CIMSPA – our newest giant!
Helping to inspire our nation to become more active – we’re in!
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Have you heard that conventional wisdom says that big brands need big agencies?
Well, that’s long been established as horse shit trotted out by big agencies.
More and more iconic brands, from Pepsi to First Direct, Levi’s to General Motors, are finding that a vast-sized agency has a smaller impact than ever on their business results.
A lot of the time, the contrary is true.
So if simply hiring a big agency is not the silver bullet, what is?
Obviously a ‘must’ for creative agencies. Boutiques know that to compete with the multi-award winning, world famous colossuses they have to bring their creative A-Game.
‘That’ll do’ won’t cut the mustard but an original, insight-driven, beautifully crafted idea can put any concerns over size to bed in an instant.
Because does it take 200 people to concept a solid piece? No.
It takes a handful of smart people, who’ve done their research and know their craft inside out.
(ok, so there’s a wee bit more than just that, but you get the point)
By value, we don’t mean cheap but price is rarely the deciding factor – marketing professionals are always keen to spend their budget, and it’s unusual for the cheapest solution to be the best.
As proven by Aldi and countless other smart brands, finding the sweet spot where quality, price and efficacy intersect is the win.
Savvy marketers are getting wise to the over-inflated prices quoted by big agencies and are demanding more ‘value‘ from their partners so that their budget can be spent on delivering results rather than swanky postcodes, agency bars and Cannes Lions trips.
“Screw convention, you pay for and need results”
People buy People – it’s fact.
Surely you want to work with people you like, who are attentive, smart and responsive. Ambitious brands know that boutique agencies are geared up to work as an extension of their team – outsiders on the inside if you will – which makes it much easier to forge successful working relationships.
If you don’t have a close relationship, and I don’t just mean posh dinners in Claridges, then you can’t act as a solid team.
The subservient client > agency model has been dead for a decade now, so without solid chemistry, you’re dead in the water.
I don’t mean small or cheap, I mean ‘not having to repeat yourself’.
Given the staff churn at bigger agencies it’s almost inevitable that clients will find themselves involved in a seemingly endless repeat-cycle of brand immersion sessions, integration meetings, history lessons and so on as the months go by.
At boutiques, this is very rare because not only is continuity provided by the founders themselves, the team has keen and motivated players too, both of whom rarely leave.
“Boutique agencies are exactly what we want because they will work harder & faster for you”
While the big agencies will argue that their size trumps all, we all know that regardless of the size of the overall agency, the core team is made up of a handful of people that are key.
The plethora of others who might be spoken of as ‘part of the team’ at pitch stage have their own clients to look after, so the perceived advantage is actually a mirage.
And let’s not forget the ‘pitch & switch’ – the big guns pitch, the smaller guns deliver. Is that what you bought and wanted? I doubt it.
And it’s an open secret that bigger agencies regularly outsource work to their smaller peers – they know that the boutiques can more than match them for creativity while bringing agility and pace.
This means the work gets done quicker but to the exacting standards you expect and pay for!
Driven brands who are striving to stand out in increasingly crowded markets have realised that size isn’t everything – success comes from working with agencies that match their ambitions, not their size.
While the big behemoth agencies struggle to adapt, a new breed of agile, high quality boutique agencies is quietly and efficiently transforming the landscape and eating their lunch… Yum!
“You’re a big client for them, they want to retain your business so it works beautifully for everyone”
As the legendary band Cypress Hill tell us:
“When the shit goes down, you better be ready”
And if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to be ready to expect the unexpected. That’s why the marketing professionals we work with day in, day out are constantly thinking about their brand, business and marketplace so they’re battle ready for whatever comes around the corner.
While there will always be the fabled ‘unknown unknowns’ (see Donald Rumsfeld), here’s a few of the philosophies and mantras we always to keep front of mind as much as possible…especially in the tricky times.
Not only is this the title of a brilliant book, it’s also a great question to ask of your business. Why does your brand exist? What is its fundamental purpose and what problems does it solve for your target audience(s)? Only when you know the ‘why’ can you really understand ‘how’ you should execute comms.
The most effective brands really get to know their competitors. What are they doing, what can you learn from them and how can you surpass them?
Then take a look at your target audience. What do the various segments look like – can you create pen portraits of them? This will help you articulate what they are seeking from brands that do what you do and then shape the way in which your brand can satisfy those desires.
Armed with these insights, you can spot opportunities in the market that could change the game for you.
“When the shit goes down, you better be ready”
When your customers think about your brand, what do you want them to feel? That the brand is sexy / funny / exciting / or something else entirely? Build on this by thinking about the promises you make to your customers and listing out the reasons they have to believe them.
What really makes your brand tick? The ‘thing’ that you want people to think when your brand comes to mind? At Giants & Titans for example, we’re all about speed, agility & expertise: we’re the powerboat of creative agencies. So what’s your brand’s personality? Try to bring it to life – would you dress it in a t-shirt and trainers or a Paul Smith suit? Is it a skinny latte kinda brand or a double espresso with a Biscoff?
