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


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


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


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.

Harnessing The Power Of The Digital Consumer by @TheAgencyUK


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, 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 infinitely complex world where every consumer is a digitally-led consumer, how can a marketing team predict success?

The short answer is: we can’t. But what we can do is adhere to a set of principles that gives us the very best chance of success.

1. Be Integrated

Today it’s about recognising and understanding the digital consumer, and putting them at the heart of everything we do.

We know that successful marketing initiatives in today’s world rely on integration. This means integrating the marketing and communications that we send out with the multiple consumer touch points that feed in. This means building and integrating the IT systems that collect and share the data. This means adopting a single customer view wedded to a consistent and relevant brand experience.

Achieving this demands impartiality, appropriate utilisation of technology, a thirst for knowledge and a long-term partnership with brand marketing teams and their end customers.

2. Be Independent

Successful marketing demands an integrated marketing team who are connected by more than just a floor plan. They’re a team of independent thinkers who share an understanding of the consumer, who make a deliberate attempt to pool their different skills to create the most compelling experiences that lead to engagement, provoke action, drive loyalty and deliver sales.

Independence is key. Integrated teams work best when they’re free from the complexities of marketing, not hamstrung by cost centres, processes or conforming to industry trends. Independence means media impartiality, free thinking and a single-minded objective to only work in the best interests of brands and their customers. Independence is the bed where creativity can flourish.

3. Be Commercially Creative

The rapid expansion of technology into our lives has focused marketers away from ideas and towards infinite measurability.

The onset of Big Data means that we’re getting better at predicting the things that motivate buyers, and the marketing automation tools that exist allow us to test, learn and time our communications to perfection.

But it’s not the sophisticated CRM systems, technologies or mobile applications that make marketing efforts a success.

It’s standing ahead of the competition and being noticed for the things brands do best, and in a media-saturated world, creativity is the key to achieving engagement with the digital consumer.

The most successful organisations apply their ideas and creativity to every consumer touch-point. Initiating a clear set of principles that help them shape their brands and remain focused on their commercial performance.

So being commercially creative in an increasingly automated world 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 – because if you damage that, the digital consumers voice has never been so powerful, and it can be a long hard road to recovery.

Marketing Trends Tipped For 2014


Each year is a new beginning that brings new challenges and experiences to all aspects of business, and it’s natural to see various reports from various experts on the trends to evolve over the next 12 months. The Guardian has made a list of its own predictions for the 2014 marketing landscape, in an article that outlines the developments that industry professionals must watch out for throughout the year. Here are some of the trends forecast to guide marketers in 2014.

2014 is going to be an interesting year for mobile, as the technology will penetrate even more into the world of retail. According to figures from eMarketer, smartphones and tablets were responsible for 18% of UK e-commerce sales in 2013, with revenues more than doubling to £8.2 billion. This year, m-commerce is forecast to rise by 53.3%, exceeding the growth of retail e-commerce threefold.

Mobile’s potential won’t go unnoticed by advertisers, who are expected to almost double their mobile budgets to £2.26 billion this year.

The unprecedented adoption of mobile devices will also trigger an increase in mobile traffic. This will not only exceed that of desktops, but will also make smartphones and tablets consumers’ mainstream gadgets, as they will allow them to perform more tasks on the web anytime and anywhere. This must suggest to marketers that the always-on consumer is arriving.

Marketers can also make use of content creation to spur consumer engagement, since this will also be among the opportunities offering solid growth potential this year. The most cost-effective ways for content creation will be embracing native advertising or partnerships with renowned publishers.

Another strong trend that will take off in 2014 will be that of “visual sharing,” which will see the marriage of the three most popular formats of 2013: mobile, social and video. Video is tipped to become the top tool for consumers wishing to share experiences, and will also be a primary tactic for brands seeking to capitalise on the success of Twitter’s platform Vine and the launch of video on Facebook owned Instagram.

5 Tips to Successful Branding by Phil Blackmore @TheAgencyUK


I’m going to start this article with a confession…

I am a Yahoo! email user and have been for 15 years. There, I’ve said it. Now I know it’s not big, or clever but it is reliable, easy to use and hasn’t really changed much since its beginnings in 1995.

Do You Have App Fever? by @TheAgencyUK


Company exec “We need an app!”

Marketing exec “Okay. But, what’s it going to do?”

Company exec “It doesn’t matter, our competitors have got one / apps are very in / look at Apple, they’re doing well…”

Sound familiar?

Gadget-envy, about an emerging platform is rife in the current age of ever-changing technology, but in many cases that I see every day this clouds decision-making, and leads to “app-fever”.

The Reality of New Technology

We love shiny new tech as much as the next geek, but we’ve all seen new technologies set to be the latest “big thing” that turn up riddled with bugs, have low up-take, or, like QR Codes, are little more than a death-slide to product and service commoditisation.

So what do we mean by technology?

