Suki Thompson: I’m going to talk about best agency credentials and one of the lovely things that we do at Oystercatchers is talk about agency credentials quite a lot. The partners get together on a Monday morning then we go into a session where everyone else discusses what’s going on every week, and really good credentials are always talked about and actually all the different types of stuff and materials, but credentials are my particular passion. So, if my team would like to come up. I’ve got John Allert, Simon Derungs, Jayne O’Keefe and Patrick Jubb. John Allert is the Group Brand Director of McLaren and has over twenty years of advertising, leading global brands in Asia Pac and has a lovely lovely job at the moment that we’re all very jealous of! We’ve got Simon Derungs from BT who was involved in the wonderful work that you did on the Olympics and then BT Sport. Jayne O’Keefe who’s the E Commerce and VM Director at Coast, Aurora Fashions and before that was at M&S. And Patrick Jubb, the global marketing and communications director at Land Rover who’s worked both on the agency and the clients side, so was actually very good at seeing both sides of what you were doing. So, we have the shortlist and this is the shortlist of the agencies that we came up with: Iris, Isobel and VCCP, Universal McCann.
Suki Thompson: When we came together as judges, we looked at the specific category and we came up with a number of criteria that the judges thought were really important. It’s about personality, did it shine through? What was the personality of the agency? Was the idea and the positioning of the agency really clear? Did it resonate with each of the judges? The work and the team – do they engage? Do they inspire us? How people-focused were the creds? The format. Did the narrative flow? Was it well laid out? Was it easy to follow? Was it something you could pick up and keep hold of? And testimonials – were they credible? One of the things we laughed about is that there are certain clients that it feels that almost every single agency works on. We sort of had bets on how many would turn up in each of the individual creds. John – the shortlist was Iris, Isobel, Universal McCann and VCCP. Can you tell us how those agencies got to be shortlisted? What were you looking for?
John Allert: I think that you’ve already mentioned the word ‘personality’. I think that those that you really wanted to read, and this sounds so simple and so obvious, but given a pile of credentials which is the situation that anybody in one of our positions is often in, it comes down to what do you actually want to read and look at? So they were all potent, they were all highly engaging. They were visually very different and gave you just an immediate flavour (even just from the covers) for the agency from Universal McCann on one end being a magazine-style thing to VCCP being quite peer back and helvetica heavy and slightly retro. So they all had very distinct flavours but you wanted to read them. That’s fundamentally what put them on the shortlist.
Patrick Jubb: I was definitely looking at it. Sometimes it didn’t quite hit the mark. I think John’s absolutely right – you spent a lot of time looking at credentials and you’re looking for a connection, like anybody’s looking for a connection with any communication and some absolutely connected with you and then they carried that thought through all the work and all the thinking through the story and the journey of the credentials, and they were the one that you really connected to and wanted to spend more time with.
Simon Derungs: Well, in fact, it’s a good question, good and bad because some were quite polarising and the variety was surprising but in terms of them being quite polarised and on the plus side, there were some that absolutely personalised their message. They clearly put in a lot of thought about who the client was, what the possible challenge was, what the market was and had sent in something that immediately connected, demonstrated effort, thought, interest and very often personalisation to the target audience. And on the other extreme, there were examples which were pretty much off the shelf. So they might have been very slick and very professional and very well-done, but you almost couldn’t get through them very much and they certainly couldn’t connect in a relevant way. And the other example of that kind of polarisation for me was very much with the….something else! It was the personalisation and also this issue of effectiveness. The way that they put case studies together was very interesting because they all present case studies. In one extreme, they’ll present case studies in a very pithy way and give really good examples of effectiveness, business effectiveness, how it improved sales or whatever and at the other extreme, they will show the work and then say “and it achieved 10,000 views” and you think well I could get more views than that buying a spot in Coronation Street. In fact a lot more than that! It seemed to be the old thing about we advertise and advertising awareness goes up rather than did we actually achieve anything?
Jayne O’Keefe: That completely resonates. Building on that, we saw some brilliantly original examples, but what we probably saw too much of was agencies who promised us the world. There was nothing they couldn’t do – essentially what does your agency do? Well everything! We’ll even come and paint your house actually! But it was not very credible actually. When you look at it, you sort of think “ok you’re promising me you can do everything. You’re experts, you’re the world-class agency in everything and you sort of think, “know your agency, know your strengths, know your USP and tell me about that”. So that was something that we thought needs to worked on actually in terms of as a brand, I can’t be all things to all people so as an agency brand how can you be all things to all people? That struck us. And the other thing was actually the length of some of them. Some of them actually had a number of pieces of literature, video, everything. And it would actually, to give it proper time as a brand director; you would need to sit down and spend two hours reading that one agency’s credentials and actually you’re lucky if you’ve got two hours to get through all of them. So that was one thing that hit us was gosh, where do they think we’re got time to read all of this? And then the other thing, as it was kind of funny actually, was the expense of them! You just kind of think, don’t show us amazing images of your offices and these depressingly beautiful workspaces because I’m here, sitting crammed with clothes rails all around me and I’m beating my way out through the toilet and I’m thinking “Oh my God, that’s my budget that is doing all of that!” So there are a few things there – you want them to be slick and you want them to be beautiful but you don’t want to think that actually that’s my entire year’s advertising budget into their credentials. So there’s a few things like that that I’d say to keep an eye on!
John Allert: Well I was going to say not unless you’ve got hot-desking for clients in which case that’s very relevant! I think we all felt, and it’s easy for us to say this and having been on the agency side I know the perils of doing what I’m going to suggest. But having the guts to actually be famous for one thing, as Jayne said, and not spread betting. Because spread betting, although you think it’s mitigating against the risk of not getting something, actually it just looks weak. And when you’re on this side of the fence, it just looks like there’s a lack of conviction and a lack of specialism. You’re almost better to end up with clients that are self-selecting in terms of their partnership with you because they’re like-minded and they’ve been attracted to whatever that thing is – that principal, that philosophy, that specialism than to end up with clients that are actually somewhere in the margins. That’s struck a chord with all of us.
Suki Thompson: Thank you. Okay so who is the winner? So the shortlist again was Iris, Isobel, Univeral McCann and VCCP. I’m going to announce the winner, and then Patrick is going to tell us why they’ve won and then we’re going to ask you to come up to the stage and we’ll give you an award. So Patrick, if you can announce the winner.
Patrick Jubb: Oh right! The winner is Isobel, so congratulations. I think to everything that we’ve all said today. What we did find is that they had a core area of expertise and a point of view, a very clear point of view that they drove through every element of the execution of their credentials. You definitely connected to it, and they were very consistent in the delivery of that thought. Because it was single minded, you could start to spend a bit of time with it, so congratulations and well done Isobel.