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A Change is as Good as a Holiday

Nine tips to choosing a new ad agency.

Mick Blore




So you need an agency, or a change from the one you’re using currently. Perhaps you feel it’s time for a fresh approach; maybe you feel the agency you’ve used before has under-delivered or perhaps your organisation is simply going through change/growth and you need a communications partner that can help you on the journey.

At first, it seems like a nightmare of a task; there are so many options out there, and new agencies are springing up all the time. Some are specialist, some offer everything under one roof; it can be quite confusing.

Here are nine easy tips to help you to choose the right agency for you:

  1. You’re Not Alone. This is not something you need to do alone. Get a consultant who knows agencies. There are couple of very good ‘pitch brokers’ who will suggest a shortlist and run you through the process to help you choose. Or you can simply compile a list online, even the interweb helps.
  2. Do It Right. The ACA (Association for Communication and Advertising) have industry-determined guidelines for pitches and selecting agencies, which can help enormously and prevent misunderstandings etc. Speak to the CEO, Odette van der Haar, she’s lovely.
  3. Make Sure of Your Needs. Bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s exactly what you want. It’s a fine line between the agency’s offering and what you’ll be charged. Write down a bullet-point list of your objectives and requirements. Then find the right agency to meet those needs.
  4. Do Some Homework. It’s definitely worth a little extra time and effort to find out what other clients an agency has, phone them, get a quick reference, find out what others have experienced. It’s like a full service history on a car. Get one.
  5. Negotiate Fees. Most agencies will want a retainer or some kind of fee (flat or as a percentage). The truth is, there is no good reason why you have to comply. Don’t be shy; negotiate with the leaders of an agency. They want the business, trust me.
  6. Identify Your Team. Every agency will bring their ‘A-team’ to a pitch, but they have expensive back-offices to pay and people already employed. Insist on knowing who will work on your business, a project they have done lately, and then get a reference on it.
  7. Choose the Game-Changers. Find out about the key players in an agency. What have they done that is remarkable? What do players in the industry think of them? What makes them stand apart from the others? This is particularly important when it comes to Strategy.
  8. Be Interested in Awards. There is a big stigma around agencies and awards. The truth is that it has been irrevocably proven; the better, the more unique and the more awarded a campaign is, the better it performs on the client’s bottom line. Awards keep an agency at their best, and their best is what you want on your account.
  9. It’s All About Chemistry. Despite all the bells and whistles agencies will throw at you, it all comes down to people dealing with people. Choose partners that you like, can laugh with and have fun with – choose an agency you ‘gel’ with.

In the end, to get the best service and result from your new agency, remember that you have chosen them for their experience and expertise. An agency shouldn’t be seen as a supplier, but rather as a communications partner, that you work together with, to achieve your objectives.

Or as a CEO I used to work with puts it: “Don’t hire a dog and then bark yourself.” Best of luck.

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Don’t Kill Your Marketing Copy. Here’s What You Need to Know


Mick Blore is a founding partner of Original Forever, a creative agency that specializes in big ideas born of extraordinary creative strategy. For more information visit

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Consumers Don’t Have An Attention Problem. It’s Just That Your Advertising Isn’t Very Good

With so much media available to consume, quality matters more than ever for ads.

Brendan Gahan




If a brand releases an ad and no one sees it, is it still called “advertising”?

People have more tools than ever before to skip out on ads entirely. More than three-fourths of the people in North America engage in automated ad-blocking, and 10 percent of them block ads across four kinds of media or more, according to Deloitte. Much like the question of trees falling in forests, what good is a brand’s message at a time when people generally don’t want to hear its sound?

Ad units are shrinking in the wake of ad-blocking technology, but human attention span remains unchanged. Today’s consumers are surely more distracted than any previous generation, so they guard their attention spans more mercilessly. When advertisers can successfully command that attention for a minute or two, it means the consumer is watching an ad for the same reason he or she binge-watches Stranger Things on Netflix: The ad has managed to present itself as relevant or vital to the viewer. It wins every time.

Just 10 years ago, Gillette dominated the razor blade market. Its ads were comfortable, predictable 30-second units that reminded everyone of something they already knew: You need razor blades on the regular, so you might as well buy Gillette.

