading

  • In the latest Future of TV Briefing, Tim Peterson uncovers five trends to look out for in this year’s upfront marketplace, which is expected to stretch quite a while. 
  • Antoinette Siu looked at how digital OOH’s advances in data and measurement are helping media agencies work the media into broader marketing plans.  
  • Digiday’s original research by Julia Tabisz offers yet another angle into how and why retail media is about the hottest thing to invest in by agencies and their clients.

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