Holla! Creative Director in da house!
Yes, well. Apparently being made the Creative Director of an advertising agency doesn't mean you grow adult sensibility overnight. But I think a little youthful enthusiasm never goes astray - in fact in this case I think it probably got me the job! But I digress...
This October, my friend Rob Lewis asked me to become the Creative Director of his ad agency, Soda. Yay! It's an interesting one, this role. There are only two of us running the agency you see. Rob looks after the money side of things, keeps the clients happy and talks on the phone a lot. I look after the creative side of things, farming out the work to freelancers when I can't manage it myself. A job that we share, and that I'm looking forward to getting into, is pitching for new business. So far, in the first two weeks, we've had three new business pitches. Finally, a chance to get a business ladies' power suit! More shoulder pad, please.
In a way this is the ideal role for me, because I get to do the creative work as I like, I get to manage other people, and I get back into pitching, presenting and generally talking the talk. Presenting work to clients was always my favourite part of the job when I worked in big ad agencies. I'm really looking forward to expanding my skill set.
There's no guarantee it will work and we'll earn the dosh to keep us going. Soda is a real Kiwi battler, and Rob's fought every step of the way in the last two years to gain clients, deliver hardworking concepts (and earn money). I admire him a lot for that. But I think we're on the way up. Soda recently took the Fintel Insurance business off of a large global ad agency. I'm not naming names, but it was Aim Proximity, part of Colenso BBDO. LOL. Many of our other clients you never will have heard of. A large percentage of them have never used an ad agency before. Some people we present to probably think we're a just bunch of do-nothing wankers, and we have to work really hard to show them that advertising their business should actually lead to them making money in return. That's something I think most big agencies have lost sight of, too caught up in winning the next award or getting to go on a TV shoot and eat pastries all day. They just don't care as much.
I know this is a long post, really not ideal for the internet at all, but I wanted to share a case study from one of the jobs we're currently pitching for. Last week we found ourselves out in Takanini. For those of you not from here, that's South Auckland, bro'. Rough as guts. We met with Annan, who called us up because his fruit and vege business, 'Orchard & Fields', was on the verge of going under. Over the last few years he'd tried everything to make a profit. Radio, flyer box-drops, newspaper ads, loyalty cards. Nothing worked. Their store is beautiful, their produce is premium AND it's the cheapest out there. You'd think they'd be bringing it in hand over fist, but not so. Their problem is in gaining new customers - no one can see the store from the road. Or, people are lazy and just go to the supermarket to get everything-in-one. Whatever the reason is, he can't sustain the business as it is, and he doesn't know what to do to change it.
This is the story of so many small Kiwi businesses, and while talking to Annan my heart went out to him. He wanted one huge last-ditch effort before shutting shop. We are it. If we can't lift his sales, he's going under. We have to come up with an ultra cheap solution to get new customers in the store, and to get them coming back. Now that is a creative challenge. That's what advertising should be about – gaining real return on investment for our clients. So can we do it? Well, we have an idea. It will cost him less than what a big agency would charge just for altering one line on a print ad, and if it works will continue to gain him more customers for an indeterminate amount of time into the future. IF it works. Come back to here in a couple of months, and I'll let you know if it does.
See what I did there? ;-)
Annan loved our concept. It was two simple letters, designed to create a snowball effect of gaining new customers that would carry on indefinitely. Dirt cheap - he could do it himself if he wanted to. Letter 1: To loyal customers - come into the store, sign up a friend who you think would love Orchards & Fields, and get <offer>. Letter 2: To the new sign-ups - "Your friend <name> thinks you'd love Orchards & Fields. Come in and check out the store and get <offer>". We reckon that just coming into the store would convert some people.
But here's the clever bit. Two months later, we take Letter 1, and send that to the people who were new sign ups. They are now the loyal customers, and they give us the name of another friend. And so Annan's database grows and grows. Now he can do targeted communications, more likely to drive customers in-store. Clever, huh?
Unfortunately Annan had an offer on his business and has now decided to sell it instead. And that's life.
May has been a scorcher, and I'm not talking about the weather! This month I've been ripping through a lot of nice wee DM (direct marketing) jobs for these clients: Farmer's Card, Q Card and Accor Hotels. I love working out the foldy bits of a mailer, or creating cool, simple web banners.
I've also helped Federation – a small agency run by Sharon Henderson and Murray Reid – win their pitch for the Auckland Tourism account. Done and dusted, thanks to some cool interactive ideas and strategic thinking to help get the Aussies here to what they call 'the poor man's Sydney'. We'll show them!
Plus! Big presentation to Mike Tod, the GM of Marketing and Coms at Air New Zealand with Beth O'Brien, my creative partner for the project. Hopefully we'll get to bring to life some of our plethora of youth and interactive-orientated strategy, marketing, media and advertising ideas. It was a great chance for me to brush up on my strategic thinking rather than just solely 'creative ideas'.
The Out Takes Film Festival that I co-ordinate in Auckland is kicking off on May 27th too! Thank god it's nearly over - I love it but it is a lot of work to co-ordinate 16 volunteers and a week-long festival, out of my love and passion for the cause (rather than money). That's my good deed for the year!
Next up is an article to be written for Express Magazine, trying my hand at pharmaceutical advertising at G2, and... who knows what. Bring it!