Rothco's director of marketing Jill Byrne says great work speaks for itself but it can’t be relied on to build your agency brand
It’s an age-old industry cliché, but for professionals who help to build brands for a living, we aren’t so good at building our own. I think it’s probably even fair to say that agencies are notoriously poor at marketing themselves. We tend to criticise clients who don't take marketing seriously or don’t have a CMO on their board – yet the advertising industry rarely does this itself.
Too often we rely on the reputation and quality of our output to define our agency brand. And while our work does say a great deal about who we are, it cannot and should not be relied on solely.
The most successful agencies in the world don’t only continuously talk about their work, but also their people, their personality and their business. They create good content for themselves as well as their clients and almost all of the time they have a full-time person doing it.
However, many agencies tend to see the role of a CMO as somewhat of a luxury. Because the CMO function in an agency isn’t billable, it can take longer for the return on the investment to deliver. Therefore, many don’t always recognise the value in having one – particularly smaller agencies. But success just doesn’t happen by chance and like any of the ambitious brands we work with, our own marketing ambition needs a focussed strategy to get there. It’s forward thinking and brave businesses that invest to challenge themselves to be better.
If there is no CMO, then the marketing task is often taken on by MD or CEO level, but if you have someone dedicated to growing your brand, you can get on with the very important job of running your agency. This not only gives you more time but can open the mind to new opportunities and things you may not have considered before when you are growing your brand.
Since we created the Marketing Director role in Rothco our goal has been to develop an international profile strategy that makes the world sit up and take notice of us and our work. Initiatives which have helped include us sitting on international judging panels; publishing thought pieces; and speaking on stage at events such as Advertising Week and Cannes.
Whilst we have always attended Cannes, historically our presence and role there has been passive. Instead of blending in with the thousands of delegates who attend, we wanted to stand out and have a more meaningful presence. In the past three years, we’ve spoken on the main stage; delivered two talks and a workshop; sponsored the Young Lions Competitions and hosted many private networking events. We’ve also won our first two Lions during this period, so all in all it’s been a succesful part of our strategy.
Equally, the marketing role was also created out of a desire for us to help our clients have the work we develop for them recognised and celebrated around the world.
If our clients are prepared to invest time, budgets and confidence in us, we should strive to ensure that their work gets the attention it deserves. Again, this doesn’t just happen. Amongst all the clutter, feeds and paid for presence out there, it’s increasingly challenging to get the right work in front of the right people. However, in the space of three years, we have managed to increase our international press coverage by 177%. This in turn has resulted in a 98% increase in our web and social traffic.
Rothco have always had an ambition to grow our reputation and that of our clients beyond our shores, and to do that we need to cast our net far and wide. We’re always on the lookout to make new friends who can give us new perspectives, ideas and opportunities. This is undoubtedly the best part of the role for me as it constantly forces us to consider new ways of doing things and reminds us that success is a journey, not a destination. So, whilst it seems mad to write that more marketers need marketing marketers, it’s about time agencies started showing their own brands more love.