Too many marketing specialist companies need to market themselves better.
In the much-invoked ‘good old days’ production companies knew exactly how to get work in. Using technology no more advanced than a telephone, directors’ reps would win work face-to-face and door-to-door, peddling reels around the streets of Soho.
Everything was built on personal relationships and mutual respect back then. APA Chief Executive Steve Davies recognised this in his introduction to the APA’s recent event, How to Make Your Company Famous. “These are the time-honoured ways of getting more work,” he said, “and of course they’re still valuable, but getting work from agencies by going to see them is proving more and more difficult.” With agency workloads so stretched, deadlines so short and more competition than ever, getting a production foot in an agency door is harder than ever.
Clearly, alternatives are needed. Thankfully, technology has provided. There are thousands of ways to market your company now, but with limited resources, how should production companies know the best route to take? To try to answer this the APA called in two experienced and respected consultants, Adam Graham and Nick Corston.
Adam has run agencies like Saint and Weapon 7. He now runs consultancy business Cact.us, helping agencies build and expand their businesses. He began with a quote from Kirk Douglas: “Fame is as much about luck as it is about talent; perhaps more,” although he was quick to point out that such ‘lucky’ people also tend to work extremely hard and keep a positive attitude until they’ve earned that fame.
In 2011 his agency, Saint, was named Agency of the Year by digital marketing publications NMA and Revolution and he claimed there was a very simple formula for this that applies to any company keen to raise their profile:
Strong Growth + New Biz + Great Work + Lots of Hype
“The trick is doing all four of these in one year,” he said. The rest of his presentation focused on the hype – the hardest part of his equation to quantify and bit often dismissed as the least important.
While a hunger for personal fame is a bit mucky, Adam professed that for a business, “fame is a completely legitimate aim,” he explained why with the following points:
- Talent attraction and retention
- Gets you on pitch lists
- Clients like to be associated with high-profile agencies
- Increases credibility
- Keeps you front of mind with the intermediaries
- Fame builds fame; even smaller stores become important
But it’s important for companies to work out what they want to be famous for. Focus is key. While it’s attractive to say you can do anything, that’s too confusing to shout about, he said.
Once you know what you stand for, you can take practical steps to make yourself famous for that. Adam laid out seven steps for a start:
1. Set a goal and make a plan
2. Create a ‘Fame Budget’ – 3% of GP
3. Accept that there will be more wastage and lower ROI
4. Build fame into the brief: ‘What’s the press release?’
5. Max out social media. Get the whole agency at it
6. Drive word of mouth – three things that anyone can talk about
7. Don’t wait for the perfect brief – make your own luck!
He followed this with some great examples of companies building fame for themselves, from Dentsu’s Making Future Magic to Grey London’s innovative work on the Ryman Eco font, The Black Eye Project’s morally-questionable hacking of The Drum website, Adverbox’s smart use of editing software to turn The Masters into a crazy golf competition to Weapon 7’s own stunt – setting the world record for the farthest golf shot caught in a moving car for Mercedes Benz.
The tools are there for anyone raise their own profile without any external help, and if you claim to be a creative company you should be able to find interesting ways to do that.
Next he shared another list of practical steps – 5 things you can do today:
1. Write the brief for a fame project
2. Scour the press and submit five bold comments
3. Plan an event that supports your proposition
4. Approach five conferences and ask for speaking slots
5. Get the whole team together and brainstorm
Adam finished by stressing that none of this is worth anything if it’s not true to your company’s purpose, if you’re not creating great work as well as these fame projects, if you’re not leveraging all of this new content to the max and, most importantly, if you’re not having fun.
Nick took to the stage next. Once a Business Development Director at various agencies including Havas and TBWA\, he now also works as a consultant helping agencies develop their businesses. His advice began with a list of traits all the best pitches have:
Buzzwords, each and every one of them. But there’s a reason for that. We make decisions on our emotions and rationalise them later, so a focus on WHY you do things works far better than telling people HOW you’ll do them.
His overarching point was that “people buy people”, so a technical hard sell is a waste of time. Potential clients want to get to know your company and if you seem creative, smart and fun they’re more likely to want to work with you.
He compared the receptions of different agencies, recounted a story of how his pitches in Clerkenwell would often start with a grimy history of the area – completely irrelevant to the client, but interesting nonetheless and full of character.
This doesn’t just apply to pitching. Nick spent the rest of his presentation extolling the virtues of getting out there and doing creative stuff – not just for clients but for the sake of your own company – including all sorts of activities with STEAM Co. – an initiative bringing inspiring creative talent (what he called ‘Inspirators’) into schools – to publishing their own newspaper on literacy, the Literate Times (which they managed to persuade Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt reading) to turning an English teacher into a battle rapper. Listening to these madcap schemes was a little tiring, to be honest.
The overall conclusion of both hugely enthusiastic speakers was simple: get out and do stuff. Create your own opportunities and see where they lead. Whether it’s speaking at conferences, writing a blog, or concocting a ridiculous publicity stunt using social media, the tools are there for companies to make themselves famous. And as long as it’s true to what your company stands for, the pay-off can be far more powerful than knocking on people’s doors with a showreel and a dream.