This performance specialist shop finds new value as an agency for agencies

Eden Collective got its start just before the pandemic ravaged so many agencies in the industry, and forged a niche for itself balancing performance media goals with an appropriate blend of modern and classic tactics to hit them.

Along the way, Eden Collective’s founder and CEO Alison Monk, a veteran of digital, performance and traditional agencies, put together a lean team led by COO Chris Novak, and landed a handful of clients that are still with the agency today — The Farmer’s Dog and Jackpocket among them. Enjoying 20-25% revenue growth on average since its 2019 founding hasn’t hurt.

And yet Eden has also evolved its offering to serve as an agency for agencies, helping other shops with their performance media needs as well as analytics and strategic input that would require too much effort to build from scratch. Among its current agency partners are Pereira O’Dell, MBMG and Quirk as well as Acadia. 

The approach isn’t too dissimilar to what Pathlabs has done as a sort of ronin for shops that need strengthening in a certain discipline. The main difference is that Eden is fine with either being transparently astride the agency that needs its help, or behind the scenes. Either way, it’s a relatively new revenue stream for Eden — although it has every intention to keep directly serving the clients it has, which remains about 60% of its revenue.

“We’re actually very transparent to clients,” explained Monk. “[Agencies] are introducing us [to their clients] as a separate organization that is complementary and non competitive to them that will add value, both to them and to the client. We have found a way to gain the credibility with the clients of maintaining our neutrality and our lack of bias because of our fee construct.”

What’s that construct? “We’re not commission based, we’re fee based,” Monk added, “And so I think that’s very important that in some cases we are stealth, but in 90% of cases, we are transparent and overt because both parties can agree that we add value.”

In MBMG’s case, Eden is working directly with that agency’s direct response clients. And Bruce Dennler, president of the media planning and buying shop that works in both traditional and digital media, would have it no other way because of the honesty of the approach and the straightforward guidance Eden gives.  

“I’ve seen a lot of DR [direct response] people stay highly focused on the single channel that they’re working in,” said Dennler. “At Eden, they’re constantly stepping above that and pulling back from that. So even though the remit from the client might be TV or radio or whatever it is, they don’t limit their thought process to that. They’re saying, ‘Well, TV is working for this reason. But let’s step back and see what are your overall metrics, and how do we take that into account?’ It’s pure objectivity.”

That’s a phrase not often heard among media agency ranks anymore, in the era of principal media holding companies pushing their own solutions onto clients. But that’s how Monk wants to run things. 

So what brought about the new business direction? Monk explained that when interest rates rose, inflation bit into shoppers’ wallets and consumer spending tightened, most direct to consumer businesses felt that pinch. It suddenly became harder to hit those sales targets. That’s where Eden and the other performance specialist shops had to devise new and more cost-effective strategies to reach their clients’ sales goals. Not all agencies had those smarts in-house.

“We always introduce [Eden] as a partner, and they always represent their own work,” said Natalie Nymark, president of Pereira O’Dell. “We find that’s the best way to work with them, because they really are a strategic measurement consulting partner for us. Once we have a partnership in place and a project in place with them, they deliver from end to end.”

Rob Lambrechts, POD’s chief strategy officer, said Eden’s Novak approaches performance media with a consumer point of view since consumers don’t care if an ad is brand or performance, but also knows to limit what’s being measured to just the right elements that show sales progress.

“You could measure everything, right? And that’s part of the trap that I think people fall into — they measure too much,” said Lambrechts. “Where they deliver a lot of value is helping you understand what you should be measuring to lead to the the business outcomes that you want.”

https://digiday.com/?p=549416

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