At Aquent Studios, we’ve always prided ourselves on our agility and adaptability. So earlier this year, we took stock of where we are and where we’re headed. The business landscape is changing rapidly, and as a creative partner, we’ve adapted to the evolving needs of our clients. Now we are solidifying that evolution, sharing an update on who we are, what we do, and our vision for the future.
Recently, Aquent Studios President Cheryl King Berry sat down to explain how this evolution happened, why it matters, and what to look forward to.
Tell us about how Aquent Studios started?
We had been doing project-based work for a handful of clients and saw the opportunity to expand. So in 2006, we launched the Aquent Studios brand by combining our project-based services expertise with methodologies created by our consulting group that had been doing a lot of work with marketing and creative services departments. These methodologies were around driving efficiencies—getting more for your marketing dollars, establishing better processes, and managing utilization.
But what we were seeing from our consulting clients was that they also needed help taking the big creative concepts that their Agency of Record (AOR) had developed and translating them into a variety of marketing and creative deliverables. The AOR would be great at coming up with the big, blue-sky creative concept, but they usually struggled with delivery. We were great at delivery. We knew how to drive efficiencies to create high-quality deliverables and could tap into Aquent’s talent ecosystem to bring in the right skills and align them to the right work as we built our team. So we started going to market as a brand execution agency. Rockwell Automation was one of our first new clients back then, and they remain a client to this day.
How has Aquent Studios evolved over the years?
Most of our engagements started with us understanding the work, consulting on how to get it done, and putting the right processes in place to guarantee quality and drive efficiency. Then our team got to work by ensuring we could create the deliverables to meet our client’s brand standards. While we were there to deliver, we always took the approach of building trust and deepening our relationships over time. We’d look for ways to add more value. The more work we did, the more value we added, the more trust we built, and the more the partnership would grow and evolve.
We had proven we could deliver high-quality work aligned to their brand standards, and we had such a unique line of sight into their business that clients started asking us to take on the more complex and strategic work. So, over time, we fully built out our capabilities with expertise in end-to-end strategy through delivery.
There’s a lot of discussion about the future of agencies and the need to transform the client-agency relationship. What’s your take?
There’s been a lot of change happening over the years when it comes to client-agency relationships. From working with our clients, we saw the growth and flourishing of the in-house agency. These in-house teams have been pulling in more and more of that strategic, big-picture work from their agencies of record over the years.
As a result, there is greater pressure and more demands on in-house teams to do even more than they were already doing. And the fact is, most companies can’t just hire an enormous full-time team. Companies need much more flexibility as their business and their creative needs evolve. They also still need the fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking that great partners bring to the table.
Sweeping changes are happening in our industry faster than ever. Driven by technological advancement and market conditions, the entire marketing, design, and development landscape is more complex than ever. And this often requires in-house teams to quickly pivot what they’re working on and completely retool how they work.
It’s a lot. But we also see huge opportunities for clients and their agency partners to come together in a deeper, stronger way. And we believe Aquent Studios is a partner that embodies what the agency of the future is all about.
It sounds like Studios has continued to evolve. How would you describe Studios today?
We saw that the needs of the client-agency relationship had shifted. It is not as transactional as it once was. There was a greater desire to work in lockstep. Trust and authenticity are not just important between consumers and brands but also between clients and their agency. This approach was how we always worked—it was in our DNA. Now we have just shifted to make it the core value we deliver. Co-creation is the future—a partnership model built on harmony, agility, synergy, and depth. That type of close alignment and equal investment in the work delivers breakthrough results.
Why are these four elements uniquely us? They have been part of what we have done for decades and are also why we are so successful. Harmony and synergy are the bedrock of a co-creation model of partnership. In all of our most successful (and longstanding) client relationships, there is mutual trust. We have a genuine interest and curiosity in our client’s business and the work they need to undertake to be successful. That carries over into how we can help them achieve their goals. We are never there to take work, take over control, or dictate what to do. It is a true collaborative partnership between peers. Success is mutual and shared.
Agility and depth can seem contradictory at first glance, but similar to how we work with clients, these two principles work together—one complements the other. When we talk about agility, it isn’t necessarily in the sense of speed or the agile methodology. Those are a part of it, but really it is about nimbleness. Each company is unique. Each team has a unique way of doing things, and we are nimble, adaptable—agile. We don’t ask clients to conform to how we work; we adapt to their way of working while bringing our operational expertise to bear.
Being adaptable is not just about flexing how we work to how our clients work but also flexing our team. One thing that makes us very unique is our ability to scale our team almost instantly. With the power of Aquent’s talent network of over 2 million people, we can bring in exactly the right skills and capabilities. This ability to create scalable, multifaceted teams means we can adapt to meet our client’s changing needs.
What excites you most about leading Studios into the future?
The ability to continue to evolve to be a more effective and supportive partner to our clients is very exciting. There are so many new challenges and opportunities facing companies today–from designing immersive experiences in the metaverse to making experiences more inclusive and accessible to clarifying and storytelling your brand purpose, just to name a few. We know that our clients are facing these challenges, and we’re ready to take them on side by side.
Also, our heritage has been around bringing brands to life through creative and marketing operational expertise. And while that is a big part of what we do, it is not all we do. Our strategic insight and acumen have always been a part of our approach when we work with clients. Now, we’ve taken that strategic capability to the next level. We’re looking forward to some very impactful work in our future.