The Economist Discomfort Future by Sense wins Campaign Media Award

The Discomfort Future campaign designed to grow The Economist’s subscriber base, run by experiential marketing agency Sense, has won Best Use of Experiential at this year’s prestigious Campaign Media Awards.

This is the latest in a host of accolades that Sense’s work for the iconic business newspaper has received following the launch of the first experiential campaign in August 2016. Since that date, 30,500 subscriptions have been generated along with significant positive shifts in brand perception, and the campaign continues this year under the Feeding Future theme.

The judges were impressed with the campaign’s proven success and the fact that it continues to perform strongly –  with the mirroring of the newspaper’s most stimulating content brought to life in a real world context being instrumental to this. 

“We’re delighted with this fantastic award, which is now the 17th for a campaign that has been a pleasure to run and which keeps on delivering great results, showing the power of real world marketing that puts people first,” said Sense Director Sally McLaren. “It’s testament to our outstanding creative and operational teams in London and New York, together with our strong relationship with The Economist, that we have been able to consistently target, attract and engage the right audience and significantly increase reader numbers.”

The post The Economist Discomfort Future by Sense wins Campaign Media Award appeared first on Sense London.

Common CRO Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

There are so many intricacies to Conversion Rate Optimization and UX testing, it’s easy to feel like you’re on information overload. There are tons of metrics you can compare, various reports you can dive into, a plethora of ways to form hypotheses and implement tests, several platforms for testing to choose from, and the list goes on.

There are some great comprehensive posts out there to help you master these intricacies. A few of my favorites are:

  1. This master guide to CRO from ConversionXL which addresses every phase of the process from preliminary research to analyzing AB test results. For when you’re getting started with CRO work.
  2. This framework from Moz to CRO. It breaks the process down into steps that are easy to follow and asks and answers questions that follow along with each step. Use for diving deeper into CRO.
  3. And Neil Patel’s guide to CRO which breaks down CRO on a more conceptual level. Use to fill in the knowledge gaps and answer questions you have along the way.
  4. Craig Sullivan’s 1 hour CRO guide is also very comprehensive. Use if you’re trying to get some quick research done.

There’s a lot to digest in those posts, so I wanted to give you some common mistakes and tricky issues with CRO that you might overlook if it is your first time going through the process.

To Refresh Your Memory

The very basic steps of a CRO process include:

  1. Exploratory heuristic analysis: going through the site as if you were a user and see where it does/doesn’t meet expectations as you move through the funnel. Explore where users might get caught up in navigating the site.
  2. Examination of Multi Channel Funnel reports, Landing Page, and Goal Reports in Google Analytics. Determine what pages, events, or users would be most valuable to track. Also get some basic benchmarks so that you have something to compare post-testing stats to later.
  3. Set up tracking (if you don’t have it already) on key pages. Track important KPIs, CTAs, element visibility, etc. using something like Hotjar, GTM, GA goals, etc.
  4. Generate hypotheses from gathered data and get approval. Prioritize these hypotheses based on ease of implementation, projected impact, return on investment.
  5. Generate test ideas based on hypotheses.
  6. Implement tests using Optimizely, VWO, Google Optimize, etc.
  7. Wait until tests generate statistically significant results. However, depending on the page and the levels of traffic or conversions that it gets, you may have to give it some more time.
  8. Reevaluate tests if unsuccessful or implement test changes at scale.

Among these steps (which are already a summary) there are dozens of minute details that are very easy to overlook or skip altogether. The rest of this post will cover common CRO mistakes that a beginner might make:

  1. You don’t have tracking set up properly
  2. You run tests at inopportune times of the year
  3. The sample size for your test is inadequate
  4. You aren’t running your test long enough
  5. Statistics confuses you
  6. You treat all traffic the same
  7. Your process is unorganized

1. You don’t have tracking set up correctly

Having tracking correctly set up is crucial. Not only should you have heatmap and user session tracking set up on the pages you are planning to analyze, but you should have micro-conversion tracking set up via Google Tag Manager. Setting up tracking in GTM for clicks and user engagement, like scroll depth and element visibility, will provide valuable data on how users are interacting with elements and CTAs on your pages. This is immensely helpful when determining which pages to analyze and while forming hypotheses and test ideas for these pages.

