The Top Digital Podcast – Episode 5 – Andrea Henao Managing Director of 360 Agency Berlin

What if an agency only worked for clients that aligned with their values? That’s the question our guest for this episode asked a group of agency people. What happened next is what we discuss in this episode of the Top Digital Podcast.


-  28 min read

Andrea Henao thinks we need to talk about the environmental impact of brands. Actually, she thinks we need to do more than talk, we need to act.

That’s why, after years of working in advertising for agencies that were chosen to represent some of the biggest brands in the world, she decided to flip the script and chose the brands she wanted to work for based on how well the brands were aligned with her values. The result, 360 Agency, is a new type of agency, one that’s driven by core values and profit rides in the passenger seat. How’s that working out? Listen to this episode to find out (and if you want to follow along, the transcript is below).

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Andrea Henao 0:04
For decades, profit was the main KPI to measure success. But the thing is, now we are entering a new era where the parameters are getting much more complex. Of course you need to generate revenues to survive. But that is not what measures and define success now.

Garry Mendez 0:30
Our values guide many of the important decisions we make as citizens and increasingly as consumers. But when it comes to work, values don’t always take priority. Aligning your work with your values sounds like a luxury many of us don’t believe we have. But this episode features someone who has put her values at the forefront of her work. In this episode of the Top Digital Podcast, I talked to the Managing Director of 360 Agency about her commitment to helping sustainable brands grow. That’s coming up next on the Top Digital Podcast.

Andrea Henao 1:25
I’m Andrea Henao I’m Managing Director of 360 Agency Berlin and 360 Agency Europe. I started working in advertising over 15 years ago in Paris on the creative side. And then I joined the planning and media strategy side in London in 2007, working at Philips, Philips account for Carat. And then after, I worked on the Nokia account for Carat as well. And then I moved to the LG account global–always I’ve been always working on the global side of operations. And then it was LG at Mindshare in London. And then after that I worked–I’ve been proposed a position by talent acquisition from Starcom. And then I joined the Heineken global team in Amsterdam. And after that, I worked on Volkswagen accounts, in Wolfsburg in Berlin, for Mediacom. And after that, we created 360 Agency Berlin, and a few years ago, 360 Agency Europe, that is, which is specialized in doing advertising exclusively for sustainable brands.

Garry Mendez 2:39
So actually, that was the first prompt, which you kind of touched on there was about how, you know how you got started with with 360 Agency? And can you give me kind of the origin story of the of the agency.

Andrea Henao 2:53
In advertising, I’ve realized that we were rarely or never asked which account we wanted to work on or which product we would like to actually promote. When you work in advertising you’re never asked if you strongly support the when you actually promote. And the thing is nowadays, climate change, it’s so real. And it’s it’s it’s progressing so fast, that I truly believe we all have part of responsibility. And we cannot say any longer “Oh, I didn’t know. Or I’m not directly involved.” We are all in our daily basis impact. Then I’ve decided after working for Volkswagen account in Berlin and Wolfsburg, I really decided to work on–still working in advertising because they love it in that I’m passionate about it–but I really wanted to work and apply my experience and expertise exclusively to sustainable brands. Because I really want to help these brands to develop, and they want to decide who we promote, and not. And it was the first time I’ve been talking about it. I have been–I remember it was around Christmas party in a very big agency. And we were laughing and doing jokes and and then at one stage I mentioned Yeah, which kind of account you wouldn’t work on. And then the people laughed and said we are not here to ask ourself on which account we should work on. And for me, it was very clear that I would not work for an account such as Shell or older brands that have a huge massive CO2 impact. And footprints, then yeah, very early stages. I wanted to work that way but it was not really possible. Then I made it with partners possible and it’s the first agency in the world that does that, actually.

Garry Mendez 5:02
That’s such a strong part of the appeal. And there’s a great actual tie in there with with TDA as well, you know, one of the things that is part of our ethos, and part of our drive on the agency and service provider side is to empower agencies and people who provide services to have more say over what they work on. And so, you know, we’ve tried to open the door to say, hey, post your case studies, post your your interest posts, your values, tell people project, what you can do, rather than responding to what people asked for all the time. And we’re starting to make traction on it, it’s a long, it’s an industry shift. So it’s not going to happen overnight. But that is part of our idea is that, you know, we can enable and empower agencies to say this is what we’re good at, rather than other people defining them. And hopefully, that will, will start to show up more and more as we put the spotlight on more agencies like yours.

Andrea Henao 6:05
Thank you.

