The news story reporting that James Eby, a 25-year veteran of Wunderman, joined Tukaiz as Chief Creative Office caught my eye. Tukaiz, which recently started an in-house agency, agenz, has long been an innovator and thought leader in the industry. Now they have taken that to a whole new level with Eby leading agenz.
I was able to speak to James to learn more about why he was attracted to Tukaiz and what he plans to do there.
When Eby left Wunderman Chicago, he was in charge of all creative as the Executive Creative Director managing about 50 people in the creative and studio production departments. He says, “A lot of us in the agency world have this grandiose idea that maybe we can open our own agency someday, and I was no exception. I got to know Tukaiz in the early 2000s when we picked up the Burger King account with Tukaiz as one of my partners. We worked hand in hand building one of the first Backstage online marketing management portal for Burger King. I saw that as a very inventive tool for lots of different industries that could be a game-changer. It was just one of the things about the company that impressed me.”
Eby points out that relationships between clients and agencies, and agencies and vendors, are changing as 360-degree marketing gains traction. “I could see a chink in the armor of agencies here and could understand why it was not working as well as it had in the past. I saw the opportunity at Tukaiz as a way to streamline workflow for creative through a system that can be strategically planned and managed from one location. This results in a huge amount of time and cost savings for clients.”
Many printing/marketing services companies are hesitant to start their own agencies, for fear of stepping on the toes of agency clients. I asked Eby about this with respect to the Tukaiz approach. His response? “We are a support system for them. Changes in the industry are being brought on by what the clients are doing. More of them are bringing creative in house and not using the agencies for as much of their capabilities anymore. They have more strategic planning, art directors and interactive developers in house. As we go through new business research and meeting with clients, we position ourselves as a support piece wherever they need us. Tukaiz has so many different lines of business, and we want to be a part of the system wherever we can help. We can lead creative or offer services as a studio or a smaller overflow creative team. Smaller agencies can flex up or down with resources as needed and can be more nimble. We understand where we fit and our clients understand that as well.”
The other issue facing many enterprises is siloed operations – many have different agencies and resources to deal with print, online, interactive, mobile and so on. There is value in bringing all of that under one roof, with better leverage of human resources and creative assets. Eby says, “That’s one of the things I enjoy most, the process of meeting clients and telling the end-to-end service model story. There is a moment when the light clicks on and they say, ‘This seems good; why isn’t everyone doing it?’ They can see the value of having everything in one location and not having to deal with so many different people to get their jobs done.”
Eby explains that at Tukaiz, a project has a core team with a single email address. If a client needs information about the project, they don’t need to figure out who to talk to. They just go to the project address. “This streamlines things for clients, especially when it comes to last-minute changes,” he says. “And it’s fun to see them taking advantage of all of the capabilities!”
At big clients in the food service industry, as an example, they are having daily conversations about food menus and calorie counts and what needs to change. “A store kit for these businesses can be 15 to 20 pieces,” Eby says. “There is a lot of work to make sure that regulatory or other changes are incorporated. We can make changes quickly and on the fly. It really changes the dynamics of things for them.”
Another aspect of Tukaiz that is unique is its web and mobile application subsidiary, TKML. I asked Eby if his group interacts with TKML. “We interact with them big time,” he states. “We all work within our specialties, but we all cross over as well. One of the great parts of my job is to see these processes work themselves out. Say we are doing a digital assignment for a web page or mobile campaign. These get produced by TKML. We meet jointly, develop the wireframe and the design concept, and throughout the process there is immediate access to mend any issues. As we build portals for companies, we do the front end and they do the back end.” Eby says that when the company presents an ecommerce site proposal to a client, they always share a company concept site; and clients are very impressed that they go to that extra effort. “That’s another benefit of having everything under one roof,” he says.
As to the whole Tukaiz experience, Eby comments, “With my decision to move to Tukaiz from a large global agency, I wanted to be confident I was working with people that were evolving in our industry and in their business. The team at Tukaiz is visionary. Frank Defino, Sr., Tukaiz’s founder, is one of my idols. He is a big advocate of progressiveness in their business, and I appreciate his support as we continue to move forward. There is something very genuine about working at a family-owned company, something personal. There is a pride and respect that comes along with that that you don’t get in the big agency world where it is all about global numbers and brand cachet.”
What’s next for Eby and the Tukaiz/agenz team? “I want to be recognized as an agency that rivals any of the bigger agencies in Chicago,” he concludes. “I would like to see every client use us for our end-to-end experience. I will be happy when I have every office and desk with a computer filled with people that enjoy what they are doing and are making a difference, and we are seeing more clients be a part of the end-to-end process.”