One very valuable trigger in GTM is the element visibility trigger, which can assist in collecting information on whether or not an element is visible on a page, and thus if a user is likely to engage with it or if a user can engage with it at all. The trigger gives you a more meaningful indication of scroll depth based on tracking elements as opposed to percentage scrolled. This post for getting it set up is very helpful.

If you don’t have GTM event tracking set up at all, it’s pretty simple, and these guides can help: here’s a simple how-to to set it up, or this video.

2. You don’t pay attention to the calendar when launching a test

Seasonality is not a myth. It can truly inform decision making during preliminary research through to the A/B testing stage. Without taking seasonality into account, you run the risk of achieving invalid or inaccurate results.  For example, running a test at a known low point in your sales cycle, or during the end of December may not be the wisest idea for most companies.

Why? Timing is crucial because:

  1. If you run a test at a lull in traffic, the longer a test is going to need to run to reach significance.
  2. You want the test to be performed on the most qualified traffic possible. Running a test at an off (or really on) time of the season may not demonstrate an accurate representation of your typical traffic.
  3. Traffic typically fluctuates during the week quite a bit, meaning you should probably start and end your test on the same day of the week for the most accurate results.
  4. Similarly, user intent around the holiday season, or at different points of the year may not be indicative of the most qualified traffic. The data that results could be less than useful for determining whether or not your test could be successful at scale (a hard enough task to accomplish with good data).

3. Your sample size for testing isn’t big enough

Having a large enough sample size to quantify your test results is crucial. Without an appropriate sample size, you may never get results or the results you get might not be meaningful. Luckily, there are tools to help determine proper sample size:

It is also helpful to be conscious of the level of traffic your test pages receive. Low traffic pages may be difficult to test on because it could take a long time to reach statistical significance, particularly if there are few conversions on these pages. Basing the impact of a test on a small number of conversions and traffic may not indicate how a test would perform if pushed at scale. For sites or pages with low traffic, you might need to think about making a big change(s) in your test variation(s) instead of smaller changes in order to see the needle move. From there, you can always adjust tests and reevaluate.

4. You’re not running the test for long enough

This point tends to correlate with the point above on sample size. It’s likely that you will not have to do a lot of the work here because many platforms have built-in features for calculating and demonstrating results to the tester. However, it is really important to understand how statistical significance works, even at a basic level, to make sense of A/B testing and your results.

Every A/B testing post you’ll find will say to run your test until it reaches statistical significance. But what does that mean exactly? In (very) short, statistical significance explains how confident you can be that you are choosing the right result between two or more variations. This can be confusing if you’re less mathematically inclined, but the next section of this post lists resources to basic statistics primers specifically for CRO.

Generally speaking, running your test until (or even slightly after) it reaches significance is a decent rule of thumb. Even if you obtain “significance” very shortly after you begin your test, it is wise to keep the test running to account for users who may convert several days after their initial visit. Also, it is important to consider accounting for different business cycles (at least 1-2), because, as stated previously, traffic fluctuates at different points of the week, month, quarter, etc.

I also like these articles: this one for explaining how long to run a test and this for explaining the factors that play into in determining statistical validity.

5. You’re Making Some Basic Statistical Errors

There are a lot of resources out there for testing methodology and for learning statistics basics that matter for CRO. One of the most important fundamentals is understanding statistical significance.


6. You treat all traffic the same

If you run an A/B test on a page and the variation performed poorly, it is possible to paint a very different picture when you look at the results broken down by a different segment of traffic. For example, if you look at the breakdown between desktop and mobile test results, it could prove that a test generates extremely significant results on mobile, but is a bust on desktop. This is because what works on desktop may not work on mobile, and vice versa. Here’s an illustrative example of how mobile vs. desktop test result data could be misleading:

In the example above, the change in conversion rate between the control and variant effectively cancel each other out. In this example, there would clearly be a missed opportunity here on mobile if we were to view only the combined results instead of breaking them down by device.

It is important to be conscious of this concept of segmenting results not only for analyzing test results, but for the initial research and hypothesizing that goes into ideating for tests as well. Distinguishing between different types of traffic (e.g. mobile vs. desktop, new vs. returning users, or traffic source) to form segments of your users can help to differentiate and find patterns in the type of people who convert. Doing this can better inform the way you create hypotheses and tests. In turn, you may end up with far more meaningful results.

