Introducing: Sara Francis, CEO of Joystick

A few weeks ago NMPi announced that we would be acquiring US creative specialists, Joystick. We are very excited to have Joystick’s entire leadership team, including Sara Francis, remain on post-acquisition.

Sara has over 18 years experience in digital marketing, having begun her career primarily focused on entertainment working for such companies as Miramax, Deep Focus, and Moxie Interactive. In 2010 she began her career at Joystick, leading the Los Angeles office and account management team company-wide before being elevated to CEO. 

We sat down with Sara to find out more about her, the agency, and what she’s looking forward to about this acquisition.

How do you think the industry will benefit from a joint media and creative agency?

Every digital touchpoint is an opportunity to create a connection and a conversation with the audience. At Joystick, our quality creative plays an integral part in campaign performance and ROI, something that is lacking in many campaigns. But oftentimes creative work is created without a complete picture of the consumer journey, making it hard to truly have an impact.

By joining forces with NMPi, we are able to close the gap between creative, media and technology. Media and creative have been extremely fragmented, now that we’re together, we can break down the barriers that exist. We’ll have more control over the customer touch points and the consumer’s experience throughout the brand journey.  

This may sound lofty, but we want to build a web where people love ads. Love them because they’re a great experience and are useful. This is what inspires us every day and we believe we’re working with the right partners and clients to make this happen.

What innovative technologies and strategies do you think NMPi will gain from adding a creative perspective to their digital offering? Conversely, what insight will Joystick gain from partnering with a global digital agency such as NMPi?

Joystick is one of the first creatively-led agencies with deep expertise in ad technology. This will add a number of complimentary service offerings to NMPi. Our work in innovative technologies will add a robust offering to brands who are looking to add immersive experiences to their mix or augment their voice and visual search strategies.

Conversely, we look forward to combining our dynamic creative expertise with NMPi’s skilled programmatic strategists to offer a full-service solution unmatched by others. We’ll have audience and creative alignment that will enable us to create truly personalized creative and ad relevancy that delivers results.

What plans for growth do you have in the upcoming year?

Well for starters, we’ll need to service a global client base and expand existing services into new markets. We also see immediate opportunity to expand how we’re working with our current technology vendors.

So all of this will mean that we’ll need to grow our team and invest in our talent to learn about how to bring our collective services together. We see our new global footprint and expanded capabilities as a huge opportunity for growth.

What are the challenges facing digital marketers in the coming twelve months?

We’ve been having meaningful discussions with brands around how they think about activating brand and business growth. We all desire to create meaningful brands fueled by consumer-first thinking and data. Many want to know how to action their data and sequence ads and content to work together to keep things fresh and relevant to consumers at any moment.

We’ve also heard a lot about the challenge of maintaining creative quality with programmatic buying. That’s a challenge we’re going to take head-on. We’re bringing high touch creative to programmatic. We plan to roll out a suite of high impact creative formats for programmatic delivery which is something the industry desperately needs.

What do you look forward to most with this partnership?

We look forward to re-imagining what it means to be digital marketing specialists. We are in essence bringing art and science together. Data-driven creative is our art. And with our creative chops combined with the expert minds of NMPi’s analysts, we can push that even further.

We are also looking forward to expanding our global footprint to have service areas in 16 countries and a team of over 340 of the most highly trained experts across search, display, video, social, data and analytics.

Personally, I’m excited about the opportunity to collaborate with our collective of agencies. We’re all specialists in our respective disciplines and we now can work closely and non-competitively on what the future agency model looks like.

What is the most exciting recent development in digital marketing?

Well, to be honest, there are always exciting new developments in digital marketing. We’re always developing emerging formats using new advancements in technology and putting them to work in new ways.

We’re also happy to see that platforms are doing more to create a space to give a creative a voice. Great creative is finally getting a spotlight again which is a huge priority for us.

And lastly, what is your favourite project that you have worked on?

There are so many I consider my favorite, it’s hard to pick just one. A recent favorite would have to be the voice-enabled unit that we worked on with our client and partner True[X] for Amazon Echo. Our team had seen how more and more people were using voice search and we wanted to see if we could put this to work in an ad by using speech to text conversion technology. When True[X] came to us with a voice-activated experience they were working on with Amazon Echo, we had a couple of approaches to recommend. The result was a highly engaging and entertaining voice-enabled ad unit that featured the Echo’s capabilities in a compelling way. This is a great example of the true collaboration we love having with all our partnerships.