Garry Mendez 6:05
So can you pinpoint the key differences between a traditional agency and a mission driven agency and how you created those differences?

Andrea Henao 6:15
You mean, in terms of processes, how we select the brands we work with, or how we work and implement the campaigns differently as another agency?

Garry Mendez 6:26
I was thinking the first part about selecting the clients, but I would also be curious to hear about, you know how the work process is different as well,

Andrea Henao 6:34
Okay. Sure. Then, in terms of the way we actually select the clients, it’s very easy, then we are looking first at their social impact. And then we look where they are based. So brands where they produce. And then when we have some doubts, for example, a brand was producing older, I mean they told us that they were producing everything in Portugal, which was amazing, because we were talking about very small delivery and low impact in terms of transportation, then this looked well in terms of social impact of the brand but when we looked further online, because we think it’s very important to not only listen to what the client has to say, but really verify, because every time we actually promote a client, we need to be careful that it doesn’t backfire on us or the clients. Therefore, we did some further research. And we find out that they were working and having some plants in China as well. But at no stage, they mentioned that point, then we challenged them, and we asked them, “Can you provide more information?” It can be made in China and be completely sustainable, that’s possible, but they need to actually provide further information and further proof about it. And then they didn’t reply to us. They were scared, I guess and find out that we find out and then we didn’t collaborate further. Then this is the first aspect we are looking at. The second one is environmental impacts. And therefore you have amazing certifications that can prove that it’s the product or the service is being done in a very environmental way that it has a reduced environmental impact, then the best way to look at it, it’s really certification. And the third point we look at it CSR corporate social responsibility then, how the company were distributes a part of their profits, to the community and to the environment. And we are not talking here about greenwashing, little peanuts, flashed to the highlights, but we are talking about subsequent budgets that are invested in biodiversity protection, or environmental actions, These are three parameters that we look at before to agree to collaborate with brands. And the way we implement then, to the second part of your question, the way we actually implement the campaigns is drastically different because first of all, we have a huge database of sustainable influencers, that have been working with us on the past campaigns. Then we–and the way we plan is towards and want a sustainable audience that we know very well for over eight years now. Then, the way we manage the data, we have probably more data than older agencies when it comes to planning towards a sustainable audience. Then we have more cards in hand and we are more knowledgeable of that audience. And the last point really it’s when you talk about sustainability, and I already mentioned it very shortly, but it’s the fact that you need to be extremely careful on every word and any information you use, because anything can backfire at you. If it’s vague, or it’s misleading, therefore, we are really specialized on using the white informations the most correct. The most accurate information that we provide to our audience. And all this require really an expert agency to be implemented in a correct and first class way.

Garry Mendez 10:30
In terms of scope. Are you Is that intentional? Are you staying within the continent of Europe on purpose to help yourself be able to do more of your due diligence and manage the client base? Or do you foresee growing outside of Europe? Or is that the focus?

Andrea Henao 10:48
That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. We already have an entity that is on hold that is called 360 Agency Americas. But the thing is, we really want to go slowly. Our goal and objective is to have 100% of the clients we work on happy and satisfied, we don’t want to go too fast and make people unhappy. You see, I’ve been working for more than a decade on the huge agency side. And everyone knows that the truth is that when you pitch your clients, very often, the people that you’re going to see in the pitch are not the people who are going to take care of your account on a daily basis. And we really want to avoid to be in that situation. Therefore, we really want to grow slowly, and to ensure a level of satisfaction is that is maximal. Therefore, we really want to take the time to develop, test our processes. And this is what we did with Berlin and Germany. First of all, it’s we love that city, of course, but we really wanted to test all our processes that we had on a global level and apply them for Germany and Berlin. And then now that we are confident that they work, we want to make it grow to Europe. And once all the processes will be in place and working perfectly well, then we’ll take care of 360 Agency Americas, but there is no point. For us profit is not the first objective, you know, and it’s not our first KPI, then we really want to take the time to do it right.

Garry Mendez 12:29
Excellent, excellent. That’s as a, you know, I live here in Croatia, but as an American, I’m happy to hear that as well. In terms of values and alignment with well, for the agency, in general and with clients. Do you look, I know, you look specifically at climate change. Is sustainability the only thing you focus on? Or are there other considerations that you you have when you when you look at the values of a client and aligning them?