7. Your testing process is a little less than organized

A lot can get lost in the shuffle here. So staying on top of managing a list of your prioritized hypotheses and test ideas, currently running tests, failed tests, and successful tests that will be iterated upon is important.

For example, it’s easy enough to keep track of results in a spreadsheet like this:

Recording all hypotheses in one place with the reasoning behind them and data to back them will save you time and energy down the line, especially when communicating with clients/stakeholders.

There are other platforms designed to specifically to manage CRO pursuits. Effective Experiments is a comprehensive project management tool that holds everything from ideas to test results. This is great for managing and sharing tests in one place that multiple people can access and review. (AKA great for sharing with stakeholders or team members who are not directly involved in the CRO process themselves).

Digital Advertising Need Not Be The Main Focus For Hospitals

Hospital advertisers must be aware that ‘retail’ advertising alone is simply not a viable advertising strategy. We have now witnessed numerous of these ‘retail’ strategies from hospitals. They put all their efforts into strong digital content, attributing this digital spending directly to profit. In reality, we can estimate that maybe 1 out of 8 of these programs work; however, even those that work do not provide enough information to ensure continued success in the future.


Therefore, if each of the 8 programs costs $1 million and only one works, shouldn’t we attribute all $8 million in the accountability model and not exclusively to the retail strategy? They need to stop showing the one successful case over and over again at healthcare conferences, when it is truly an improbable success. It misleads hospital leadership to believe that there is a 100% attribution model for digital/social media efforts. I’m most impressed with those that seek the right balance of general media to digital/social efforts tied to an idea.


Instead of believing this misleading information, hospital advertisers must always remember that:

  1. Campaign efforts should not be driven by media-first or digital-first thinking.
  2. Ideas come first, and a great idea with the right strategy has a much higher chance of working.  

Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearing Risks the Future of Online Advertising

If you didn’t get around to watching the 5-hour segment of Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of the U.S. Senate, that is understandable. However, this case has everything to do with advertising, so it is not something to ignore. The heart of the conversation between the Facebook CEO and our senators centered around user privacy and how advertisers use that information to target customers. This strategy is the basis of all online advertising, and Facebook is a key provider of this information, alongside Google and Amazon. “I think Facebook is safe,” Zuckerberg said, noting that he and his family use the service.

This use of private information has been going on for years, and it is extremely beneficial to brands looking to target specific customers through online ads. For companies that have a very narrow audience, this can be one of the only effective ways to truly reach their desired demographic. Altogether, it is probably a good idea to stay away from extremely targeted advertising if your customers are very concerned with their personal privacy. Younger audiences are used to giving out their information, so they generally won’t take offense to a non-extreme data breach. As Target knows all too well, excessive targeting can backfire, although the famous pregnancy prediction scandal was likely not real.


That said, many users prefer targeted ads, as it is much more relevant than content that is completely irrelevant to them. Most times, the ads are from brands of which you have previously visited the websites or left something in the cart that you considered purchasing. Therefore, most targeted online advertising is useful and fairly innocent, but people are just afraid of how far it will go; hence, the calling of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony. Because of all this drama, advertisers must consider the ethics behind their online advertising, now more than ever. As the future becomes more customizable and personal, advertisers have to set their limits. The real question is– how many Facebook users really care that their information is being used. Realistically, most data is just being utilized to sell you t-shirts that say “I’m 63 years old and proud” through a banner ad. Is that really the end of the world?



For KAYAK, Confidence is king

Martin Agency Brings Its Signature Zaniness to Kayak After Years of Tomfoolery for GEICO
Confidence is king in the brand’s weird vignettes

It’s been a little more than two years since Kayak decided to shift its creative account from one set of acclaimed weirdos to another, leaving Barton F. Graf for the Martin Agency.

Martin’s first outing with the brand was the “Kind of Like Kayak” campaign,which compared the travel booking aggregator to various other resources, like an army of body doubles to help you try on pants, or a personal style forecaster who’ll tell you when your man bun is past its prime.

The agency’s newest Kayak work is still odd, but this time it’s a bit more in the vein of Martin’s longtime, high-profile client, Geico. Martin has spent decades honing Geico’s ad approach, which typically centers on unexpected situations that fit tightly into a 15- or even 6-second space.

