Westward Bound: VSA Partners Make Their Silicon Valley Debut

Why 'west coast, best coast' resonates with VSA's future.

Anne-Marie Rosser, Partner, Client Engagement, VSA Partners  

AdForum: For years now VSA has had clients throughout the United States and across the globe. What led to the decision to open an office in San Francisco over an international location? 

Anne-Marie Rosser: As we looked at our US footprint, San Francisco was a natural evolution for VSA. We’re lucky to have successful offices in Chicago and New York, so making the move to the West Coast was a progression we’ve discussed for years. What made this city even more compelling is the fact that we’ve had many clients there for years—we’ve worked with tech giants like Alibaba, NVIDIA, Facebook and most recently Google. Having close proximity to these types of rapidly growing clients just makes sense. 

AdForum: So what is it about VSA Partners that attracts both these older, more established players in the tech space along with younger, more emerging brands? 

Anne-Marie Rosser: You’re right, we are unique in that respect. We have the ability to help legacy brands solve problems (IBM, for example), but also the mentality to solve issues that newer tech companies are experiencing (like NVIDIA). It’s interesting though—the idea that legacy tech companies don’t have new issues is incorrect. These giants are constantly developing new products and services, and that requires a creative partner to keep evolving with them.

Regardless of the tenure of the company, their goals relative to the marketplace are often similar. It’s the path to get there that often looks different. For example, more established companies may struggle to get stakeholders to view them in a new light, or give them permission to evolve. Newer companies may have growth, but need to project stability. The maturity curve may look very different and it impacts how you solve problems—But that’s part of what keeps it so interesting. 

AdForum: While we’re on the topic of tech giants - VSA was made a part of Google’s official agency roster earlier this year. How has this relationship grown since you first began working together? 

Anne-Marie Rosser: Yes, last year we were excited to learn that Google added us to their roster. We’ve actually been working with them over the course of several years, partnering with different business units on a range of brand, design and marketing initiatives. They’re an exciting client to work with, and of course, leading the industry. They bring an energy and intelligence to the collaboration which we love. Simply put, our relationship with Google has proven to be highly dynamic and a true partnership. 

AdForum: Silicon Valley is notorious for “stealing” talent from agencies. What is it about VSA that will help you attract new talent, and retain those who may be tempted by other companies in the area?

Anne-Marie Rosser: We’re not blind to that threat! However, there are several unique advantages for VSA. First, our legacy and roots are in design—a lot of Silicon Valley companies have an engineering bent, while VSA’s design and design-thinking approach is a different beast (and one these types of companies value). We also realize that San Francisco companies have an entrepreneurial style, which happens to be inherently true here at VSA. We feel like this allows us to easily blend into that environment. Lastly—and this goes for any city, against any agency—VSA has a robust portfolio of clients and the flexibility for our talent to work across a variety of work. That’s something you don’t always find at other companies. 

AdForum: 2017 was a turbulent year for the world and the advertising industry. What challenges do you expect to see in 2018 and what problems do you hope to see solved within the industry? 

Anne-Marie Rosser: We expect the environment to be challenging. More consultancies and brands are building in-house design, development, strategy and creative departments, and we all hear about the “death of the AOR.” We don’t expect this to change, and, in fact, it’s going to continue. The real change in 2018 will be clients realizing there are partners that can fit the new model. VSA believes we’re part of this answer. 

We’ve actually never defined ourselves as a traditional agency, so in some ways, we’re protected from the feeling of “seachange” that other agencies may feel. But, of course, we can’t be naive or complacent. We have to stay open-minded and nimble about how we engage while still preserving a clear point of view on the value we bring. Ultimately, our success has always come from a sense of partnership with our clients. And as much as the business or industry changes, relationships are still the foundation. 

Anne-Marie Rosser | Partner, Client Engagement

Anne-Marie Rosser oversees VSA’s entire Client Engagement Practice, leading teams as they solve issues of corporate reputation, brand and digital communications for several industry-leading brands, including the American Medical Association, Google and Nike, among others. Her strong critical thinking and communications skills help motivate teams toward solutions that combine business relevance with superlative creative execution. Anne-Marie’s goal is to build enduring relationships with clients by providing strategic guidance and leadership across integrated brand programs, with an emphasis on digital channels.