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Alive to change: a flexible approach to the ‘always on’ consumer

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All brands must evolve to survive and thrive. We’ve recently experienced a rapid period of evolution at the freshly branded AgencyUK (formerly The Agency), so we thought it appropriate to offer a few insights into the strategy that lies behind our own agency evolution.

For many, the past few years have shown signs of creative becoming increasingly commoditised. Digital is often the short-term answer to diminishing marketing budgets. Media convergence appears to have accelerated automation. And social can serve as a necessary, yet largely unquantifiable addition to the media mix. However, few can argue that an over-arching, well-coordinated brand experience is at the heart of most high performance brands.

But how can agencies keep our hands on the controls and navigate brands through an ‘always-on’ and ever-changing consumer landscape?

1. Be Integrated

Successful integration is more than just a floor plan. From day one – back in 2008 – our teams were set up to work intuitively and seamlessly, both on and offline, to create truly effective work.

By remaining lean, independent and flexible we are better placed to react, adapt and even predict changes in consumer behaviour, needs and wants.

Of course, one thing hasn’t changed. And that is the need to put the digital consumer at the heart of all your communications.

2. Be commercially creative

A big idea is a great idea, but people talk, share and collaborate more than ever before; spending their time amongst one billion Facebook users, watching four billion videos on YouTube every day and actively tweeting with 200 million people. In the UK, we divide our time across 11 media devices per household and choose to research products across 22 websites before making a purchase decision.

So the key to consistency is data intelligence, but commercial advantage is found in how a brand creatively applies it to their marketing.

Being commercially creative means two things: firstly, you need to be able to have great ideas that sell products. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you need to apply great ideas that enhance and protect brand image.

3. Be collaborative

We believe that in a successful 21st century agency, creativity must be found in every team and that includes our clients. Technologists are as close to user experience as strategists are to copywriters. Developing an effective agency service is about collaboration, and that’s why problems are better solved when the best minds are in the room. For some brands just getting the basics of marketing in place is still the priority, but for many it’s about maximising efficiency through effective collaboration.

We don’t believe the future is about rigid agency models, with roles so keenly defined that the result is akin to sterile, Swiss-like constancy. While such a model might be suited to offering brands ‘dependability’, the only thing you can truly depend on is the market outpacing, outfoxing and outgunning you.

At AgencyUK, we pride ourselves on our independence, which allows us to work collaboratively and freely in the best interests of our clients and our people. We encourage each individual to think of themselves as an influencer, one who remains alive to changes in technology, trends and tastes.

It’s a holistic approach and a habitual one. In other words, it’s in our nature. And nature evolves.

This article originally appeared on The Drum on 2nd September 2015. 

Welsh Lamb reach soars after The Agency’s Prince William Royal Burger PR stunt

Welsh Lamb

On 21st July 2015, Gareth Matheson, a former RAF Valley Chef revealed the top-secret recipe for Prince William’s favourite burger: The Royal Welsh Lamb burger. The stunt was orchestrated by Bath-based The Agency, the UK’s no.1 small independent marketing agency, who manage all consumer communications for Welsh Lamb. 

In just over a week, the stunt has resulted in widespread international media coverage for Welsh Lamb, with an OTS of 170 million which is growing every day. Coverage highlights include Loose Women, The Telegraph, two mentions in The Metro, Mail Online and The Times. Burger King even piggy-backed the stunt by delivering a bespoke lamb burger to Kensington Place. On social media, the story had 3,555,698 impressions and 1,820,758 accounts were reached.

The stunt came as part of The Agency’s summer campaign to raise awareness of Welsh Lamb. The Agency’s Social and PR team orchestrated the stunt by tracking down the chef who now resides in Bangor, arranging a photoshoot at the HCC stand at The Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells and ensuring appropriate branding at the location. The story and images were then distributed to the press that same afternoon. The ‘Royal Welsh Lamb Burger’ recipe was added to the Welsh Lamb social media channels consequently reaching 2 million accounts and was also uploaded onto eatwelshlamb.com.