To highlight the idea of being “Kayak confident”—ie, secure in your decisions based on the app’s sprawling amount of travel data—Martin has created a series of short-form spots, including a dentist working on a shark and a snowman hitting the tanning bed.

There’s also a set of ads showing how the app helps you change your scenery, from the drudgery of workaday life and home improvement fails to floating fountain-side at a resort or watching hula dancers on the beach.

Read full article here.

Why We Signed TimesUp Advertising

The Martin Agency’s New CCO and Other Female Leaders on Why They Signed Time’s Up Advertising

Karen Costello, Denise Wong and Renetta McCann got personal at 4A’s Accelerate

During one of the last panels at the 4A’s Accelerate conference in Miami yesterday, The Martin Agency chief creative officer Karen Costello gave insight into her shop’s culture, highlighting the changes made since the high-profile ouster of predecessor Joe Alexander over harassment claims made against him.

Costello admitted that “creative departments often represent the worst behavior in agencies.” However, she continued, they can also be “ground zero” for where the most innovative people can be found … and innovation makes way for change.

“My experience at The Martin Agency has been a unique one because that agency was a bit of grassroots for the #MeToo movement in advertising,” Costello said. She added that the agency was “built on people that have raised their families in this community; who have stayed there a very long time. When this happened, so many of the men were horrified and didn’t know how to act.”

She said she was most encouraged by the responses she received from her male colleagues, adding, “They wanted to do something.”

Costello spoke alongside Denise Wong, president of Midnight Oil, and Renetta McCann, chief inclusion experiences officer of Publicis Groupe, on a panel exploring the importance of diverse leadership in the agency world. The panel was moderated by Keesha Jean-Baptiste, senior vice president of talent engagement and inclusion at the 4A’s. Baptiste and McCann were both featured in Adweek’s #MeToo issue cover story.

McCann noted that it’s important when discussing inclusion that men are just as involved in the conversation as women.

As an example, she pointed to a task force at Leo Burnett, where she also serves as chief talent officer. The task force was originally started by a group of Leo Burnett’s female executives to discuss behaviors they want to promote at the agency, as well as problematic issues they want to target. However, McCann said that at a certain point, these women decided, “we need to go get some men.”

“They were invited, and they contribute, and they are the signal that this is important to the broad audience in media agencies,” McCann said. “Part of it is realizing that there are men who want the same things we want.”

McCann added she knows all too well the feeling of being excluded, given that she’s a black woman who was born in 1956 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. “That gave me the motivation to include others,” she said.

The new face of inclusion will be an important consideration on May 14, when the signees of Time’s Up Advertising’s pledge meet for the first time to discuss goals and action strategy.

Wong and Costello, who both signed the pledge, agreed that this movement in particular is about action. Wong said Time’s Up Advertising was born out of a “crisis” and that the organization needs to be “focused on doing something now,” whether it’s through “task forces or operational teams.”

“Sometimes, it was messy; there was a lot of back and forth, email chains, phone calls,” Costello said when recalling the earliest days of Time’s Up Advertising. “We would share stories and talk about how we can solve things together.”

She added that it was “really invigorating” to witness competing agencies “coming together to solve a much bigger problem” in the industry. “I found that very inspiring to be a part of, and I am very optimistic of what we can do together,” she added.

Costello herself has already started taking action at The Martin Agency. Since Alexander and former CEO Matt Williams were let go following the allegations of sexual misconduct at the shop, Costello said the agency has tried fostering an environment where “everyone feels like they can speak up,” no matter how big or small the issue.

“We have a fun, lightweight word we say if someone feels uncomfortable but doesn’t necessarily want to be a buzz-kill,” Costello said. “We just say ‘ouch.’ And it’s a way for people to say ‘I don’t know what to say anymore.’”

How to develop a brand strategic proposition

Every company has a brand – the company itself is a brand, and it is the brand that has value on the balance sheet – it is the difference accounted for by the term “goodwill” between what a business is worth and what someone is prepared to pay for it. But not every company has a very clear idea of what their brand stands for. In fact, we would go so far as to suggest that one reason why so many businesses fail in their early years is because they haven’t thought through their brand strategic proposition to really clarify both internally and externally what makes them different and special in a crowded marketplace.