And finally, how is your brand expressed across all the different consumer touchpoints – from social media and your website to your people and places? And don’t forget those vital brand building blocks – review everything from your logo and typography through to colour palettes, photography styles and tone of voice to check it still cuts the mustard with all of this new info in-hand.
Making big changes to a well established brand is far from easy and often needs careful navigation and patience. So start with the quick wins and smaller changes. You’ll find they soon add up to something bigger & much more impactful.
And it’s at this point I’d like to close with one of my favourite life lessons:
“Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
Ok, so it sounds like one of those clickbait-shite titles – but trust me, it’s true.
Well, partly. Read on…
I was super lucky that for Christmas last year, from my wife and in-laws, I was given two tickets to the England vs. Italy 6 Nations rugby match complete with an overnight stay at the Marriott that sits within the stadium.
The cherry on it all was childcare all day Sunday and Monday – giving us selfish time for 24hrs.
So my wife and I hopped on the 9.30am train to London and a few hours later we were checking in to the Twickenham Marriott.
I love a Marriott, they just get things right.
I walked up, said who I was and within seconds the chap pulled out an envelope with my name on, printed with England vs. Italy. Inside were our room keys (pre-coded), room number card and two VIP wristbands to access the rugby bar, because we are Marriott card holders.
I didn’t ask for that last bit, nor did I pay for it. It was just given with a smile.
Great start huh! Off to the bar we went.
Everything went off perfectly after that. The drinks flowed, the queues at the stadium ran smooth, the seats had an epic view and England won.
After the match, we decided to go back to our room, freshen up (AKA drink some water!) and ready ourselves for the evening out in Twickenham.
We got in the room and there resting on the corner of the bed was not the usual ‘towel folded like a swan’ that so many places do. Why put a towel in the bedroom, put it in the bloody bathroom where I use it!
It was a Marriott-branded, replica Gilbert match ball with the date, match info’ and year printed on the side. A small note saying it was for us, a gift from the hotel in celebration of the win.
Could it get any better?
We headed back down to the lobby and into the lower bar. It’s a little busy but what else do you expect. Over walks a gentleman from the hotel.
“I saw you are both staying here, would you like to find a table, let me know what you’d like to drink and I’ll bring it over?”
“Better still, there’s plenty of space upstairs in the guests bar, head up there and I will find you.”
I mean, what? This guy has eyes like a hawk.
The evening just went up another notch.
After all the years in this sector, you’d think I’d know better. Nope, sucker
But in the morning, the trip took a nose dive…
At 6:30am I was woken by thumping and someone shouting and screaming.
I came to, and realised there’s a very noisy spin class going on in the gym next door – the bloody Virgin Active coach was being ‘too active’ at that time on a Monday morning…
I couldn’t sleep any more, and being wide awake I headed to reception to ask if this can be dealt with.
30mins passed while I have breakfast alone (my wife sleeps more heavily than I do) before the hotel manager turned up.
“Sorry, I have tried but they won’t do anything about it.”
That pissed me right off.
Not the lady from the hotel but the coach in the gym. I mean come on, I am sure she asked nicely but who needs some fool shouting at the top of his voice playing house music to get the benefit of a workout?
I workout 3 times a week, and nobody shouts and screams at me… aside from my muscles the next day!
The lady also old me this has happened before…
So I resigned myself to the fact that my planned lazy morning is shot to pieces.
We checked out later and yet again the hotel manager was there apologising. I told her it’s not her fault, but she insisted that breakfast is on the hotel and 25% is taken off the bill but only if we promised to come back again so they can show us how they usually do things.
Umm… why not.
Back at home I was reflecting on this when an email lands from the hotel, saying yet again that they want to make it up to us, want to welcome us back and to call Ellie, the hotel manager, directly and we’ll be looked after.
And guess what? I am going back, without doubt.
With such attentiveness and willingness to look after their most valued customers, Marriott have shown what it takes to run a service business.
Nothing they did is rocket science but they’ve got me – hook, line and sinker.
What’s your rugby ball moment?
To me, they Marriott is the perfect hotel brand and for what? Just doing their job but with some tasty little twists.
It goes to show that when brands just do what they should and add some tiny flourishes, we are blown away.
Even when the shit hits the fan.
After all the years running a service-led business, you’d think I’d know better. Nope, sucker.
Excellent service is not hard.
It’s actually easy when it’s thought about and really very nice to deliver for those involved. Who doesn’t like someone smiling at them?
If you work at a brand, think about the service you receive from your agency partners: do they give you a ‘rugby ball moment’ / ‘wristband touch’ / ‘let us show you how we roll proper’?
It’s not the money, it’s the thought that counts.
Heard that before?
When I was young my dad always had his mantras that he shared with me.
One of them was “Work hard and win, because when you win you get to keep your prize forever.”
And for all my years I have always followed this advice.