Andrea Henao 13:04
No, those really definitely the two that we are looking at is social impact and environmental consequences, they are the two most important points. For example, of course, it’s extremely important to ensure that the brand is not destroying further nature, and that we’re not going to promote brands that do so. But it’s also important to ensure that we are not promoting a brand that employ children, for example, and that has negative social impact, then I would say–and that’s the definition of sustainability in general, we need to ensure that we know that we promote brands that have a positive or at least a neutral, social and environmental consequences. It’s really the core of our action, I would say and expertise. But I think we should keep concentrating on this and not go in too many different directions. I think there is enough to do with these two actually

Garry Mendez 14:10
Sustainability, as you dig into defining it, it gets actually broader and encompasses more than just climate change, for instance. So it’s also your answer to my other question about growth and expanding. You’re practicing what you preach as a company you are thinking sustainably about how you can sustain your ethos as a brand, you know, as an agency before just saying grow, grow, grow, get bigger, get bigger, get more and more and more. So I think that’s a nice kind of dovetail between the way the company works from the inside out and the way the company looks from the outside in.

Andrea Henao 14:49
Thank you. Yeah, I agree. We needed to have consistency in what we do and what we say and how we apply business as well on our agency side, I think we need definitely to kind of be exemplary. We cannot say “do that” and do something else, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s because we are truly we believe that we need to act fast that we implement ways of growth that are really not completely driven into profit and revenues, because we are moving towards a new era. Now. For decades, profit was a main KPI to measure success. But the thing is, now we are entering an era where the parameters are getting much more complex, of course, you need to generate revenues to survive. But that is not what measures and define success, now. What are you doing on the side? Are you having a positive impact? Are you actually increasing your CO2 footprint? Are you helping biodiversity to be protected? What are you doing for the planet for a very long time? You know, greed was seen as something–I’m sorry to use that word, but it’s a adequate one, I think–greed and expansion was being seen as as the must have. But the thing is, now we realize that growth, without clear parameters, that gets to balance with environmental impact is not that great, neither for us neither for the environment, neither for the planet. Then, for a very long time, people who were extremely wealthy were massively respected and looked at as stars and I don’t know. Nowadays, I have the impression we are more, you know, looking at people that do things for us and for the planet. You know, to generate a huge amount of revenue, it’s good for you, but is it good for us as as human beings? Is it good for us for the planet? Do you see what I mean? I have the impression that more and more if you want approval, and and not only approval, but but consideration and support, you need to prove that what you are doing as an individual, but as a company as well has a positive consequence for everyone.

360 Agency Berlin Team
Andrea Henao (left) and the 360 Agency Berlin team

Garry Mendez 17:59
In a situation, like kind of like the one that you described, where you essentially have to turn down business or potential client, obviously, that must impact the bottom line. Do you have sort of countermeasures in place that you can talk about that you do things to make sure that you find clients that do align with the values of the agency and that you can always find sustainable clients that you want to work with?

Andrea Henao 18:24
That’s a very good question. When we created the agency, we were approaching actively clients, and the pool of clients that could work with us was not so big. But the thing is, nowadays, there are a huge amount of brands that not only that existed at that point, but that have been created, that are really specialized into sustainability and sustainable products, then the real, I would say pool of brands we can work with is definitely increasing day by day. Nowadays, we’re in a very comfortable situation. That it’s the clients that are approaching us, and not contrary, then actually there is a German article that has been written about us then we were the Berghain agency (Editor’s Note: For those not familiar with Berghain, it one of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs that is known for its strict door policy and it shares a hometown with 360 Agency in Berlin) is , which means that we can allow ourselves to decline clients and this attracts more clients. If it makes sense, then yeah, we are in quite a good position here and now to be able to decline working on clients and by having that philosophy, and by sticking very strongly to that process, then it attracts more serious clients who really are into sustainability and that are a pleasure to work with.

Garry Mendez 19:50
Has there ever come a time where, say internally as an agency, everyone doesn’t align where you have to make a decision about. “Okay–which–you know, what are our values do if ours don’t always align personally? Do we compromise? Do we turn something down?” You know, how do you handle that? Or have you had to handle that?

Andrea Henao 20:14
That’s a very good question. No, no, we look everything together. It’s really a team. Team teamwork, I would say, even as a graphic designer is asked what she thinks, yeah, it’s really we review together, we talk together. And we always come to a consensus really. And the thing is, the people who work on the agency are truly motivated by the philosophy and the whole idea that goes with agency, then it’s people who have strong values as well, then I don’t see them thinking or saying, “let’s do it anyway,” you see what I mean? Because they’re really pushed by this way of seeing life and seeing work. Then no, we don’t have anyone that kind of lowers standards and says, “Fine, let’s do it.” No, no, in general we arrive fairly quickly to consensus. And it’s mainly by looking at information, you know, looking for their information, or we don’t find anything and everything is transparent, and great, or as what I mentioned, for the client at the start, we share the things that we find online, and we have to decline or or ask further questions. They don’t reply to, and stop collaborating or not collaborate at all, then? No, usually, it’s actually quite straightforward.