A brand is to a business what a personality or character is to a human being, and just as important. In the same way that people choose their friends on the basis of liking and trusting them, so too do they often choose the brands that they buy because they like and trust them. Some of the world’s largest blue-chip organisations have achieved their success due in large part to brand strength. For example, Apple phones are a long way from being the cheapest, and plenty of Android users would put up arguments against them being the best, but there is a huge ‘Apple tribe’ for whom only an iPhone will do. Surprising numbers of fans are even prepared to queue up overnight to be one of the first to secure the latest new model. The huge loyalty Apple commands is a clear reflection of the strength of its brand: Interbrand’s annual assessment of the value of global brands put Apple’s at the top of the pile (yet again) in 2017, with a value of $184 billion. Other companies with a strong brand proposition that spring easily to mind include Virgin, Google, eBay, Amazon and Coca Cola.

Whilst very few companies will reach Apple’s size, success on any scale relies on developing strong, liked and trusted brands. Through observation and analysis of what makes a successful brand, and helping Abacus clients to develop theirs, we believe the essentials of effective branding boil down to the following five factors, which we describe collectively as V5, and which we equate to what we call the ‘Voice’ of the brand. Create a strong strategic proposition, and your brand voice will speak with great authority…

• Vision – what legacy does the brand want to deliver?
• Values – what ethics and morals are important?
• Views – what beliefs and opinions does the brand hold?
• Virtues – what skills and knowledge does it have?
• Vows – what pledges are they prepared to make?

We would like to clarify at this point that a brand strategic proposition is different from a brand creative proposition, which is perhaps what most people think of when talking about branding. The two elements are synergistic, but they are entirely different – a bit like yin and yang. Yes, you do need a company logo and brand guidelines that deliver a design style that can be applied to all of your sales and marketing collateral to make you look professional to potential customers, but this is the visual representation of your business. It is perhaps the body or mind of your business. The strategic brand proposition can be thought of as your company’s spirit or soul…

Brand Vision

Note the way the question about the vision has been couched: “what legacy does the brand want to deliver?” Although a vision statement should set out aspirations for the future, taking it further to thinking about a company or brand’s legacy invites consideration of why it exists at all. A thoughtfully crafted vision statement will inspire employees and provide an aspirational purpose that they all wish to work towards. It will also make a brand instantly recognisable to its customers – even if they are unaware of the vision statement itself – because they will get a clear sense of what the company is about in their dealings with it. Conversely, a poorly thought-out vision statement (or none at all) can result in underperformance, because even if employees are individually all working well, they can all be pulling in different directions. Customers will get mixed messages about what the essence of the brand is.

While vision statements should be revisited from time to time as the business environment changes, the best statements set out the essential DNA of a company’s brand and shouldn’t need changing very much or very often at all. Think back to the idea of brands equating to personalities: although people change throughout their lives, they still retain an identity that is unique to them, and that makes them clearly recognisable. A vision statement should encapsulate the equivalent identity of a brand.

Brand-vision-1024x540 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

Although a vision statement should be simple, it still takes time and careful thought to get it exactly right. As well as being aspirational and inspirational, it must be authentic. You could come up with the most brilliant statement of all time, but it will be worth nothing if your company pays mere lip service to it. It has to be lived and breathed and ultimately believed by all stakeholders.

A quick note about what is often referred to as a “mission” or “mission statement”. This combines the brand voice and the objectives outlined in the business plan to make it quite clear what the middle-distance purpose and direction of the organisation is to be. It should be something that is once again understood, believed and admired by all stakeholders, both internally and externally.

Brand Values

Just as a company’s vision should be clear, so too should the code of ethics it operates by (and we mean that it really operates by). This might sound a bit high-flown for small companies but it really does matter, whatever the size or your organisation. We would argue that it can be the difference between success and failure amongst ambitious start-ups and growth SMEs. Even someone operating on their own ought to have a framework that identifies the standards and principles that they work within. Whether they turn up to appointments on time, keep to budget, are easy to get hold of, have excellent processes in place, are polite and professional at all times, and so on, all play a part in how they – and therefore their brand – will be perceived by customers, suppliers, partners, staff, freelancers, etc.

