Idle moments are frequently filled with a trawl through agency websites to check their brand positionings, mission statements, reasons to exist. The majority make "calm down, dear" sound like the most delicious line in advertising.
My favourite right now is 101’s "a free-range creative company", meaning that its staff are "free to roam" for ideas for the agency’s clients. This might pique the interest, but it’s hard to locate a great deal of meaning in the majority of agency taglines.
They should probably give up and plump for outright honesty. Here’s my solution. Every agency in town hangs a phrase of Edith Wharton’s – "fiercely independent, passionately imitative" – above their doors and just gets on with creating better work than the others that claim to do the same.
It may seem churlish to criticise start-ups, but the majority, while launching with the most well-honed positioning imaginable, come to resemble that which they set out to efface. At the first sign of the dumbest, ugliest piece of ad business on offer, they drop their shorts and lose their way.
Those that do succeed do so because of the outstanding talents of their founders. The agencies that identify and focus on what they do well and eschew the claptrap about "resetting the dial", being "an ideas agency, not an ad agency" or promising a "digital-first" approach.
Those start-ups that do succeed identify and focus on what they do well and eschew the claptrap
Which is why the impending launch from the former MCBD and Dare directors Danny Brooke-Taylor, Helen Calcraft and Andy Nairn could prove so refreshing. The trio are expert practitioners who provide the perfect balance of creative, suit and planner. Apparently honest and likeable people, they go about their business in a thoroughly professional way and have delivered big ideas and great creative executions for some important clients.
They also hold the advantage of having worked at a very successful start-up in MCBD (in Calcraft’s case, of launching it too), while possessing the bruises from a difficult merger process with Dare. Accordingly, they are aware as much of what not to do in this business as the moves that bring success. Vital knowledge to have up their collective sleeve.
It’s easy to identify what makes start-up agencies successful: an excellent launch team, tons of hard work and the ability to bring in the "right kind" of new business. Achieving this is the hard part. The founders of this new, as-yet-unnamed agency could do worse than using as inspiration some words chosen by Nairn at an Account Planning Group event last week. They are better than any mission statement I’ve seen on a website. He said: "[The awards] are slightly terrifying – you have to go beyond the ordinary and do something really exciting."
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