What makes an agency great?
Not good. Not new and innovative. Not hip. But actually great. Think The Beatles, Hemingway, or Muhammad Ali great.
And once an agency is great, how does it sustain that greatness?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. Even more daunting, there are more than 20,000 agencies trying to answer this same exact question. Sure, there are legends in advertising who have a really good grasp on how they became great. But like most things, it’s easy to define what made you or your agency successful in retrospect.
In the sister post to this, The Ever Elusive Pursuit of Greatness, we discussed why we are creating the Intelligence team. In this post, we want to explore what that really means.
I know I’m biased, but I’m in awe of our Creative and UX teams’ ability to understand users and create experiences that change behavior and delight clients. Their ability to combine qualitative research, client knowledge, and their core design and user experience skills to create amazing digital experiences is something I, frankly, can’t relate to. I can barely draw a circle or even write my name legibly.
I’m also equally impressed with the other Nebo teams. Our copywriters are brilliant and have a gift to communicate that I’ll never be able to replicate. As for Paid Media — I’m not even allowed to sign in to AdWords anymore. SEO — mad scientists doing mad scientist stuff. Developers — well, enough said. I used to be a developer and now I don’t even know how to FTP into our dev server. PR and Social — let’s just say I don’t have the temperament to have a live feed of things I might say or tweet, much less understand their craft.
I’m sure we can all recall stories from when we were younger when our parents tried to get us to listen. I can still remember the days my dad would try to talk to me while I was focused on something, whether it was a great movie—like one of my favorite childhood obsessions, Jurassic Park—or one of my favorite books. He would have to repeat my name several times before he could get my attention.
“Laura, Laura, LAURA HOPE,” he would eventually scream, before I would finally look up and say, “Oh, are you talking to me?”
One of my dad’s favorite nicknames for me was Space-case, because of how often I would zone out into my own little world, especially when he was trying to talk to me. I was always focused on what I was thinking or doing, never focused on what he was saying.
He was right. I was a terrible listener.
When it comes to crafting content, there’s a misconception in agency life that writers are yes men. After all, the client knows best.
And to some extent, the client does know best. They know their brand, their purpose, their goal, and their product like the back of their hand. As an agency, and as writers, of course we want to make our clients happy. We want to help them succeed in every way we can.
But what about the times when the team knows best?
Until 1964, most professional boxing weigh-ins were boring, predictable affairs. This was not the case for Clay vs. Liston, February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach. There was nothing boring or predictable about the 22-year-old Olympic gold medalist from Louisville, KY, named Cassius Clay. Although Clay would go on to become Muhammad Ali (referred to from here forward as Ali), the world heavyweight champion and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Century, at the time, he was unknown and largely untested. In addition to Ali’s prowess in the ring, he was a natural promoter and gifted PR man. There is no greater display of his PR wizardry than the first Liston fight for the heavyweight championship.