Social & PR Director at The Agency, Lucy Aston said:  “The ‘Royal Welsh Lamb burger’ story has really captured the imagination of press and public alike. There’s been so much interest in the recipe from around the world and across social media; the campaign has really put Welsh Lamb in the spotlight. The recipe is available now for everyone to make on their barbecues over the summer.”

Gareth Matheson cooked hundreds of meals for William and his colleagues over seven years at the Anglesey base. Gareth says although the Duke of Cambridge enjoyed a wide range of meals, his ‘Royal Welsh Lamb Burger’, which includes an unusual twist, was William’s absolute favourite. The ‘Royal Burger’ was unveiled to coincide with the second birthday of William’s son, George.

See the full recipe here.

The Bath Future Talent Programme launches

Bath Bridge

12 rising stars from Bath companies started their leadership development journeys this Tuesday (June 30, 2015) on a special, world-class programme to make more of the corporate talent in the city.

The initiative provides a premier development programme for a cohort of talented people who are seen as the future of their organisations. They are mainly aged between 25 and 35. They will be supported to take on business critical projects and responsibilities over the year that will deliver substantive value to their organisations and develop each participant’s innovation capabilities, leadership and project management skills.

The programme is organised by Bath Bridge, a community interest company concerned with positioning Bath as a place with a dynamic, beautifully inventive future, and it is masterminded by Lee Sears who has extensive experience in running such programmes for blue chip companies around the world.  Unusually, this corporate talent development programme is being run by people of the city, for businesses in the city, as a pro bono project with seven coaches and seven Bath Bridge directors giving their time.

Lee said: “The purpose is to provide a showcase developmental experience for people in the early stages of their careers, and equip them to become confident in acting as pioneers, innovators and change agents in their subsequent careers. Not only will they add value to their organisations, but the programme will create a powerful cohort that will enable a more connected business community across the city and send a message that Bath is a great place for talent to thrive”.

The Programme will be a blend of workshops, coaching support, mentoring guidance and project delivery. As well as taught modules and workshops throughout the year, each person will be supported by a personal coach and an external senior business mentor from the region.

The companies and organisations taking part are Curo, Gradwell, Mayden, Bath Rugby, Bath Rugby Foundation, Bath Spa University, Bath Mentoring Plus and Julian House.

Tarquin McDonald, Managing Director of Bath Rugby said:  “It’s fantastic to see Bath companies stepping up to this.  The programme will provide organisations in Bath with an unusually gifted vein of talent and really help Bath to become known as a magnet for talent”.

Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director at The Agency, also Bath Bridge Director, said: “This is a powerful and necessary initiative for businesses and young people in Bath, and it is fantastic that Bath Bridge has been the catalyst for such a scheme”.

What’s Your Story?

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THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTIC PROVENANCE FOR FOOD AND DRINK BRANDS

by Zane Radcliffe, Creative Director at The Agency

One of the first things we like to know about people when we first meet them is where they’re from and what’s their story. The same is true for brands. We refer to this as brand ‘provenance’; a word derived from the French ‘provenir’, meaning ‘to come forth’ or ‘originate’.

Which is all rather ironic for Kronenbourg, who last year fell foul of the UK Advertising Standards Authority for making claims about its ‘Frenchness’ that the brand could not substantiate. Parent company Heineken has appealed the decision, which would limit its ability to portray Kronenbourg as authentically French. If successful, the damage to the brand could be significant. After all, without a claim to a distinctively Gallic provenance, Kronenbourg is about as French as a McDonald’s fry.

This case highlights how provenance matters for brands, particularly in the food and drink sector, where it can provide a strong source of differentiation and, ultimately, competitive advantage.

