Andrey Novikov, a thriving entrepreneur and business expert, holds the position of CEO and co-founder at Affect Group, a globally renowned agency specializing in digital marketing and creative communications. Through Novikov's guidance, Affect Group has flourished to employ over 100 professionals, generating an annual revenue surpassing $10 million. The company has successfully secured partnerships with leading brands such as Mastercard, Mercedes Benz, Philip Morris, and LEGO, earning esteemed rewards within the industry, including the Eddie, Shorty, Silver Mercury, and Red Apple ones.
In 2022, Affect Group opened an American division and swiftly demonstrated impressive results. Today, its annual revenue has exceeded $1 million. Reflecting on the Group's successful global expansion in the B2B space, Novikov discusses their projects in this interview. He shares the keys to succeeding in B2B markets, his management approaches, and his vision for his new fintech startup, Andy.
Your agency has a proven track record of delivering successful projects for major international brands. Could you provide details on a few standout cases?
One recent example is a creative digital project we executed for Adrenaline Rush, a PepsiCo energy drink brand, to solidify its presence in the gaming industry. Under my leadership, our team built a website with game mechanics and attracted gamers to it through niche influencers. For this campaign, we received silver, gold, and grand prix honors at the prestigious Silver Mercury International Festival, plus silver at the Tagline Digital Awards. We have also collaborated with other PepsiCo brands and earned awards like the Effie Awards.
Another case is Olmeca from Pernod Ricard. Immediately after the introduction of the lockdown, they needed an influencer campaign to reignite interest in the brand. We swiftly got to work, identifying relevant bloggers to post videos on Instagram featuring Olmeca's new "Party Calls" video conferencing kits for hosting virtual happy hours. Influencers played sets in the comments: a piñata with Olmeca, glitter, shots, and bright socks. The campaign successfully increased consumer enthusiasm and engagement with the brand.
For Henkel haircare brand Syoss, we needed to evolve its image from a salon product to being a trendsetting street-style brand. We organized an influencer trip, discovering the latest fashion and beauty trends on the streets of Tokyo with three major creators. They shared their adventures on social media. We then produced a YouTube video with 14 million views based on their content, helping increase Syoss sales by 89%. Projects for both Olmeca and Syoss also received accolades at the Silver Mercury and Tagline Awards.
As for KIA, for example, we conducted a campaign to spotlight the launch of the KIA Ceed model. We developed a creative campaign tying the car name to our target buyers' interest in TV series. The result was a 3-episode "ceed-com" (referencing "sitcom") called "Smart!" showing the KIA Ceed's intelligent features and how they help heroes get out of comical situations. A charismatic influencer was invited to play the main role. The project has received over 2.5 million views on YouTube.
Last year, you initiated an active promotional campaign in the United States and have successfully garnered the interest of local clients. What is your U.S. division currently focusing on?
Our expansion in the USA continues, with a particular emphasis on planning a series of talks where we will present a major report on digital marketing in B2B. This marks a significant milestone for us as industry experts.
Historically, the promotion of B2B business in the country was largely confined to offline strategies and recommendations. However, with younger professionals now taking on leadership roles, there is a growing preference for digital partners. In our report, we elaborate on effective strategies for utilizing these digital channels. We have a speaking engagement scheduled at Davidovs VC. Additionally, we are in discussions with Alchemist Accelerator, Network VC, and SF Innovation Hub as we pursue negotiations across the startup ecosystem.
What led to your decision to concentrate on B2B?
One significant factor is the surge in artificial intelligence usage. Now, almost everyone incorporates it into their operations. We, too, rely on GPT 4.0 for research and data analysis. Admittedly, it still cannot match human creativity.
However, I believe that AI poses a lesser threat to the B2C marketing business. Companies like Meta already leverage advanced algorithms to analyze audiences and deliver targeted ads. Within 1-2 years, B2C players may be able to essentially hit a "sell" button to promote goods and services.
It's challenging to envision such extreme automation succeeding in complex B2B landscapes: multi-channel communication and lengthy transaction cycles still necessitate nuanced human engagement. So, we are bolstering our expertise in this segment. We have already showcased success with B2B clients like Xsolla and Loan23.
Tell us more about the unique aspects of B2B marketing.
B2B sales target a very niche audience. It's not practical to pay Meta for 1 million impressions, hoping the right audience will see the ad—it's both expensive and ineffective. The key is understanding where to find the right people and delivering the most accurate message across different channels.
We call this omnipresence. You create an illusion for those few thousand targets that your brand is everywhere: on LinkedIn, in their inboxes, at their industry conferences. But in reality, you are building a separate small universe just for them.
Our agency knows how to find and enrich data to accurately target the right audience. The work is labor-intensive but yields breakthrough results when done right.
What other competitive advantages does Affect Group have?
We excel at building trusting client relationships grounded in expertise, combined with sincerity, goodwill, and a commitment to service. This client-focused approach is the most vital aspect of our business.
We have some exceptionally talented individuals working here. When you build a business on such a foundation, it stands firmly and grows. Clients have been partnering with us for years and consistently recommend us to others.
What contributes to the development of such strong client relationships?
Firstly, there's our internal project, "Insulation." We've brought together a dedicated team of experienced specialists who continuously analyze and enhance the customer experience. We even have a "Relationship Quality Index" that considers not only quantitative but also qualitative indicators—such as how comfortable the customer feels and the pleasantness of our communication with them.
Thanks to "Uteplitel", we recently secured a significant tender with a company that had not previously selected us as its primary supplier.
What approaches to team management drive your agency's efficiency?
The secret lies in selective hiring. During interviews, I spend a lot of time not only on skills but also on personal qualities. I've come to understand that people are usually interested in what they dream about. Hard skills can be taught, but personal qualities take years.
Well-behaved people don't have to be constantly monitored. It is easy to build a horizontal system of relationships with them, especially one where there is no boss or subordinate. There are arguments, but also the desire to agree. This is the most effective approach for driving efficiency.
To measure such efficiency, I synchronize the team using OKRs. Each of our 100+ employees understands our mission, positioning, and goals. And, of course, we have individual development plans and financial motivation.
You also have a fintech project called Andy. What is it about?
This platform has everything for managing finances in the service business: managing estimates and projects, in and out rates, resource planning, managing tenders, contractors, and so on. It's a very useful product for professionals in our industry. We are currently developing a lightweight version with optional add-on modules for purchase. We will sell in different geographies.