Building out the Toolbox: Welcome, Codeword

A few years ago, WE realized more and more of our clients were asking for solutions that worked across multiple channels and platforms. RFPs with a mix of PR and digital, creative or experiential were no longer the exception — they were the rule.

WE pivoted to meet the need. This is one of the advantages of being an independent agency: without shareholders to answer to every quarter, we were able to invest strategically over time, building out a robust team of designers, social media experts, videographers, content writers and producers. Today, that team is responsible for some of our strongest work in North America. We saw a job that needed doing and we found the right combination of people, technology and tools to do it.

PR agencies have always expanded their toolboxes in this way. There was a time, long ago, when employee relations was considered totally separate from the work of PR agencies. Today, it’s many agencies’ bread and butter. Twenty years ago, we had to figure out how to tell stories in a digital world. Agencies learned, hired and acquired that expertise. Then it was social media. Remember when clients had to hire a separate “social” agency to create and manage this work? Now, it’s an integrated part of nearly every campaign.

The global media ecosystem today is more complex than ever before. As the latest report from USC Annenberg uncovered, the distinctions between paid, earned and owned media are continuing to dissolve. Sixty-four percent of communicators believe that within five years, the average person won’t be able to tell the difference between paid, earned and owned media. For communications agencies, that means we need to create new and seamless ways to deliver creative, relevant stories that move people to positive action. And that means bringing down the silo walls between disciplines.


Welcome Codeword

We’ve spent the past decade outpacing our clients’ digital, social, creative and content needs by building expertise inside WE. But sometimes an opportunity comes along to accelerate growth, add top-tier talent, support our teams and clients in our fastest-growing markets, and build on the expertise we’ve already invested in — all in one fell swoop.

Today, we announced our acquisition of Codeword, a leading content, editorial and marketing communications agency with offices in New York, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. Like WE, Codeword is laser-focused on delivering great work for clients. We’re both deeply connected to tech and the evolving landscape of media and influence. Their diverse skillsets in content, digital, social, editorial and the shifting world of influence are exactly the kind of cross-functionality that communications agencies will need more of in the coming decade.

Codeword will operate as a separate agency, under the Codeword brand. They will retain their leadership, people and offices and we will look for new opportunities to collaborate on our individual clients and in the future on shared new clients and business development opportunities. And WE grants Codeword’s existing clients the power to flex on a global scale. We’ve already been partnering with them on select projects, including supporting their clients in APAC and pitching and winning some health sector business together. Why did we win? Our ability to tell a coherent story across the media ecosystem.

It’s also a win for us because the Codeword team is full of great people who we love working with. We see the world, our industry and our opportunities in similar ways. It was just a natural fit.


Independents working in partnership

Our defining tool and quality continues to be our independence. It’s what makes Codeword feel more like a partnership and less like a big brand swallowing up a smaller disrupter. It’s not about consolidation, it’s about innovation and putting clients and work at the center of everything we do. Now is a great time to be a strong, independent agency with a clear and differentiating POV, great people, excellent work that drives business results, and deep and lasting client relationships.

Happily, that means it’s a great time to be WE and Codeword. We get to look to a cross-disciplinary future, one where communicators can use any tool they can imagine to tell their clients stories and move people to act. Onward and upward — together.

January 15, 2019