Alex Steer

Better communication through data / about / archive

Goodbye Fabric, hello...

765 words | ~4 min

Last week, we officially closed the doors at Fabric, the company where I've been working for the past three and a half years. Most of the business is merging into Possible, where Neil Miller, one of our two chief execs, has taken over as UK CEO.

It's a great next move for the little agency that could.

When I joined Fabric as a senior planner there were about eight or ten of us, split between a pair of tiny rooms in Westbourne Terrace and, if anything, an even smaller space in Seattle. At our peak, last year, we were about 65 - a genuine mix of creative, design and UX, strategy, technology, analytics and client service. Over that time we worked with some of the biggest and best businesses in the industry - among them Colgate-Palmolive, the Co-Operative, GSK, Heineken, KFC, News UK, the NHS, Samsung, Telefonica and Unilever.

When we began, as a WPP Digital start-up, we pitched Fabric as 'an agency with a digital brain' - strategically and creatively smart, but with big data technology under the hood that would give us a clear view of user journeys and behaviours across sites, campaigns, CRM, email, ecommerce, etc. It's still probably the best single description of what we did. On the one hand, we did groundbreaking, demonstrably effective, award-winning digital/social strategy and creative for clients, solo or alongside their advertising and media agencies. On the other, we built what's probably still the fastest and most scalable analytical data management platform I've ever seen, with a seriously talented and hardworking dev/ops team. I was lucky enough to see both sides of the business up close, moving as I did from being strategy director on the 'agency' accounts, to being head of product management and analytics on the technology side (the 'digital brain', if you like).

One criticism you could level at us - and fairly - is that we never found a single business model, the big bet on big data that would generate explosive scale and turn us into a marketing technology superpower ripe for acquisition, another Omniture or BlueKai or Xaxis. We could never resist the lure of the next interesting project, the next smart way to tell stories with data. An objective weakness, maybe, but one I will always have a sneaking admiration for, in a world where too many startups are looking for a quick exit.

When I left, in the spirit of being inspired by data, I decided to tally up what we'd achieved as a company in all that time. The results (in only-slightly-edited form below) speak to Fabric's variety, enthusiasm, occasional distractedness, and sheer originality:

1,400 days of social management. 940 creative Facebook posts (that's a new ad every day and a half on average). 5,100 tweets. 694 million Facebook impressions. 34 million views of tweets. One big data platform. An app used by 189 people, for 29 brands and 9 agencies, across 150 countries. Three years of site and media data collected. Over 1 billion recorded pageviews. 250 million cookies. 30,000 domains. 4.7 billion media impressions. 1,847 ad campaigns. Twelve websites built for clients. Five websites built for Fabric. 40 sites hosted. Five Facebook apps. One film. One mobile app. Three crisis management situations. One eye-tracking game. One national tour in in an airstream trailer. One big orange book on social media. Two brand new brands. 6 million people reached a week. Double-digit growth for Heineken. The fastest-growing premium cider in the UK. The second biggest fast-food brand on the internet. One set of government data guidelines. Seven awards for creativity and effectiveness.

And no regrets.

It's why the incorporation into Possible makes sense, letting us turn those different kinds of excellence - in brand planning, in analytics, in creative - into valuable parts of a bigger whole that wants to be a genuine digital full-service agency. Fabric adds so many different kinds of talent into that mix, not least an ambitious leadership team.

As for me, I'm moving on. On Monday, I join Maxus as Head of Data and Effectiveness in the London office. It's a dream job, for a great business with an some outstanding list of clients. If there's a media agency today, five years after Fabric was founded, that can claim to have been born with a digital brain, Maxus is surely it. I hope I can bring with me an enthusiasm for what data can do, and an obsession for getting to the heart of what really creates change and growth for clients.

Here goes...

# Alex Steer (08/03/2015)