Consumers value authenticity and will gladly pay a premium when the brand’s connections to origin run deep. Much of our industry research points to the fact that we put provenance before price and availability when shopping for food and drink. ‘Made In’, ‘Made By’ and ‘Made Since’ all matter. They have become the shorthand for all things consumers care about: quality, ingredients, health, animal welfare, environmental and labour concerns. In short, provenance equals confidence.

Of course, advertisers have known this for a long time. We’ve been handcrafting ads about provenance since 1623. Probably.

Even a humble bag of spuds can be covered in purple prose – often accompanied by a sepia-tinted photo of the very field from which they were plucked – in a bid to sell the unique provenance of its contents. Potato lovers aren’t merely buying the potatoes, they are buying into the farm, the field and the fingers that pulled them from the long-tilled earth. They are buying the story. Your story.

That does not mean you should instruct your agency to dress up your mutton as salt-marsh or black-faced lamb. Or that you enlist the services of Eric Cantona as your brand spokesman before you can prove that your Strisselspalt hops are grown in Alsace and not some greenhouse in Latvia. While there is a popular conceit that ‘all advertising is fiction’, the best and most effective advertising is invariably built upon truth.

If the consumer spots a hole in your story, their confidence in your brand can be obliterated. And digital consumers can be highly attuned to testing the veracity, or otherwise, of claimed provenance. From a communications perspective, brands simply need to get their stories straight.

Of course, many regulatory bodies and industry kite-marks exist to rubberstamp brand provenance. An unfortunate side effect of this is a proliferation of brands seeking to ‘flex’ the rules. Hence, our supermarket shelves are well stocked with ‘Greek-style’ yoghurt, ‘Belgian-style’ chocolate and ‘American-style’ pancake mix. Volvic piggy-backed the 2014 World Cup with a flavoured water ‘Inspired by Brazil’, surely stretching notions of provenance to their breakable limit. Unless you understand your core consumers and are absolutely sure that they’ll be similarly elastic in judging your brand, it’s a risky game to play.

Marketing begins and ends with your consumer. The digital consumer has a whole repository of tools to instantly gauge the strength of your claims and often a large audience to broadcast to, should they find your story lacking. It’s only worth you making origin a strong part of your brand marketing strategy if you understand their expectations about your brand category. Belgium works for chocolate. Not so renowned for pasta sauces.

If you’re a brand with strong provenance, leverage it and be truthful. For ‘comeback brands’, rediscover your heritage. For ‘new brands’, find your story. And if your provenance isn’t attractive – [Belgian Tagliatelle, anyone?] – don’t emphasize it.

Bath-based The Agency Rated No 1 Independent Marketing Agency in the UK

The Agency

After a recent wave of awards success, Bath-based integrated marketing firm, The Agency has been announced as the No 1 independent agency in the UK, according to The Drum’s annual national Agency Census.

The research, conducted in partnership with the prestigious Recommended Agency Register, ranks agencies on three metrics to provide measures of success – financial performance, client satisfaction and peer recommendations. The census highlights those with the best average rankings across all three, earning them the coveted ‘elite’ status.

The Agency is ranked as the Number 1 independent elite agency in the category of under 25 staff for the second year running. The Agency was also awarded the same accolade in 2014, the first time this was achieved by an agency outside London.

Managing Director of The Agency, Sammy Mansourpour said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been awarded the UK’s no 1 small independent agency. The census is so much more meaningful than awards because in its assessment, peer review, client review and financial performance are all participating factors. The fact it has come for the second year in a row is even more unexpected, but testament to the hard work and dedication of our people and our client partners.”

The news follows a wave of recent awards success after it was announced this week that The Agency’s creative team has gained its record number of nominations in The Drum’s annual Chip Shop Creative Awards after their work was shortlisted in five categories. Last month, The Agency picked up the top award for Strategic Thinking at the prestigious RAR awards which are based entirely on client reviews, feedback and ratings.

@TheAgencyUK Shortlisted for Eight Industry Awards

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Integrated marketing firm, The Agency is shortlisted in eight categories at the leading Industry RAR awards.