As with a vision statement, writing down the values that your company holds sacrosanct helps to ensure that all employees know what is expected of them – and it can also be hugely helpful in clarifying the type of desirable characteristics in people you wish to employ too. Instilling these values so that they are mirrored by actual behaviour is a vital element in any brand’s success. Whilst it can take time to convince customers that your standards are high, just one instance of bad behaviour can undermine a brand’s carefully constructed reputation – sometimes fatally – especially since the growth of social media. At the time of writing, Facebook’s brand is taking a pummelling (along with its stock value) because many of its subscribers feel betrayed by how their personal data has been used, while Australia is reeling from their cricket team being caught in a ball-tampering scandal that is potentially going to have long-term repercussions for this proud sporting nation.

Brand-values-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

As will be seen by these examples, for consumers it’s a matter of trust. If they don’t like your values, or if they feel you are saying one thing but doing another, they will take their business elsewhere.

Brand Views

Another feature of strong brands is that they hold, and are willing to express, clear ideas about the markets they operate in and the positions they take. Having unambiguous views and being able to support them persuasively is particularly important for new entrants trying to win business from long-established market rivals. This has contributed to the success of high-tech start-ups offering online alternatives to traditional models. In many cases, the new arrivals have taken the position that their innovative proposition offers more for consumers than the old way of doing things, and suggested – either overtly or by implication – that the status quo may have existed as much for the benefit of incumbent suppliers as for customers.

Sectors ranging from airlines to banking, and retail to telecoms, have seen new entrants come in with actively challenging brands. In fact, there are usually several aspiring new entrants and the one or two who emerge triumphant are those who have invested care to build their brands.

Brand-views-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

A great deal of brand value can be built through setting out well-constructed viewpoints. If a company is recognised for its thought leadership, consumers will be interested to hear what it has to say, especially in the current climate, which sees customers wanting to be informed rather than sold to. Establishing just a few key viewpoints can generate a lot of marketing content to use on blogs, social media, in emails, and so on.

One of the things which makes us all different, is the views that we hold about every aspect of our life. It cannot be stated highly enough how important it is to ensure that your brand has a clear set of views too, for it is these which drive behaviour, innovation and growth.

Brand Virtues

In marketing products and services, we consider aspects that set them above the competition. It is just as valuable to apply the same exercise to brands. What does your brand offer that others don’t, or not as effectively? Perhaps it is tradition, or gravitas – or the complete opposite. One of Britain’s best-known brands, Virgin, manages to operate in industries as diverse as banking, broadband provision, train services and airline operations but still retain a consistently witty, slightly irreverent brand tone that helps to give them a unique identity. It offers a fine example of how brand messaging needs to be consistent in all communications with customers. Even in their onboard train toilets, the signage has a Virgin twist: where most companies offering public toilet facilities will ask users not to flush inappropriate objects, Virgin Rail’s more engaging injunction is not to “…flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet”.

Make the most of whatever it is your brand is offering. Brainstorm all the assets it brings to the table, especially including its people. Your team is unique to your brand, and their specific attributes won’t be shared by any of your competitors, so make the most of promoting their knowledge, experience, diligence, patience, humour, artistic talent, etc.

If your brainstorming produces a disappointingly short list, consider the virtues you would like your brand to have, then plan to develop them through training, research or whatever is necessary. A thirst for self-improvement is a virtue in itself, and good people will be attracted to work for brands that display it.

Brand-virtues-1024x683 How to develop a brand strategic proposition

As a nation, and we would argue as a race, we tend to be very coy when it comes to shouting about out virtues. In fact, we tend to spend a lot of time judging others critically and not looking at ourselves at all. This exercise asks us to take a positive, proactive and rational look at ourselves as a business and ask what we are doing well, and where we might need to improve.

Brand Vows

The final ‘V’ invites you to consider what vows your brand is prepared to commit to publicly. Vows need to be specific, significant, credible and relevant to the public if they are to have any value.

For example, with environmental concerns high on the agenda for many, a wide variety of companies have pledged to achieve specific targets to become more ‘green’. For example, BMW has said it will obtain all its energy from green sources by 2020.

The type of vows a brand commits to will obviously depend on the context – the market sector, what matters to its consumers, the scale of its operations, etc. – but should always be ones that everyone in the company commits to fully. Often a company’s pledge to do something in the future has implied within it an acknowledgement that the current position is imperfect (such as supermarkets accepting that they do use too much packaging) but humility is not a bad attribute for a brand, as long as the desire to improve is sincere. Iceland has done some good work in this respect recently, with regards to its commitment to eliminate the use of plastic packaging from all its own-branded products with five years. They have since followed this up with a pledge to stop using palm oil in the same time period too. All other supermarkets, take note…

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Vows can be written up as being service charters – and you can have as many service charters as you like, both internally and externally, to establish a list of promises that your brand, department or divisions wishes to be judged by. Just make sure that they are sensible, achievable and desirable.

