Profile: Soche Picard, North American CEO, Arc Worldwide
Soche Picard has been hard at work during her first year as Arc Worldwide North American CEO. She’s spent the time evolving the positioning of Arc (Leo Burnett Group’s commerce agency), realigning teams and creating an operating system around “irresistible commerce.”
“There’s been a lot of building new capabilities to make sure we are on the forefront of commerce excellence,” Picard says. Externally, she’s busy pitching for new business. Diageo, Kind Snacks, Fairlife and CVS Health have become clients since Picard took the CEO helm.
Arc’s position to create irresistible commerce resonates with clients. “When you think about the marketplace, the world, there is constant disruption and shoppers are in a position of power they have never had,” Picard says. “That’s extra challenging for brands and retailers. People can resist brands like never before, so we need to define the shopper resistance and create solutions to overcome it. Everything we do drives to commerce.”
Throughout her career, Picard has had the opportunity to work on “building amazing brand campaigns.” She’s worked on projects for Coca-Cola, MasterCard’s “priceless” campaign, and PepsiCo. Her experience in traditional ad agencies followed by promotional work naturally led into the shopper marketing discipline. Prior to joining Arc, Picard was at Geometry Global (an agency within WPP), where she had two full-time jobs (she jokes): Team Lead for Team Unilever Shopper and managing director of the agency’s New York office.
She loves to build things and that opportunity to essentially create a midsize agency from the ground up has been her biggest professional success. “When you grow up in the agency world, you are trained to protect every dollar of revenue,” Picard says. “Now, we were fusing disciplines that had not been together; we were showing up in an integrated way with the other agencies. We were developing new tools and new ways of working.”
At Arc, the exciting, fast pace of the industry keeps Picard motivated. Embracing innovation, driving it and the ability to measure gives one the tools to demonstrate the positive effect the agency has on ROI. “The work that we’re doing – using AR to create brand experiences, and data and smart technology to deliver personalization at scale – is some of the smartest, most forward thinking I see, not just in shopper marketing, but in marketing,” Picard says.
Picard jokes that Arc was a “house of brands” and not a “branded house” when she joined. Today, the agency is structured around four business pillars. Each is led by a leadership team, an account leader, strategic planning leader and creative leader. Each team runs a portfolio of business. In addition, there’s a retail design group and an innovation team.
“We do a lot of client visits through our Retail Innovation Lab,” Picard says. “I believe having that, our digital capabilities and the infrastructure we’ve built to accommodate production volume enables us to stay ahead of the fast-paced world we are living in.”
Innovations she’s paying attention to include digital shelf signage; and the entire delivery space as well as subscription models. “If you’re not the chosen brand, how do you penetrate that?” Picard says. “Also, 5G – that is going to be the catalyst for a whole tsunami of connectivity.”
The exciting opportunities are also the challenges for Arc – pace of change, shoppers in control – but Picard says she’s been given the gift of partnership with Elizabeth Harris, chief strategy officer, and Chris Cancilla, chief creative officer (pictured). They share a common focus on how to take advantage of being part of a large holding company. “We realize the power of integration,” Picard says. “In addition to Arc employees, we have a whole sea of other Leo Burnett Group and Publicis Groupe employees we can tap into for subject matter expertise. It allows us to be much more agile and leverage the power of partnership."