Six Tips For Successful Integrated Campaign Planning by @TheAgencyUK

PlanningIntegrated campaign planning is more in-depth than just coordinating different media channels, and we are now seeing brand marketers apply integrated methodologies to their everyday campaigns as a matter of course. In the most part, digital interaction is at the centre of marketing campaigns and this is stark recognition that today’s consumer is well and truly a digital consumer.

So what does integrated planning actually mean? Integration is what draws together traditional media campaigns with a multi-channel approach. Invariably this means offering tailored brand experiences at every consumer touch-point, and this is what causes marketers the biggest headache.

Successful integration requires multi-channel media planning skills, performance tracking and data interoperation capabilities, the application of marketing automation platforms by competent tech folk as well as a keen eye on creativity and user experience design. It is no wonder that the multi-channel media campaign management market is predicted to be worth $2.7 billion within four years.

Here are our six top tips when creating an integrated multi-channel media campaign:

1. Recognise the audience.

Any well planned campaign starts with your target market. Even more crucial when deploying multiple media channels. So get to know your audience, understand exactly who they are and what they’re looking for. Research will help, even if it means testing audience reaction in a live campaign environment. Different media will infiltrate different audience segments, so research and testing can be isolated and personalised, but expect some crossover and develop your messaging accordingly.

2. Create a detailed plan.

It’s all well and good having a presence across numerous media channels, but without a detailed plan of what will be posted, where and at what time your entire strategy will spiral. Line by line planning is what most media planners are weaned on, and no campaign manager should go into battle without one. Your line by line plan can also be used to set the framework for your media channel tracking dashboard, comparing channel performance over time. Be sure that when you set your goals you always keep them at the back of your mind, when you post content, activate new channels and ultimately report to your stakeholders. Not everything will work, it’s as important to track and eliminate those that don’t as it is to back the ones that do.

3. Keep on top of the specifics.

Successful integration is about the detail, and it is key that that every member of your team stays on top of the specifics: what is being published, to which channels, when and how it’s being measured. Knowing your audience and knowing the desired outcomes of your strategy will help to inform these decisions, but it can be hard to know where everything is going so referring to the line by line plan is essential. It minimises mistakes and eliminates duplication.

4. Listen to everyone and everything.

Consumers are becoming more vocal, and it’s not just social media perpetuating this. Consumer power has generally increased exponentially. For many brands this presents disempowerment, but for those that reach out to their audience and look to resolve any issues in the public space by being transparent with their practices, has opened up new opportunities to strengthen their brand. Look at Dell, John Lewis, even Dollar Shave. So integrate your social channels with your customer services. You may be surprised by the positivity that filters through to discussion boards and review sites.

5. Be contextually relevant.

The joy of the digital channel is that we can update them at the click of a button, so there’s no excuse to be behind the times. It also means we can try things out and conduct some user based research in real time environments. People appreciate that brands are now as connected as they are, so in turn brands need to do as much as possible to stay relevant.

6. Be valuable and emotive.

Finally, the wants and desires of the modern consumer have changed. What consumers want more than anything nowadays is an emotional connection to a company which provides them real time value. Creative is still how marketers will tap into the emotions of their consumer market whilst delivering a message of value. Get this right and your brand can almost guarantee marketing campaign success.

Festival Puts the Digital spotlight on City “for Good” featuring The Agency’s Sammy

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This week hundreds of people are expected to flock to Bath, not because of the usual tourist attractions but because of all things digital.

The 2014 Bath Digital Festival is now well under way and this year’s event looks to highlight how digital can be used for good.

Marketing communications firm The Agency is a partner in this year’s festival and managing director Saman Mansourpour believes the ten-day event will help cement Bath’s position in the digital world.

Across Bath and Bristol there are more than 2,500 registered creative businesses.

