It is one of the most exciting but equally challenging times to be working in the Agency business. The almost daily exponential growth in communications options thanks to the growth of technology, access, and creative acumen is staggering. However, this also creates an even greater challenge of finding a real point of differentiation and identifying a clear area of responsibility. Specialists in one area are developing work in other areas while agencies in those areas are developing work previously done by specialists. This is totally great because it elevates the creative bar through competition, but it also forces agencies to find ways of really showing why they deserve to be chosen over others.
The main way of merchandizing ability is through case studies. This has been the way for a very long time. However, this has two considerations: First, the best work isn’t necessarily proof of capability because it sometimes hides other partners, the people that did the work (and may no longer be there), the perfect client and client environment; Second, it doesn’t say anything about agency focus, so it doesn’t help a client understand areas of expertise. So there are a few ways of tackling this: Be explicit about your area of focus but without limiting yourself to a creative discipline; or walking the talk in a way that is totally transparent and doesn’t take advantage of “brand love” categories.
An agency that has found a very clear and inspiring point of difference that doesn’t limit it to developing just above-the-line or digital or event, etc. work is OscarMike. These guys can do it all and do so with unbelievable capability and creativity. They are also incredible fluid, transparent, and flexible to allow for excellence under any project or client situation (check out some of their work here). However, what I think makes them even more special is that they have found a very strong identity that they really live (they walk the talk): That they are a proud British agency that celebrates the relationship between England and France and specialize in work that reflects this sensibility. Not only do they have French clients but they have also written pop-culture books on the subject (See Facebook page on “Mediterranean Homesick Blues“).
To bring this positioning to life they have developed a promotional CD that is anchored in iconic British pop-culture: “a re-designed version of the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. This cover was initially developed to celebrate the band’s favorite celebrities and icons. The “re-designed” cover celebrates the British and French pop-culture icons that most well-known in each country (check out the website here). The new work is served up in a quiz format that helps engage the reader and thus helps them get immersed in what makes OscarMike tick and their intimacy with both French and British creative and pop-culture. The only addition that would be nice is to have an actual soundtrack compliment the CD, perhaps through a playlist on Spotify. That way potential clients have an experience that they can carry with them and thus OscarMike has better chance of being top-of-mind long after the initial promotion was viewed.
The other example of an Agency initiative that brings to life its capability is from ZuluAlphaKilo, a Canadian agency. Instead of the typical case study, they found a way to show their abilities on any challenge, not just on brief of cool Brands. How? They developed a ThinkBox that applied their creativity to the challenges of everyday people. It is a great example of really walking the talk and giving potential clients transparency into how they work. Have a look at the video here.