5 Signs You Need Another Ad Agency

You have an ad agency. Things are going fine. Or maybe they aren’t. Your agency’s client service may be great, the creative so-so. Your creative may be awesome, but client service is more order-taking than proactive with help and ideas.

In today’s blisteringly fast pace of change in media, technology, and service delivery, no one agency can give you 100% of what you need 100% of the time. Increasingly, companies are partnering with a number of agencies based on the agencies’ main strengths.

Here are 5 signs you’re ready to expand your agency roster.

  1. No diversity of thought.

Today’s customers are getting more diverse and savvy every day. Your advertising must also become more diverse and savvy – especially if you’ve approached your marketing the same way for years. Plus, there’s more competition for your customers’ attention and loyalty than ever before. Even if you like your current agency, consider expanding your agency mix to bring diversity to your marketing – and more customers to your business.

  1. Your agency simply takes orders.

When was the last time your agency presented you with a fresh idea? Something that could bring in new customers or create an additional revenue stream? The best agencies don’t deliver only what you ask for. They give you what your business needs.

  1. The competition out-hustles you.

Right now, your competition is doing everything in its power to take away your customers. Your company and its agency partners need to use every creative idea you can to stay one step ahead of the competition.

  1. Your agency is a navel-gazer.

Your agency is more concerned about promoting itself than promoting you. You’ll know if it’s true.

  1. You’re always waiting on your agency.

For decades, agencies have touted the mantra “Good. Fast. Cheap. You can pick two.” With the speed of commerce today, your company doesn’t have the luxury to allow your agency to live by this axiom. You can have it all – you just need the right partners.

Buying in to what you’re working on

In the fall of 2015, the first all-new 2016 Honda Civic rolled off the line at the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in Greensburg, Indiana. A complete, from-the-ground-up remodel, it represented a huge leap forward in both design and aesthetic.


As the Creative Director working on the campaign for this particular vehicle launch, I had the opportunity to see the rebirth of this newly reimagined flagship brand up close and personal, literally seeing it being put together before my very eyes. If you’ve ever been in a manufacturing plant, you’ll know the sense of awe and wonder that comes with seeing first-hand the sophisticated process that produces these modern feats of engineering genius. Heading home from the launch celebration, the seed had been sown: I had to have one.

So it was, that almost a year later, I found myself driving one off the lot at my local Honda dealership here in Birmingham, Alabama. It took me an age to decide the style and level of accessories – heck, it took me two weeks just to decide on the color ­– but here I was, the decision made, behind the wheel of a beautiful Honda Civic LX in dark gray. It was everything I remembered it to be.


And that’s how it is sometimes. We work on a product so intimately, come to understand its value and beauty so minutely, that we become the ultimate brand advocates: We become owners.

Working as I do for a company that seeks to put smiles on the faces of its clients through the work we do and the way we go about creating it, it’s nice to have the feeling reciprocated. Making happy happen is what we do, but it sure is a great feeling when one of your clients can do the same for you.

Make Happy Happen

A couple of weeks ago, o2 launched our new website with a new tagline, “Make Happy Happen.” In a day and age when clients want “solutions” and “ROI,” why are we focusing on happiness?

The answer is simple.

At o2, our focus has always been our clients. Naturally, we provide solutions and ROI, but that’s just the beginning. We also go above and beyond to deliver the best client service and creative work possible. This makes our clients happy. We’ve always done it; we just never articulated it. We make happy happen.

Make Happy Happen goes beyond what we bring to our clients. It also gives us, as an agency, a higher purpose. It’s the mantra that guides our actions and informs our decisions. When we march into battle, Make Happy Happen is our rallying cry.

How exactly do we make happy happen?

That answer comes from the Dalai Lama who, to paraphrase, said, “I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. And we become happy the more we care for the happiness of others.”

So that’s what we’re going to continue doing. We’re going to focus on the happiness of our clients and each other to make happy happen for everyone who works at and with o2.

Advertising is Still Advertising

Our agency’s director of client services and I were on a call last week with a marketing exec from a leading social media company. As the exec cited a few success stories, she mentioned the importance of “text overlays complementing the imagery.” “Text overlays?” I thought, “You mean ‘headlines’?”

On a call later in the week, one of our clients mentioned it needed “digital content for its YouTube channel.” So, “videos”?

As technology advances, we’re not only seeing an entirely new marketing vocabulary emerge, we’re also seeing a seemingly endless rise in the number of places (“channels”) in which to advertise. The result is total confusion about how best to advertise in this new reality. On a daily basis, CMOs and business owners struggle with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they’re not taking advantage of the latest platforms. We should be on Snapchat … with vertical videos! No, wait, why aren’t we live-streaming on Periscope? But what about Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook?

Technology has without a doubt opened a world of new marketing options – options that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it’s also distracting businesses from how to effectively build their brands. But the good news is that advertising is still advertising. By focusing on two simple fundamentals, your marketing efforts can be effective no matter where you’re advertising.