Garry Mendez 21:55
It’s funny how teams sort of self-select, and you find that you have more in common then, than not, I wanted to also ask you about what impacts from your work so far, are you really most proud of, and I’d love to hear what you’re most proud of. And then I’d be curious to hear if an outsider would say the same thing.

Andrea Henao 22:22
Yeah, as the work that we are most proud of, is the last campaign that we’ve done for the European Commission. We won a few awards for that campaign, then it’s called. No, before I give the name, actually, I’ll introduce a brief, it was a very broad brief from the European Commission managed by Sequa, that it’s an NGO from Germany. And their objective was to raise, as fast as possible, awareness around the fact that fast fashion has a detrimental impact on the environment. I’ll explain further, then, in fact, just to produce one T-shirt, in cotton, you need 10,000 liters of water, and I’m not talking about coat or jeans, I’m really talking about a simple cotton t-shirt, 10,000 liters of water, it’s what, you’re actually doing yourself, Garry, in the timeframe of one year and a half, then it’s an immense, tremendous amount of water that is required to fabricate garments, then, this was the first aspect the really environmental impact. And then the second aspect that people tend to forget is the social consequences, the fact that various children are working in this industry, it’s actually employs one tenth of children around the world, you know, and when I think about my kids, yeah, the fact that kids is, you know, when they don’t go to school, they would replicate their social, their social fate forever, you know, they cannot educate themselves, they will stay in poverty and they will stay for generations in poverty, then it’s really hard, first of all, the social consequences of this industry. And the third horrible thing is that we are drowning, we are literally drowning under the amounts of, T-shirts and garments that people don’t want to use, and because we don’t know how to recycle them, for example, you need to understand that a single T-shirts, takes actually 450 years in polyester when it’s made out of polyester to decompose, you know, and if it burns in landfills, then it makes a lot of toxics then we’re in a situation Now, and for lots of countries all around the world where we’ve been starting to export our garbage in Africa, and in South America, then we’ve come across horrendous images, videos, where you see people living in garbage with clothes, and you know, they don’t know what to do with it anymore. And even though the legislation doesn’t allow countries to give garbage to Africa, we’ve seen the number and very, very serious studies about it, that have seen the number of clothes that are given to Africa, and most of them are not usable anymore. You see what I mean? Then we are it’s a problem is immense. And then European Commission came with a brief and it was very open brief, we don’t know what to do, but we want people to know about it. And then we came with that idea that it’s called Beyond Your Clothes, then we’ve created websites that which is a parallax website called And there, thanks to a very great, amazing website, which is really impressive, not only in terms of graphic design, but in terms of programming and developing. And it’s a very interactive website we have a lot of people who have been working in the content to be sure that we had the most questions the most accurate content that no one could question, you know, or could change or or could ask us to change then therefore, we have some some very great NGOs like Greenpeace, who are doing great work with very precise measurement on how many rivers have been completely polluted, because of this industry, and which kind of material can be used. And in fact, then we had that not only is that website, but that first phase of realization, then creating content, thanks to great, great, great material, showing the direct impacts of our clothes consumption, this was the first phase. And so first phase is the second phase was really based on it was solution based? How can we take that pyramid, you know, being our our, what we buy impacting directly is a prediction, and our environmental impacts, how to turn down the up and down with pyramids and ensure that we can have a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one. And then therefore, we were bringing solutions. Okay, what should we do first of all, immediately, we should buy less clothes, we should buy definitely more quality clothes as well. And there are some materials that are much more sustainable to use, like linen that is degradable, and that is recyclable as well. Cotton, but bio cotton, hemp- made material and fabrics made out of hemp, and then maybe you know, instead of buying a T-shirt, that is less than 10 euros, and actually the environmental cost is much higher than that, you know, it’s 10 euros for you that you’re going to pay but as humans we pay because it’s much higher than that. However, instead of buying a 10 euro T-shirt or six euros that is going to die after the first washing machine trip, then in that case, take a T-shirt that costs a bit more but has a thicker fabric, you know, that is going to last longer. Then this is a kind of choice that that are important to be made. And then we’ve created a TikTok, Instagram accounts, and they’ve been the numbers are incredible. Then in the length of a few months, we reached 100,000 followers on Instagram and I think it was 75,000 on TikTok it worked extremely well. So KPIs that we agreed on with the European Commission have been completely over exceeded they were super happy with the work provided and you know, for any work that you do for the European Commission, there is an audit process after after the work and and they confirmed that people at the European Commission were very happy with the work then yeah, no and people and we won awards and we had great, great feedback about it. Then Yeah, I think we have real alignments for that campaign between what we wanted to achieve, you know, with that journey, like, kind of behind the scenes of what’s happening really on, on how our clothes are made, and what are the real consequences of buying cheap clothes, and fast fashion, and what people perceived and how they, they’ve seen the campaign and how they assessed and liked it. And there is a real alignment, I think, on that campaign.

