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Mars has spent the last 2½ years focused on future-proofing itself, which has led to the development of a technology platform called Marilyn, named after agency founder Marilyn Barnett. This platform is digitizing all of Mars’ data and processes, which the agency has institutionalized with existing clients and is offering upfront to newer ones, Rivenburgh explains. “It’s going to change the way we do business, our clients do business and the industry does business,” he says. “We think we have a product and a platform that’s going to be the industry standard.”
Keen believes the agency has been on an exciting trajectory over the past few years. “Mars has always been a large, independent business,” he says. “We have the kind of focus and experience [of a large agency], but the excitement and agility of a startup.”
The Mars Agency and the shopper marketing field in general face one continuous central challenge, Rivenburgh says. “Talent, talent, talent,” he says. “The industry is becoming the center point for this new retailer ecosystem among brands, media, shopper, consumer and retailers. As that grows, the talent is going to be harder and harder to find.”
Keen sees challenges in staying efficient to meet clients’ needs. “How do we prove we have the system and process to achieve that?” he says. “If we really want to be a commerce partner, we have to find ways to reset and invest in ourselves.”
Rivenburgh says he’s most motivated by being in the epicenter for what’s going on in e-commerce. “I love the dynamics associated with everything going on from the media standpoint,” he says. “More personally, what I love about The Mars Agency is the entrepreneurial nature and spirit.”
Keen takes the most joy in solving clients’ problems and changing the nature of their business. “Seeing that we’ve moved the needle and made a difference in their lives, both personally and commercially, that remains the biggest buzz,” he says. “It’s seeing our ideas and our strategic input come to fruition. It’s as exciting now as it was when I started out.”