First, you need to know who you are. Branding experts tell businesses to answer the question, “What business are you really in?” A good example is upstart bed manufacturer Casper. While Casper technically sells mattresses, it’s really in the business of sleep. Think about it. That’s a much richer business to be in than just beds, creating a much deeper pool from which Casper can draw upon to promote its business and even build new streams of revenue. This is why, among other tactics, Casper can take ownership of a sleep-focused blog called Van Winkle’s. All great brands do this. Nike isn’t selling sportswear; it’s inspiring the athlete in all of us. Chipotle isn’t selling burritos; it’s striving to cultivate a better world by preparing food with integrity. And UPS isn’t selling package delivery; it’s providing solutions to improve our businesses. So what business are you really in? Answer that question and you’ll know what you should be advertising.

Once you know who you are as a business, you need to share your brand in a memorable way. Advertising isn’t about technology. It always has been and always will be about ideas. Relevant, entertaining and emotional ideas engage audiences and stand out no matter the medium. Legendary ad man Dave Trott likens advertising to being in a bar. Would you rather be sitting next to Mr. Right or Mr. Interesting? Right advertising, like Mr. Right, is boring. Even worse, it gets ignored and wastes your marketing budget – even if you are sharing it on the latest technology platforms. Think about the last time you were on Facebook or your favorite website. Do you remember any of the brands that were advertised? Surely you saw a banner ad or sponsored content. Companies spent good money on ads that you completely ignored – even though they were in the “right” place and taking advantage of new media. Interesting advertising, on the other hand, is something people remember – and how you help to build brand awareness, brand engagement and brand loyalty. Geico’s hump day camel, Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World, and Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Can Smell Like are just a few examples of how great ideas – not technology – help to build brands.

Another legendary ad man, Don Draper, said it best: “Technology is a glittering lure.” In today’s continually evolving marketing landscape, it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny and new. Don’t let it. Rather than being overwhelmed and confused by technology, now’s the time to take a step back, think about what business you’re really in and then advertise your brand in a memorable way.

Tips for Becoming a Digital Account Expert

Working in client service for an advertising agency is exciting, challenging and ever-changing. Clients switch agencies, technology evolves, new clients are acquired, and somehow you’ve got to learn to adapt to new roles – and fast. Here’s what I’ve learned as someone who’s had a crash course in transitioning from traditional accounts to working exclusively on digital:

Don’t be Afraid to Say What You Don’t Know.
It’s easy to want to build yourself up as a digital account expert to your clients, but sometimes “faking it till you make it” can backfire. When dealing with a new trafficking process, a new vendor or even just new terminology, it’s important to be truthful with yourself and with your clients and speak up when you need more clarification. You’ll gain the knowledge you need, and your clients will appreciate your honesty.

A wise man once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.” That man was Dr. Seuss, and while it may sound simple, sometimes the hardest thing to do as an account person is to make time to read up on what’s going on in our industry. Staying current with the latest articles, industry trends, blog posts and online tutorials can help propel you to digital account superstardom.

Stay Organized.
When managing a digital account, organization will save your sanity. With multiple components and large amounts of asset requirements, being organized isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. Here are easy organization tips anyone can implement:

  • Keep spec sheets handy and reference them often.
  • Always make sure all project details are available in writing.
  • Create a naming convention for files and make sure the team sticks to it.
  • Make time to talk through everything face-to-face with the creative team.
  • Don’t rely on email to relay important updates.

Volunteer for More!
This might seem like the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re working on an unfamiliar account, but the more exposure you get, the more you learn and the better you’ll be at delivering on clients’ needs. Always jump at the chance to be a problem solver and a lifesaver for your client.

Digital technology is rapidly evolving and clients’ digital needs are changing even faster, but it’s never going so fast that you can’t catch up. Anyone is capable of working on a digital account as long as they’re willing to put in the time and effort it takes to become great.

The 2015 Weepies

The holidays are a time for happiness. Togetherness. Celebration. Advertisers have an uphill battle trying to stand out in a market saturated with that kind of unbridled joy, so many head in a different direction: making you weep like a baby, preferably in front of people. Extra points if they can get your nose to run. Even we, as time-hardened advertising professionals, sometimes find ourselves affected, and thus we present the best of the tear-jerking best:

Honorable Mention: Edeka (Jung von Matt)

This ad for Edeka, a German supermarket, doesn’t bring home a Weepy because of agency Jung von Matt’s blatant pandering to the judges: They were just, like, “Hey, you know what makes people cry? Dead grandpas!” (In their defense, people do almost always cry over dead grandpas.) That’s how we get a sweet, lonely, elderly man whose family won’t be able to make it to his house for Christmas — so he fakes his own death to gather his crying, black-clad children in mourning. “How else could I have brought you all together?” he asks. I don’t know, Opa. Any other way. Any other way, Opa.

Bronze: Ballymena (Grafters Design Studio)

Some of us, and we’ll never reveal who, never got past the stage of treating our stuffed animals like they’re alive, which brought special meaning to this saga of a wayward teddy bear’s quest through snowy streets to find the little girl he’s meant for. He does seem to have a fun enough time exploring the stores and restaurants of the small Irish town of Ballymena, but it’s when he’s finally in the arms of his little girl that the tears start to flow, if they weren’t already.

