What separates a successful agency from a struggling agency these days?
Agencies tend to talk about differentiation, but generally fail to take their own advice. But in my view a different agency is exactly what the clients want. Ironically, I think it’s a fear of being seen to be different that drives a lot of agencies to be vanilla and this, in turn, stops them from having something interesting to sell, hence they struggle.
What's the secret to winning a pitch?
Agencies spend a lot of me in pitches talking about themselves, but if someone else can advocate on your behalf it’s infinitely more credible.
How do you balance pitches with the day-to-day? Doesn't it put a strain on staff?
Agency success, whether you measure it in great creative or growth or both, is really about putting in the hours. You can’t avoid the fact that the more me you spend focused on something, the better you’ll be at it. Pitching is tough, but it’s just par for the course. The key to survival though is a culture of support, the rally round when times are tough, the emotional support when you’re exhausted or things are difficult at home. We try to make Y&R feel like a family business. A couple of weeks ago, we closed the entire agency on a Monday and gave everyone a long weekend; they were exhausted, they needed it, we made it happen and our clients totally understood.
How do you go about evolving an agency? Do you have to tinker with it all the time or is it more a case of addressing shortcomings?
Constant tinkering is the key. New opportunities are everywhere, but you’ve got to tinker with the product to take advantage. Change is good and exciting. Culturally you need a little new every week, so great ideas are embraced and implemented quickly.
What are your plans for 2018?
Our core clients are constantly evolving and our new clients are all looking for real change. 2018 will see us continue to expand on our full-service offering but control our growth. Auckland is close to capacity as we only have so much room to expand within City Works and we have no intention of moving out. Growing our Wellington office will be our big focus in 2018. There’s a huge amount of potential there and, as a Wellingtonian, I want to invest in my hometown.
Other thoughts on the industry?
People always say the advertising industry is in a state of change, but that comes from people looking for a formula for what we do. There isn’t one and no idea should be exactly like another. That’s change, that’s a good thing. Let’s have more of it.
This story originally appeared in the Special edition of NZ Marketing magazine to celebrate the Stoppies.
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