Brand Voice

Add these five Vs together and you get a brand voice. Do it well, and engage everyone in the process, and you will have an incredibly powerful foundation upon which to grow your business. Behind all five Vs is the need to act with integrity and build trust. Consumers are rightly cynical about promises easily made and just as easily broken, so they want to see a company’s actions matching its words. A strong brand lifts a business above the purely commercial to something that makes a genuine positive difference to its customers and even the wider world.

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V5 Brand Process

While the V5 brand process methodology provides the bones, adding flesh to any brand still takes a lot of thought and expert independent guidance can make all the difference between success and failure. We have worked with many clients to develop successful brand propositions. Please contact Stephen Brown, head of strategy and planning, at or call him on 020 7795 8175 for an initial chat. We could either discuss your requirements in more detail on the phone or – if you prefer – we are more than happy to meet up for a non-chargeable two-hour consultation at a venue of your choice.

It will take more than an agency all-star team for P&G’s plan to come together


Agencies can be a conservative lot when it comes to structural innovation. So Procter & Gamble’s marketing chief Marc Pritchard has decided to shake things up a bit and announce not one but three new agency models.

Perhaps the most intriguing is his “People First” amalgamation of talent from roster agencies, brought together to service the FMCG giant’s North American fabric care business.

The notion of competing agencies working together may sound awkward, but it’s something that many agencies will have experienced at one point or another. For as long as I can remember clients have asked trusted agency leads to form an advisory group, or tasked rostered agencies with tackling a business problem together. And in recent years it’s become fashionable for holding companies and mini-groups to form bespoke client teams from across their agencies. “Horizontality”, “brand teams”, “power of one” – different names, similar idea.

Where Pritchard’s approach departs from the status quo is in making the client the point of integration, rather than an agency or holding company. According to his Monday announcement, P&G is cherry-picking talent from across its agency roster and using them as the basis of a brand-new agency directed solely at its needs.

The brand’s ongoing drive for efficiency will be the primary rationale for this approach and, for those reasons, it’s not entirely illogical. But the bigger question is whether this model can produce great work.

If it does, then this is an innovation worth talking more about. If not, it’s little more than a bureaucratic play.

At this stage, as with Pritchard’s declaration on the ideal account-team- to-creative ratio, it leaves a lot unsaid. First and foremost: is it really that simple?

Many a football manager, choreographer, curator or conductor knows that hiring star talent is just the beginning. Making the whole greater than the sum of its parts is a massive cultural, leadership and process challenge. It’s what we are tasked to do as agency leaders and it’s what distinguishes one agency from another. For an in-house team to be more than just a collection of freelancers, there’s real work to be done to foster the ambition, bonds of trust, shared assumptions and ways of working that underpin the best agencies. That takes time.

It also takes a smart commercial underpinning and some clear parameters from the get-go. There is a natural competitive instinct among agencies which is of course crucial for survival in this industry by seizing opportunities to sell and stretch our services. But that attitude can inhibit collaboration among competitors. After all, who wants to give their best if they think the guys across the table are going to benefit rather than your own agency? How will the client incentivise the right behaviours to ensure that business opportunities are maximised not just for the client but for the participating agencies?

In this scenario it’s incumbent on the client lead to lay the ground rules in advance and define the remit of the participating agencies. In so doing, they will create a safer space for collaboration and transparent relationships which should become a defining feature of the culture in the long term.

A final consideration is to remember why agencies work so well in the first place – different perspectives, diverse inputs, dissenting voices, a broader cultural grounding – these are often the basis of the best work out there. An organisation founded by the client should therefore not be dictated by the client, which Pritchard appears to have recognised in appointing Saatchi’s Andrea Diquez to head up his venture.

Diquez’s first challenge will be to define a clear cultural blueprint which fosters the right environment of respect and generosity. For this pilot and any future iterations to work for all parties, they should build a sustainable model for effective collaboration, not just efficiency.

This article first appeared in Campaign.