Silver: John Lewis (Adam&Eve/DBB)

British department store John Lewis is known for its annual emotional holiday commercials, and this one doesn’t let us down: It gives us an adorable little girl, a lonely old man and a sweet, wistful cover of Oasis’s “Half the World Away.” As her loved ones gather for a Christmas party, little Lily is determined to do whatever she can to cheer up the lonely old man on the moon so he doesn’t feel quite so alone. We never find out exactly how he got up there, with his little house, but we don’t bother questioning because we’re too busy looking for tissues.

Gold: Annual Christmas Lottery Spain: Justino (Leo Burnett Iberia)

Another elderly man here, this one probably related to the old guy from Up, lonely over the holidays. (Hey, lonely old men are in this year.) Justino works the night shift at a mannequin factory, with nothing to do but walk the floor on his rounds and arrange the mannequins in funny scenes for the day shift’s enjoyment: snowball fights, dance moves, a fantastic Rube Goldbergian mannequin Christmas tree. As we watch grainy security footage of Justino’s day-shift co-workers celebrating their win in Spain’s annual Christmas lottery, we start to tear up (poor, left-out Justino). But when he arrives for yet another late-night shift, the entire day shift is waiting — the winning ticket is for him, because his colleagues love and appreciate everything he does for them, even if they aren’t there to show it. If you aren’t openly crying at this point, you have no soul.

Have we missed anything? Which ads have you sniffling this holiday season? Leave your nominations in comments.

Chicago Fires Up Ad Agencies

We’re still feeling the heat from the Chicago gathering of Worldwide Partners’ North American meetings a few weeks ago.

Top experts in the Advertising and Marketing field fired us up with insights to help carry our clients and agencies into the months and years ahead.


There’s so much to share, but here are some points that I hope help you as much as they are helping us:

  • “Creativity” shouldn’t be all that an agency is about. Creativity may be the ticket to the game, but creative has to have a purpose. Our mission is to help you improve your results. We have to lay that out for our clients. (Michael Farmer, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer – Farmer & Company)
  • Time is the scarcest resource of all. You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything. Consumers are telling us, “I want it my way. I want to dictate everything, and I can.” This is why subscriptions and “appointment TV” are all going away. It will continue to be about streaming, binging, time shifting. And authenticity is all that matters. Paid Tweets are BS. (Howard Tillman, CEO – 1871)
  • Change for agency leaders requires “Guts + Grit.” Going after amazing vision requires both. Grit allows you to not get derailed. If you aren’t who you are, it’s incredibly hard not to morph into what others want you to be. Staying anchored in the status quo keeps you attached to your past and confines your future. (Jen Spencer, Founder The Creative Executive)

I’m glad our agency is an investor/owner in Worldwide Partners, our network of 70 agencies in 45 countries and the world’s 10th largest full-service agency network, public or private. We’ve got the grit, guts and vision to take our clients where they need to be – the top.

Does Your Agency Have a Proofreader?

grandmaAs a proofreader in the advertising business for more than 30 years, I am astounded at how many ad agencies do not provide this service. Agencies are stewards of your brand and, as such, are charged with safeguarding it at all times. Typos and legal errors scream lack of trust, credibility and professionalism.

  1. First impressions. We all know what people say about first impressions. You could have a beautiful website or amazing print ad, but a typo can quickly kill the effectiveness of any marketing investment.
  2. Pricing/legal compliance. When advertising a product that features a price, your agency should always double-check that figure. I once saw a TV commercial in which the sale price was greater than the regular price! But it doesn’t end with prices and misspelled words; there are trademarks, logos, copyrights and legal disclaimers to check. It is incumbent upon your agency to protect your reputation.
  3. Multiple proofings. A really good agency will proofread a project at all stages: each draft of a document, at layout, after final client approval and at printer-proof stage. Copy may inadvertently get deleted or duplicated, files can be corrupted or an old file gets saved and collected. An error could be missed at all prior stages and be caught on a printer proof.
  4. Multiple proofers. Just as important as having multiple proofing stages is having backup proofreaders, people with a fresh set of eyes and for those times when the proofreader is out. Also, backup proofers each bring their unique visual perspective; one may notice a font change, another may notice a double space. The more eyes on a project, the better.

Don’t wait until that embarrassing breach of trust or integrity. Protect your brand and help position yourself in the best possible light at every exposure. Ask your agency about their proofing process. If it doesn’t have one, it may be time for a new agency.

Five Lessons About Creativity, Taught by Funny People

Comedy writers and performers have, in many ways, the same job as copywriters and designers. They all need to discover their own style. All of them must figure out ways to ignite their creative spark. same sites . They all have to present their work to their audience, except copywriters and designers rarely do so in smoky clubs after midnight.

Here are five lessons about creativity that creatives can learn from funny people.

1. Procrastination is its own reward.
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.” –Bill Watterson

2. Confidence is key.
“I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I’m one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know.” –Mel Brooks

3. Keep working on the work.
“This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.” –John Cleese

4. Don’t know what you don’t know.
“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” –Steve Martin

5. The creative feeling is a good one. Embrace it.
 “Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm, older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her, she will make you feel great.” –Amy Poehler