When I was 9, I made a superb summer project in science and I won a technology book that I still have to this day. It’s so out of date now it’s actually funny!
Back when I was 11, I made an Easter hat and won a chocolate hamper! OK, so I don’t have that hamper any more because I ate it, but if I hadn’t it would still be here – admittedly covered in white fluffy mould, but you get the point.
At 15 years old, I played pool for my town and won a shiny trophy that sits in my study. Looking at it now, it probably cost about £3 but it’s the sentiment that matters right?
And there are many other examples I could quote about winning, especially with the team at G&T. And yes, for some of those we have heavy, expensive trophies that we now use as door stops.
But I am now sadly realising you don’t always get to keep what you win – no matter how hard and fast you play to get it. I’d love for my dad to be always right, because he usually was, but this time I have to call bullshit on that particularly mantra.
Last year we got the great news that we’d won an account that we’d worked damn hard to secure. The win was for a contract to span 3 years on paper. We were so excited to get started and make some waves.
And waves we did make!
But after just 7 months, we were told it’s all being taken away.
Was it something we did? No.
Was it something we didn’t do? No.
Was it something we saw coming? No.
We couldn’t help feeling it was the old cliche of “It’s not you, it’s us” yet again…
In my +20 year career, I have seen this happen many times to all manner of creative, digital, data, etc agencies. And frankly it doesn’t get any easier to shake it off, put it down to ‘life’ and move forwards.
“Work hard and win because when you win, you get to keep your prize forever.”
Being totally honest, we have never had a client move away from us for poor performance or poor service. We’re so proud of that and fiercely protect the accolade.
However, when we told our team that this had happened, the look in their eyes was like telling your family they are not going on holiday tomorrow, but it’s not their fault so it’s ok.
But it’s not ok, it’s heartbreaking.
Maybe we are too emotional about this sort of stuff, but if there’s no emotion behind what you do, what have you actually got?
I’ll leave that hanging there.
On the flip side, because there is always a flip side to every situation, it gave us time back to work on our own comm’s and to quote my dad once again, “You get out what you put in” – and this mantra definitely still holds water!
The advertising world can be a fickle and shallow beast at times, but as long as you are ahead of where you were this time last year, you’re winning.
And that is a ‘win’ nobody can take away.
As King Henry said at the walls of Harfleur, “Once more unto the breach”.
Helping to inspire our nation to become more active – we’re in!
Can you put a price on “an idea” or is it the ultimate execution that has value?
If you watched Super Bowl LVI you would’ve seen a Coinbase ad during the fabled half-time ad breaks.
A simple floating QR code that many say lacked any creativity. Yet it’s gone on to smash records!
But if it lacked creativity, why were we all so obsessed with it?
I’d argue it lacked creativity because simplicity is one of the hardest tasks to achieve.
Sometimes, less is more as the old adage goes. Coinbase’s ad was a single message, with no other disturbances and a little QR code just had “scan me” literally oozing out of it – without saying it.
So it’s creative, right? Subjective to some I guess, but it hit the mark and delivered. Nobody can argue with that.
However, people are now arguing over something else about this little QR code.
Whose idea was it?
“Yeh, your idea was similar but we took it further to create our ad.”
The Martin Agency CEO vehemently states it was theirs and they showed it to Coinbase not once but twice during the pitch process.
Coinbase says it’s “back was against the wall on timings” because none of the pitch work it saw made the cut, they had to work something themselves. This indicates to me that Coinbase didn’t feel they had the time to engage any of the agencies to deliver a piece so took it on themselves for speed.
The one thing lacking from The Martin Agency’s responses is an image of the actual work they pitched.
That’d kinda prove it was theirs right?
Was it 100% identical to what went out during the Super Bowl ad break?
I’d take a guess at maybe it wasn’t bang on. But the ad was close enough to what the agency pitched for them to take to Twitter and claim it was their idea when Coinbase’s CEO was waxing lyrical about the success of his team and the ad.
Coinbase could (but haven’t) simply say:
“Yeh, your idea was similar, we took it further to create our ad.”
And then where does that leave us?
The “idea” for the final ad wasn’t what they were shown but what they saw did inspire their own “execution”.
So where’s the “value” and therefore the ownership of this piece?
Does it belong to the guys and gals who came up with the initial approach or does ownership sit with those that actually developed it on, brought it to life and executed it?
Clearly The Martin Agency wouldn’t mess up any future relationship with Coinbase unless they felt justified to do so… would they?
Coinbase surely wouldn’t be so bold to take to Twitter and compliment themselves on an idea they knowingly nicked from an agency… would they?
I’d suggest it’s a case of joint enterprise here…
For me, the morals of the story are:
The Martin Agency – if you pitch strong campaigns to big outfits for big money, register your work with a governing body. It’s worth it.
Coinbase – if an execution smells similar, works similar and is going in a similar place, you’ve kinda copied an “idea” from a partner who’s spent time and money creating it. That’s not really a nice thing to do…