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Born to Sell

Born to Sell

AD AGENCIES – YOUR KILLER SALES FORCE

Well done soldier. You’ve made it this far.

All those who work in ad agencies, I salute you. 

Look at you. You’re a marine.  You can be dropped deep into any territory, undertake any mission and make your way out armed with nothing but a sheet of paper and pencil. And maybe a coffee.

You can untie a strategic knot. Create fire from a pile of damp research. You study the target, know it’s every move.

Pass the buck? Not you. You don’t talk about the work. You don’t talk in theory. You don’t sit in a flight simulator. You land the plane.

Here is the idea. Don’t like it? Ok, here is another one. There is plenty of ammunition. Real ad people never quit. We don’t stop at the third idea or even the tenth idea, we stop at the best possible idea and most of the time we’re not even happy with that.

There is no one tougher on agencies than we are on ourselves. There’s a little voice inside our heads telling us nothing is good enough. That voice only keeps quiet momentarily during a brilliant sales result report, and maybe the odd award ceremony. Creatively awarded campaigns are six times more efficient than non-awarded ones, The Gunne Report says.  That’s why we keep going.

Last thing at night we say to our partners “Ok, what do you think of this idea then?”.  We ask taxi drivers what campaigns they remember from last year. We show ideas to our kids and ask them – “what’s that saying to you?”.

Tick, tick, tick, whirr, whirr, whirr.

If anyone client-side is reading this – brilliant. Clients are some of the bravest people we know.  We all remember the great ones.  Those who are prepared to fight alongside agencies for great work. Agencies will do ANYTHING for these clients. We remember every one of the greats. Their names. The campaigns. You know who you are…

Bring us into HQ. We can handle the truth.  Ask us what we really think. We won’t use 80 slides to tell you. We will never presume to know more than you about your business. But in the time it takes to come up with a plan, we will have done six tours of duty on other campaigns. If you’re working out a battle strategy, ask the people straight from the front.

But here lies the problem…

Those who TALK about the work, theory and strategy BUT never actually have to produce an idea at the end of it, are often more valued than the ad agencies who DO put actual ideas on the table.

One of our fallen comrades – Chemistry – one of the best agencies in Dublin for the last 20 years, is closing their doors as I write this. The very people who have had a proven record in producing ideas that had a huge effect on business.

And as for those clients tempted by that ‘in-house’ agency thing, that’s like using a lion from the zoo to catch an antelope. You want the one who looks mangey. Rough, like they’ve been dragged through a pitch backwards. The one roaming adland. Don’t tame the herd around you too much. Sure, it’s a pain having to explain the brand guidelines to the new agency. And they might scratch your nice new strategy. But they’ll be loyal to what matters – the law of the jungle. They know what ideas are going to survive and they’ll fight to the death on your behalf.

Ever notice how so many progressive businesses look to hire from ad agencies? Because they know how good you are. But if you love this business, remember how it helped make you the person you are. Don’t slip into the comfort zone. Remember the power of creativity and how you helped make it happen. Remember the thrill of the hunt and bringing home the results. You’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Don’t let that experience be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Soldiers of adland, never let anyone tell you that the agency model is broken or that all the exciting work is happening elsewhere. What makes every great ad agency great is this: the real boss is the idea. Everyone works into that. Everyone helps create it. Everyone. There’s a better view when there’s nowhere to hide.  You hold one of the most powerful weapons in the world. Creativity is the one area where one person can slay an army.

Agencies are brilliant.
The people in them are brilliant.

There, I said it.
Now go and knock ‘em dead soldier.

Thank you to Michael Cullen and Marketing for featuring this article on the front cover of its February 2020 issue.

Photo: Thanks to the talented Neil MacDougald.