Are we talking about a website, a mobile app, a new customer database or social media platform? Or something simpler, like pay-by-SMS or CRM. What are the options and their advantages, user base and likely future popularity?

Do any of the above actually enhance the customer experience, offer value, or improve your chance of making a sale?

If yes, can you measure its impact, and assign an accurate return on investment?

Correctly implemented measurement tools are where digital can offer a unique advantage, providing proof of ROI, and can give you data to inform your business decisions, and allow you to quickly react away from an unsuccessful strategy.

Does the ROI fit with the commercial objectives for your business?

Is that investment best spent elsewhere? Consider your options, as any marketing spend has an opportunity cost associated with it. Would improving the existing mobile website experience result in more sales than investing in a new app?

In Conclusion

The adoption of any technology shouldn’t be led by what your competitors are doing, by the latest trend or on a whim.

Technology can be as simple as contributing to the bottom line through improved process or providing you with the data that your business needs to make smarter, more profitable decisions. Now that’s not a bad place to start.

10 Golden Rules For A Successful Celebrity Affair by @TheAgencyUK


The celebrity machine took hold in advertising decades ago, and as Ad Men and Joe Public we’ve been pushing, pulling and undressing celebs to capture a sneak peak into the brands they live with. But, the influx of semi-celebrity, the invention of zelebrity’s and the see and forget nature of the media means that at any one time there are a huge number of people looking to cash-in on their 15 minutes of fame.

Being Commercially Creative by @TheAgencyUK


Phil Blackmore, creative director at The Agency, discusses what being “commercially creative” means for a business and how to ensure success.

It’s Monday morning and I’m taking a brief for a new client. The brief is well written, focused and full of promise. But as I scan the page I see a familiar phrase rears it head… ‘The creative idea must be commercially focused’.

It’s a phrase I’ve seen a lot since the start of the recession and one that is often bandied around during brainstorm sessions. But what does it really mean? And how does it affect the creative process and output?

Well, being commercially aware and focused is of course crucial to a creative’s armoury – and something that we criticise students fresh out of uni for not being. But the concern I have is that being commercially creative these days seems to mean shifting focus onto short-term sales with less consideration to building medium term brand equity. Which in my opinion is wrong, you need to always consider both.

Yes, there are physical objectives to hit, targets to reach. But selling product or services on the spot are just one facet of being commercially successful for a brand and not necessarily a great long-term strategy. The brand image needs to be considered, nurtured, protected – so that it can live a long and fruitful existence.

Take Dove for example. In 2007, they launched their campaign for real beauty. It was a beautifully simple idea… use real women to connect with real women up and down the country. It was met with massive success, and sales soared. They’d found one of the holy grails for brands – respect and revenue.

But alas they creatively lost their way as it transpired that the real women in the ad weren’t so real. They had been retouched according to digital artist Pascal Dangin. Dove refuted the claim of course, but the damage was done and there was no going back.

So in summary, being commercially creative in today’s world means two things. Firstly you do need to be able to create great work that sells product. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you need to create great work that enhances and protects the brands image – because if you damage that, it can be a long hard road to recovery.

Source: Dove, 5 Famous Ad Campaigns That Actually Hurt Sales,

What We Need To Do To Stimulate Growth In The UK Creative Sector (Part 3 of 3) by @TheAgencyUK

Saman Mansourpour The Agency

What Makes a Creative Start-Up Successful?

Small creative businesses are intensely inter-personal, so authenticity, and understanding how your business might be perceived is the key to success.

1. The founders need focus – to know what the business is doing, when it is slipping, and most importantly who can help.

2. They need resilience – an understanding and acceptance that they will always be on the edge.

3. They require great teamwork and a culture that allows teams to thrive – start-ups need people around with complimentary skills.

4. Start-ups need honest, open communications and the confidence to learn.

To achieve the above, start-ups need access to an open network of talent, external knowledge, advisors and clients.

Nurturing the Creative Ecology

Ecology is an appropriate description here – there are small and large entities, energy flows, clients and suppliers, a constant dynamic of change and adaptation, and a need for a suite of mechanisms – it’s debateable how effectively external agents can support a creative ecology, let alone create one, but it can grow naturally through facilitated and effective networks.

What is clear is that open networks; willing guides, brokers and helpers ; a wide range of interlinked activities ; a range of companies and the active engagement of education and public sector organisations all play a key role.

The role of Universities is to create the need for a business approach early, provide experience and stimulus to shape it, and also maintain better connections with alumni.

Start-ups are powered by individual energy, so external agents should recognise that learning and growth happen every day, and should therefore:

  • Promote good practice,
  • Reward innovation and achievement,
  • Re-frame “failure” as learning,
  • Provide easy, visible support when the individuals recognise the need,
  • Provide a talent pipeline for them to draw on.

Saying “there’s a lot of people starting up” – you might as well say “everyone’s gambling” – but the key is how many are rolling 6’s, and how do we measure their success?

There will be plenty of failures, but the strength of the South West ecology is becoming more apparent every day.