Garry Mendez 30:35
The fast fashion problem is such a disturbing problem, because fabric and clothing should be the uber-sustainable process. And for years before people developed further, it was, you know, we were using materials in a much more sustainable way as as a species for so long. And then we kind of lost our way, in recent years. And it’s weird, it’s like, nobody noticed, wait a minute, things are changing. And this is probably not the way we should be going. So

Andrea Henao 31:18
No, you’re right, you’re right. Some studies have been proving that the quality of clothes in the last decades have been massively decreasing, we find more polyester, we find more nylon. And we find more kind of different materials together and therefore to recycle different materials is a nightmare for the recycling plants. You know, if possible, then it increases the extent of the problem, then you’re totally right the kind of, the quality and the big distribution of clothes and garments have been definitely decreasing in the last decades.

Garry Mendez 32:13
I did want to talk to you about how you see marketing both from the marketer side and from the agency side changing Do you foresee more agencies like yours coming up? in different locations? Do you see agencies maybe creating sub-brands or sub-agencies like some of the big ones do already with more of a values alignment? And if so, is that is that a good thing? I’m just curious to hear what you see coming in the industry.

Andrea Henao 32:49
To be honest with you, it existed for quite a while to have agencies that do sustainable communication, which means to take a client on board, and they follow the brief in order to give a sustainable communication of that particular brand. And this is not new, you know, but this can be in certain circumstances greenwashing then, but to select the clients, we are or the agency works on, that’s another thing that really was not in place before, I doubt that more agencies are going to do so because it takes a lot of time. And it’s really risking the incomes of the agencies. And I don’t think so many agencies are going to take the exact same route. However, to do sustainable communications and communicating on a sustainable way for brands. This is going to increase of course, like in agencies that are specialized, or or very big groups that will create little agencies for sustainable communication. Yes, this will definitely happen more and more. However, the way we actually put it is extremely different. And I don’t think so many agencies are going to have the balls to do it. Because you know, we don’t we don’t feel that we have anything to risk. We do it anyway. When you’re a big agency, you’ve been working and knowing these big brands for a very long time, then if you do not accept to work with them, this is a much more challenging process. You see what I mean? They might as they might be much more often than us in a very delicate situation. We don’t have that problem. You see what I mean? We have criteria that we need to fulfill to work for clients. And if it’s a big client or not, it doesn’t make any difference for us. Because our reputation and our values are more important than anything else. But in the case of very big agency that operates under the name of a smaller agencies that already have existing clients, it’s going to be very hard to decline clients that they haven’t worked with in the past, then, even if they do so, sustainable communication, we still have, I would say, some advance on the competitors. But in the case of agencies doing what we do, we don’t care.

Garry Mendez 35:30
That’s great. I think I like that attitude. I come from, I played a lot of sports in the family of athletes and coaches. And it’s the same, it’s the same attitude, right? It’s like, I don’t care if you can do what I can do great. Let’s play, you know, like, I’ll play against you, I’ll play with you doesn’t matter. Like, that’s a good thing. If if other people start playing, the way I play, whatever sport it is, or whatever game you’re playing.

Andrea Henao 35:57
That’s a nice way to see life. I agree. As long as it’s true. I mean, you know, it’s always about competition, we are really about that’s something that is really in our mind, like if it was over everything, but if we can work together towards a better world, if more agencies actually review the chains of production of their clients before to agree to work for them, amazing! We’ll have less brands, allowing themselves to do absolutely everything they want and taking natural resources, common natural resources against, you know, the will and the future of everyone, you know? Then if more agencies do it, why not go for it guys really, it’s needed.

Garry Mendez 36:52
Thank you to Andrea for taking the time to speak with me. Our conversation gave me plenty to think about and hopefully it had the same effect on you. For more stimulating conversations about agencies, brands, marketing and more. Be sure to subscribe to the top digital podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

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