He said: “Now a real focus for local government and well funded through initiatives such as the Local Enterprise Partnership and Invest Bristol and Bath, encouraging companies to settle and do business here isn’t much of a problem.

“However, retaining talented digital folk from the local talent pool as well as attracting fresh talent to settle here is the final barrier to an explosion in economic growth for the digital sector.

“This is why the festival is so vital. It doesn’t just bring people in the city on the global digital stage, making it possible for organisations like us at The Agency to hire the best.”

The Bath Digital Festival is designed to be educational as well as inspirational, and is now a hugely important event for Bath and the South West.

This year the festival theme is ‘digital for good’ and is set to be bigger and better than ever.

There are more events, and more high profile speakers and there is something for everyone regardless of age and experience, from the Better By Bike Geocaching treasure hunt, to the digital literacy sessions.

Mr Mansourpour added: “We hope that all attendees enjoy the full programme of events as much as we have enjoyed working on the festival this year.

“Our thanks go out to the rest of the organising partners and sponsors for making this year’s festival possible.”

Less David vs Goliath, more Goliath vs Goliath

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The latest round of the ongoing battle between the might of NewsCorp and the power of Google is not merely about a clash of two heavyweights in the media landscape. It stems from a much wider question – Does Google favour its own listings in the search rankings?

The Creative Director is Dead, Long Live the Technical Director? by @TheAgencyUK

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For many this is how the past four years have felt, with agencies seeing their creative revenues squeezed because the justification for spending on a subjective and less measured resource was deemed unnecessary, possibly even negligent.

But in the wake of an economic recovery the emerging sentiment is far from bleak. Brand owners are preparing to defend market share and fight for growth. Armed with marketing automation and rapier acquisition strategies there has been a dawning realisation that technology might support effective service, but it is simply a business as usual function, and creativity is how to score points of difference.

So what does creativity really mean in the era of the digital consumer?

We live in a world where media is increasingly fragmented and brands have to fight harder and harder to attract attention, and it has taken marketers a long time to come to terms with this.

People talk, share and collaborate more than ever before. Spending their time amongst 1bn Facebook users, watching 4bn videos on YouTube every day and actively tweeting with 200m people.

In the UK, on average, we now divide our time across 11 media devices per household and choose to research products across 22 websites before making a purchase.

So, in this complex world where every person is a digitally led consumer, the key to success lies in being different, being recognised and being talked about.

1. Be Integrated

A big idea is a great idea, but the story creative folk write today will be read in fragments. Advertising, promotion, publicity, social engagement even customer service has to be integrated, because the digital consumer will hop between channels. The key to consistency is data intelligence, but commercial advantage is found in how a brand creatively applies it to their marketing.

2. Be Commercially Creative

Being commercially creative in an increasingly automated world means two things:

Firstly you still need to be able to have great ideas that sell products. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you need to apply great ideas that enhance and protect brand image – because if you damage that, the digital consumer’s voice has never been so powerful, and it can be a long hard road to recovery.

3. Be Collaborative

I believe that in a successful 21st century agency, creativity must be found in every team and that includes our clients. Technologists are as close to designers as strategists are to copywriters. Developing an effective agency service is about collaboration, and that’s why creative ideas can and should come from every part of the organisation. The perception that creativity is just about words and pictures is outdated. For some brands just getting the basics of marketing in place is still the priority, but for many it’s about maximising efficiency through effective collaboration.

Here at The Agency we are only as effective as the people we invest in and the clients we work with. So it’s no surprise that the most effective teams are to be found in collaborative and creative environments. The South West of England has built up an enviable talent pool fed by several world-class universities and a vast number of globally recognised brands. As has been the trend with technology towards co-working and open source, companies based here find that through effective networking they can also access world-class expertise. This allows even the smallest of teams to compete on a world stage. For us, our integrated and commercial capabilities are a direct result of the communities we engage with and the South West talent we attract, something that pays dividends for us, our clients and their customers.