Interview With Team One President, Julie Michael

Julie Michael sits down with AdForum to discuss luxury brands, the future of Team One.


AdForum: Team One specializes in building platforms for premium, luxury and aspirational brands. What changes have you seen over the years?  

Julie: We have seen monumental changes in the ways premium brands interact with affluent consumers. There’s a new definition of luxury. And it’s determined by consumers. Not brands. Team One’s Global Affluent Tribe research initiative has backed the notion that products that save me time, make me feel good, more deeply connect me with my family, help me collect more interesting experiences or advance my health have become some of the most valuable products on the market.

While some traditional luxury icons like Burberry, Barneys and Hermès have found interesting ways to stay relevant (and grow), there are dozens of brands that are redefining the word premium: companies like Sonos, Harman International, Lexus, Dyson, Delta Private Jets, Marriott International Luxury Group, Rent the Runway, The Honest Company, Samsung, Medtronic, Whole Foods, Amazon, Vail Resorts, VISA, Netflix, Quintessentially and Patagonia. Consumers are voting with their wallets. Each of these brands commands premium pricing because people are willing to pay disproportionately for what they offer.  


AdForum: How have you seen advertising for these brands change over the years?

Julie: The modern media ecosystem has evolved significantly. And this is awesome for marketers. And consumers. It’s so much more fun and creative. We are keenly focused on creating sublime digital experiences and replicating (or complementing) those in the real world. Technology is making so many things possible. Amazon delivers my whims to my doorstep. Almost immediately. My Schwab app lets me manage my portfolio with a few swipes. And I can create my next international trip through my The Ritz-Carlton Rewards profile. We can discover, watch, share, edit, create and curate our lives online. More dreams can come true now than ever before. 

Personalization and dynamic content are table stakes. Modern agencies need to do this well. And not just robotically, but emotionally and meaningfully. We can all hold a mirror up to our consumers, but to have the insights and the messaging that make people laugh, cry, care or act… one at a time… means we are truly breaking through. 



AdForum: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time working in this industry?

Julie: I firmly believe that our industry isn’t one where you rest on your laurels. Even for a minute. It’s a fresh and vibrant world we live in. And our clients need us to stay one step ahead of them in terms of innovation and experimentation. Today, we are doing tons of work in immersive (VR, AR, 360) video. Also, lots with AI and machine learning.

Another thing I’ve learned is that in order to do great work, media needs to sit next to strategy and creative. The modern media landscape requires that media teams collaborate upstream in the process, and that creative teams deeply understand what’s possible. For example, our creative directors frequently participate in media meetings with reps from Facebook, Google, YouTube, Condé Nast Entertainment, Pinterest, Pandora and many others.


AdForum: How has new technology, such as AI, played a role in the way Team One creates campaigns for clients?

Julie: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are here. The human-machine learning loop is an accelerator for business. In addition to the obvious improvement of data processing, AI and machine learning will create more helpful robots, better virtual assistants and more intuitive ways to measure emotion and sentiment¾all extremely relevant for brands and marketers who look to predict needs and deliver a brighter future.

Team One has built proprietary editing tools and delivery systems to ensure personalized dynamic content is in every client’s toolkit.  Our “Vulcan” Dynamic Content Assembly Studio is able to stitch together dozens of modules of creative assets into thousands of unique ad units. This helps us create hyper-personalized content. This content can be assembled with many variables, for example price “tags” or promotional messages based on geography, weather, time of day, likes or click behaviors.


AdForum: With a multitude of full-service marketing communications agencies available for brands, what sets Team One apart from its competitors? 

Julie: Team One’s primary differentiator is that it specializes in helping premium brands navigate the modern digital media landscape. We focus our energies at the intersection of affluent consumers and the technology they love and use.

Our deep knowledge of modern affluent consumers is something that makes us different in the marketplace. A primary driver of this knowledge is our Global Affluent Tribe research initiative, which covers 14 countries, 7 years and has been researched in 11 languages. The in-depth study into global affluent consumers has revealed several strong cultural and behavioral insights of this elusive target consumer segment.

While many agencies say they are integrated, Team One truly is—with media and digital at its core.  The agency starts by working with clients to determine the business problem (or opportunity) and then we have every tool in the toolbox to help solve it. Our capabilities include web dev/tech, PR, events, design, strategy, analytics, performance-based marketing, CRM, social, content creation and three production studios, including a full-service video production facility. We also have a fabrication lab where our creative technologists build and experiment. We have a Virtual Reality practice. We have a User Testing Lab. And an Artificial Intelligence Lab.

The last thing I will say here is that our “competitors” are no longer just advertising agencies. We often participate in pitches/RFPs against pure-play digital companies, consulting companies, social/PR shops and research companies. We are an “influence company” more than just an advertising company. And this has redefined our competitive set.


AdForum: What does the future hold for Team One?

Julie: Team One is investing heavily in virtual and augmented reality. For example, we are incubating a new creative/production offering called TiltShift on behalf of our parent company, Publicis Groupe, that is 100% focused on providing brands with immersive, 360, virtual and augmented video experiences. In the year after Facebook spent $2B to buy Oculus, the number of venture capital deals and total dollars invested in VR and augmented reality have both tripled (CB Insights). Since then, nearly every global technology player is deeply invested in the space—Samsung, Sony, HTC, Google, Unity, Magic Leap, etc. With increased technology adoption, there will be increasing demand for more and more 360 content. That’s where we come in.

The applications are broad—sports, medicine, training, education, gaming, travel, entertainment, marketing, sales and events. Several of Publicis Groupe’s clients have taken advantage of this in-house capability. 

To more generally speak to our future, we are optimistic about what lies ahead for our company and our clients. Investments in the areas of media, technology and deep consumer insights will continue to inform our work.  And our deep commitments to clients mean we enjoy long-term, productive relationships that result in meaningful business transformation (and growth) for our clients. 


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