Age of the ‘agency of return’ is here

The advertising industry has shifted from a focus on beautiful campaigns to driving for high ROIs, says NXT CEO Wayne Levine.


South Africa’s current economic slump means companies are tightening their belts, looking for ways to optimise their operations and make sure all their strategic efforts reflect positively on the bottom line.

Within this milieu, the traditional Agency of Record model has begun to make way for the Agency of Return, or strategic brand partner, who understands that while brands work with many stakeholders, what they really need is a single view that gives them a no-nonsense understanding of which efforts yield the best return on investment (ROI).

NXT CEO, Wayne Levine, says while traditional agencies might create beautiful campaigns, brands are often left in the dark when it comes to ROI. “More than ever before, they need to know whether their campaigns worked and how many sales can accurately be attributed to their efforts.”

NXT is a digital innovation business that has worked on renowned brands for the past 10 years. The vision for the business is to harness lessons learnt over the last decade to inform the future and the next level of digital innovation in enhancing its understanding of consumer behaviour and digital customer engagement.

Having spent several years working with South Africa’s leading agencies, they have married what they have learnt in the advertising and agency world with their technical expertise.

Levine says a marketing budget is an investment in a brand. ‘Sensible intelligence around Knowing Your Customer should dictate how it is most effectively spent. And this is where enrichment versus attribution comes into play.


Being in the innovation space, we often find ourselves at a crossroads and have to choose which path to follow.


The ‘Agency of Return’, is a shift from the typical approach of big campaigns that push brand loyalty which is often built from misinformed data which results in loss of revenue for the brand. The model of ‘Agency of Return’ removes fake customer profiles, misinformed data, etc, which regularly limits the brand’s understanding of its diverse customers.

NXT wants the brands it partners with to resonate with their customers on an emotional level. “This depends on knowing the customer intimately and marketing from the inside out,” says Levine.

He says the company’s unique CICLOPS (Common Interest Community) methodology aims to do just that. “CICLOPS helps us build an accurate picture of brands’ customers by looking at micro-incentivised engagement.

“By rolling out a series of micro-campaigns, we’re able to accurately analyse what customers are responding to, and then attribute their customer profiles based on their engagements (real data).

“These micro-campaigns invite customers to be a part of the journey and enjoy it as we are truly aiming to understand and meet their needs – hitting the mark with accuracy and predictable results.”

“These micro-communities have common interest – so instead of one big campaign, we target specific campaigns at specific consumer groups. This is called attribution – it’s about putting the customer at the centre and building the data around the individual. We have seen this approach impacting the bottom line directly,” says Levine

He adds that traditional ROI funnels depend on a journey in which the goal is set, but those customers who are lost along the way are ignored. “We believe in Return on Investment funnels. We examine where and how customers dropped off or ‘leaked out’ of the funnel, and look at what we can we do to address this. In this way, we get them back on the Perpetual Path to Purchase.”

Levine says NXT is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors as a result of one important fact – the space is only 20 years old. “People were first introduced to the Internet in 1996. I started my first with a web-based company in 1997. There are probably only a handful of us in the country who were there from the beginning until now.

“Our strength is that we’re very fleet-footed. We have readjusted our business model eight times since inception. Being in the innovation space, we often find ourselves at a crossroads and have to choose which path to follow. We know we are not going to be doing the same thing in two years’ time. It’s interesting, hard to forecast and we’re taking risks all the time.

“Our customers choose us because we deliver on time, every time and on budget. They know they can trust our execution. We have built a strong reputation and when we promise something, it happens.”


  • Wayne Levine is the CEO at NXT\ Digital Innovation, an award-winning integrated agency.