Why the future of ads is looking up at Curb

Why the future of ads is looking up at Curb

Putting a value on getting Twitter abuzz or attracting thousands of views on YouTube is something that Mr Ganjou and pretty much every business owner is still scratching their heads over.

“We had a meeting with Twitter the other day and they don’t know,” he said. “No one has valued social media as a currency, put a value on a retweet by Barack Obama or Wayne Rooney.”

For now, Curb has different payment terms and measures of success with every client. “It can be based on traditional exposure in the papers or retweets and Facebook likes and blogs in different measures,” Mr Ganjou said. “But we know that our campaigns deliver or we wouldn’t have a business.”

Curb’s clients include Procter & Gamble, for which it created the Oxo Tower art, using P&G cleaning products to clean sections and build up an image on the building. Microsoft, Nokia, Nestle, Sony Music and the National Trust all got the grass sofas. The crop circles were for Shredded Wheat.

The company employs artists, scientists and technology specialists to execute its ideas. Walls and billboards are still used, but differently.

For Warner Brothers in Canada, the agency arranged for the name of the film Contagion to grow out of a giant Petri dish using bacteria. “That had 400,000 YouTube views in 48 hours,” Mr Ganjou said.

Hiring people to come up with the ideas is Curb’s biggest cost, but the company is profitable and has ambitious expansion plans. Mr Ganjou aims to increase turnover to between £7m and £8m in the next three years and hopes to get to £100m by 2020. So far he has been able to fund the business without taking on outside investment, initially from his savings and money from friends and family, and then using the company’s cash flow. Curb is debt-free at the moment.

“The challenge is how we scale up from turnover of £2m-3m to £10m and beyond that, without giving away a significant chunk of the company or overstretching ourselves with borrowings,” he said. “That’s not a call-out to investors but we wouldn’t turn away brilliant people who were able to help us.”

A key part of meeting his ambitious growth targets is also expanding abroad. Curb already has offices in Brazil and Mexico, and plans to open in a fourth country, either India or the United States, this year.

Brazil was an obvious choice because of the company’s links with several London Olympics sponsors, and it hopes to win work with Brazil’s Olympic organising committee for 2016 and for the football World Cup which will take place in 2014. The climate and beach culture also lend themselves to outdoor spectaculars, said Mr Ganjou.

Mexico is another growing market, and Mr Ganjou was persuaded to open there after meeting an entrepreneur who set up one of the country’s biggest ad agencies. There is also the potential to do “back end” work like technology research and development there, he said.

Curb has already had several commissions in the US, including skywriting live tweets in support of the European team overhead at last year’s Ryder Cup. The company bought a share in the skywriting team, one of the oldest in the world, after the event, which generated about £30m of publicity for the client, Paddy Power.

“They have a patented technology that allows us to write in real time, following tweets and updates,” said Mr Ganjou.

“Imagine the impact in a city like Mumbai. If you had five planes flying over, you would reach millions of people from all different parts of society in the same day.”

Curb is also investing in developing software and IT that will help it create original campaigns. About half of its 10 staff work on the technology products. They include a programme that can be used to film a full, 360-degree view of a site like a shop or a shopping centre, so customers can virtually “walk around” the site or spot in the supermarket they are being offered, in a similar way to Google Street View.

All of Westfield’s shopping centres have been shot using it, as a marketing tool for the company to use with potential tenants. “At this stage we’re not building products to sell in their entirety, but [those] which can be useful to our clients, from the agencies to the retailers,” said Mr Ganjou.

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