Tayna Dua of Digiday, "a daily must-read among influencers obsessed with the bleeding edge of media and marketing," recently interviewed a co-founder and CEO of a small agency. In exchange for his anonymity, the interview uncovered some extremely insightful and candid perspectives about what it's like to be running an agency today.


Founding your own agency may feel like a logical step after having spent considerable time on both the client and agency side, but it is no cakewalk. You have to build it up from scratch, scrounge for new business and make sure you have your hand on the pulse of the industry.

We spoke to the co-founder and CEO of a small agency to get a feel for what it’s like to be running the show for a change. In exchange for anonymity, we got extreme candor. Excerpts:

You started off on the client side. Why did you jump the ship?
There was a lack of creativity; it just felt very conservative. There was no innovation and risk-taking. It’s pretty much the same today. Clients who are willing to take risks, push the agency to do really great work are very scarce.

You eventually set up your own independent agency. What are the biggest advantages of being your own boss?
The biggest advantage is just being able to say no to the bullshit. Sometimes you lose stomach lining over that because as a small agency owner, your house is on the line, your complete financial well-being is on the line. But at least you don’t have to deal with the bullshit.

Such as?
At my old agency, I remember this client who was abusive and manipulative and really didn’t get it. It was like bonded labor. For her, it was “you’re the agency and I’m the client, so you’re going to have to take the crap.” But I was beholden to my employer.

As a small agency exec, what are the things that keep you up at night?
Keeping up with the changes that are happening in the industry, particularly on the media side. The bigger agencies tend to have greater things to invest in digital analytics and whatever the latest the industry is moving toward, but that’s challenging for a smaller agency.

And the pitch/RFP process?
It’s a completely false situation to evaluate an agency. The most important thing in advertising is the agency-client relationship and in an RFP process, the client really doesn’t have a good way to gauge how it’s going to go with the agency and vice versa. The other really frustrating thing is spec work. It’s disrespectful; it indicates that clients value neither the creative process nor the agency. But it’s on us too. We’re so desperate for business and to win things that we’ll do it.

Have you ever personally felt wronged?
Yes. We pitched this new business last summer and in the end we got a small stipend — so because of that they “owned” the work. But you never recover your cost on that sort of a thing. We also pitched this business two years ago, and we had recommended a tagline in a URL to a client for a way to market one of their services, and they kept their former agencies but they wanted to own the URL. I mean, are you kidding?

Why don’t agencies fight back?
It’s a combination of optimism and stupidity. If the client tosses around a large enough annual budget, we get starstruck with the opportunity to land the big one. And the odds aren’t so bad. If you’re one of three, there’s a 30 percent chance, right? The reason we don’t fight back is that as an industry, we can’t get consensus and traction to say no, because if we say no, some other schmuck will say yes.

Does the lack of women in leadership roles in the advertising industry bother you?
It pisses me off. And the thing that’s frustrating about the advertising industry is that we claim we’re so avant-garde, but we’re just insecure. At the end of the day, it is still white-male dominated — and that doesn’t at all reflect what the country is like today. I was on a panel with two other white guys — three white guys — and we’re talking about what’s happening in the industry, and I was thinking, “Couldn’t you have found a woman or a person of color to be on this panel?”

How do you feel about clients working with multiple agencies?
Clients are choosing to work with multiple agencies and picking specialists, but the challenge with that is that then they expect the agencies to work really well together and sandbox well together. But in some cases, the agencies are competitors and the client’s expectations are unrealistic.

Any other client pet peeves?
More and more consultants are increasingly coming in to work with clients. And most of the time, they don’t have any experience with agencies or any experience with the category or media and take a very academic approach to our business. They tend to take the fun and creativity out of what we do even more. They don’t get it.

Source: http://digiday.com/agencies/confessions-sm...
AuthorPeak Biety
CategoriesGood Reading

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AuthorPeak Biety

Recently, our president and brand strategist Glen Peak, had the opportunity to sit down with Joshua St. Aubin from AAF Tampa Bay for a Q&A session. In this article, you'll learn more about what inspires Glen, what projects he has most enjoyed over the years, and even what he would be doing if he weren't in advertising!

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AuthorPeak Biety

It’s quite common in the branding and advertising business to hear an organization say, “We need a tagline to go with our name.” Many see the tagline as useful to clarify what their organization does, particularly if the company name provides no real clue about their business category or topic. Still others promote doing away with taglines altogether.

We’d like to issue an important challenge. Let’s drop the term, “tagline,” and think of it instead as a “brand promise.” Elevating the importance of a tagline to that of a brand promise underscores the value of this component to effective branding.

Granted, most people may never be able to play back the exact words in your brand promise statement. That’s okay, as long as they take away the proper perception or expectation of your brand.

Unfortunately, many taglines fall way short of being true brand promises. Common errors include:

  • Communicating what business you’re in without providing a benefit to the audience
  • Employing overused platitudes such as: “We’re the quality leader,” ”We care” or “Our service is the best”
  • Saying something so broad that it becomes meaningless
  • Trying to describe your company’s mission
  • Confusing the audience by using way too many words
  • Communicating what others are already saying

Even once you land on just the right promise, don’t stop there. You need to take the necessary steps to make sure it sticks:

  1. Share it and explain its origins to all in your organization. Make it an internal rallying cry. The best brand ambassadors are going to be your insiders. Make sure they understand the key role they play in delivering on your brand promise every day.
  2. Use it consistently with your logo.
  3. Resist the urge to change it if you grow tired of it. That’s usually the point when it’s just beginning to click with your audience.
AuthorPeak Biety