Related: Advertising Consulting Business Plan

But, the market had to reorganise itself with the appearance of Dollar Shave Club and its distinctly off-the-wall messaging. The notorious startup used quirky 90-second ads to spread its word online, presenting itself as unignorable by comparison to the competition. Even though we live in a time when people can skip ads, block ads and avoid ads, Dollar Shave Club’s marketing won major viral attention. It didn’t exactly kill Gillette’s Goliath, but it sure made Goliath sweat.

The lesson here is that people don’t hate all ads, they just hate the crappy ones. The bar for perceived quality in advertising is so low these days that many choose not to engage with anything on principle alone. People even close web pages they want to visit when the page auto-plays a video ad. When job number one of the advertiser is to interest consumers, it’s never been easier to annoy them.

Far from the rise of the six-second ad unit, there’s strong evidence that people generally want long-form content.

Ooyala reports that long-form video content consumption is up 30 percent from last year. Instagram used to be all about sharing individual photos and short videos, but now with the launch of IGTV supports 60-minute videos. The most widely subscribed YouTuber, PewDiePie, regularly posts 20-minute-long videos to a community of millions of fans. Joe Rogan’s podcast blends comedy, politics and philosophy for two to three hours at a stretch, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

People can, of course, handle stories and follow them over time. It’s one of the defining characteristics of humanity. But, there are so many stories competing for our attention nowadays that we are extremely selective about which ones we let into our lives. If any of these opt-in narratives will come from advertising, those ads must first run the ad-blocking gauntlet, then be immediately relevant and spectacular to the consumer upon arrival. The bar for perceived quality in advertising these days is actually quite high.

Related: 9 Strategies For Memorable Advertising When Your Audience Is Chronically Distracted

But, there is meaningful assistance on your way to clearing it. Social listening tools trawl the internet to learn what’s being said about and around different brands. With help from a company specialising in consumer insights and some Nielsen data, brands can better learn who their customers are, what they love and what they don’t love. This is key information in designing a vital, relevant message. In simplest terms, a brand must know its audience. The marketing needs to reflect what the audience is interested in, not what company leadership is interested in.

From there it’s only a matter of iterating and optimising. The great thing about digital advertising is that you get feedback instantly. You can iterate a campaign to make it better. Simple tweaks in copy, reframing key ideas and A/B testing can help make your campaign truly great.

Otherwise you run the risk of a mediocre campaign and a wasted media spend. No one wants to hear that sound.

This article was originally posted here on

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6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From

Don’t stretch the truth the way Volkswagen, New Balance, Airborne, Splenda, Rice Krispies and Red Bull did.

Jayson Demers



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New entrepreneurs are often tempted to exaggerate what new products or services are capable of. No wonder: Presented to a powerful investor, a stretch of the truth just might help land that series A funding.

And, less seriously, a bit of marketing flair or showmanship, in many cases, will help an entrepreneur accomplish his or her without many repercussions.

But, in other cases, if you’re that entrepreneur who is caught deliberately misleading investors or consumers, you could face false advertising charges – and the ruin of your brand’s reputation. Consider these six examples:

  1. Airborne
  2. Splenda
  3. New Balance
  4. Rice Krispies
  5. Volkswagen
  6. Red Bull
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Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell

If consumers associate your product with fear, they may not have a strong connection to your brand.

Scott Brown



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Sixty percent of Subaru owners have dogs. So in 2008, when the company decided to sponsor Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, it made a major break from previous advertising campaigns — ones that showed drivers with other cars getting stuck in the snow, for example. Alongside a pledge to donate $250 to charity for every car sold, the company began to understand how to appeal to its core audience through their own interests — and how those tied together in a Subaru.

Since 2008, the company has been running a campaign called “Love,” one that brings together all the attributes that Subaru is known for — including safety and reliability. Instead of talking to customers by telling them all the bad things that will happen if they don’t drive a Subaru (e.g., getting stuck in the snow), the company began speaking in a more positive language — including bringing furry friends along on drives.

For many, the instinctive approach toward marketing is to tell an audience why they have to buy your product. Bad things will happen otherwise, and yours is the best in market. The others won’t help you reach your goal. The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into account the impact of brand image on product marketing. Sure, you might skid in the snow without a Subaru, but you need to think positively of the company as a whole if you’re going to be drawn to its products in the first place.

Related: How do I know that my product is market-ready?

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