THE NEW-BUSINESS GETTERS: New business is the lifeblood of any ad agency. However, while the tools employed to generate it are standard, the strategies are as diverse as the cultures of the agencies involved Meg Carter reports.

Who’d be a new-business director? Cold calling all day, grasping at straws, schmoozing awkward clients, then carrying the can when the business goes to somebody else - you’d have to be mad. Or highly motivated.

Who’d be a new-business director? Cold calling all day, grasping at

straws, schmoozing awkward clients, then carrying the can when the

business goes to somebody else - you’d have to be mad. Or highly


Which, of course, the most successful new-business directors are. Yet

industry opinion remains divided on whether they lead or simply follow

an agency’s new-business success.

Few can question the importance of new business. It’s the lifeblood of

any agency. Ask senior executives who should manage an agency’s

new-business drive and all say the same thing: direction must come from

the top. Not all, however, live by this rule.

Which is why the new-business specialist’s role can be such a tricky


Agencies spend around 1.5 per cent of their income on new-business

development, according to the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising’s latest industry costs survey. New-business investment

ranges from employing dedicated personnel to commissioning tailored

research to better understand prospective clients’ business; designing,

printing and distributing mailers; preparing presentations and related

documents and, of course, corporate hospitality.

Yet while the tools may be standard, there’s no such thing as a common

new-business approach. ’The best new-business strategies are shaped by a

particular agency’s philosophy and internal culture,’ Martin Jones,

managing director of the Advertising Agencies Register, explains. A

reflection of this is that, while most larger agencies have identified

the need to have someone dedicated to new business every day,

descriptions of role and responsibility have diversified. There are

new-business directors, new-business managers, business development

directors and managers and also marketing directors with a new-business

responsibility as agencies realise the role is as much about external

perceptions as it is about internal motivation.

The fundamental principles of new business, however, remain the


’The key principle is, and always has been, to keep an eye on any

changes relating to potential clients, although the ways of finding out

about these have become more numerous,’ says Graham Smith, a director of

Warman & Banister who, during a 19-year stint at Saatchi & Saatchi, ran

what many still describe as one of the best new-business operations.

You need a clear understanding of the client - what he or she is doing

and why - and the market they are operating in. You need a unique twist

to stand out from the 100 or so other agencies operating on the same


You need to listen. ’Most agencies don’t as they’re too full of their

own importance, which puts off many clients,’ Warman believes. And you

need a clear differentiation in the market through particular

positioning or branding. It’s small wonder that Warman describes the

new-business role as ’account director on all the business an agency

doesn’t have’.

Commitment from the top is a prerequisite, according to the Publicis

marketing director, Ann Harris. ’You’re no good on your own - you have

to go in as a team, it’s just that you’re the one who breaks down the

door,’ she says.

You must be able to calculate your agency’s capabilities against a

prospective client’s needs, the Ammirati Puris Lintas business

development manager, Jane Geraghty, adds: ’Without this you won’t have

credibility, either with the client or from within your agency.’ And you

must understand ’casting’.

’Who gets on with whom is critical,’ Jones explains. ’It’s about

identifying whether a client will react positively to a particular

agency person on the pitch team. All too often, agencies leave this to

whoever is available on the day.’

You must also be able to perfect a delicate balancing act, he adds. A

successful new-business person must manage the day-to-day administration

of their department while cultivating a new-business culture involving

all agency staff. They must approach the job strategically, targeting

clients and cultivating a clear new-business focus, while also managing

perceptions of the agency in the outside world. Removed from the

traditional hierarchy yet at the agency’s very soul, it’s a fine art and

one that a significant number of agencies fail to grasp. ’Many know a

clear and focused new-business strategy is the right thing to do, but a

surprisingly large number of agencies put new business at the bottom of

their list of priorities,’ one new-business specialist observes. ’Fewer

have managed to get all their staff to buy in to it.’

There are a number of reasons for this. Opinion is widely divided on the

merits and role of the new-business department. Senior executives insist

they should drive new business but time and other commitments inevitably

act against this. Some fear annexing new business into a dedicated

department which removes it from the agency’s core activities. Yet

someone dedicated to managing a carefully honed new-business system is

essential, Warman says.

’I believe in the planning function but not in planners. It’s the same

with new business,’ he observes. ’A new-business system is essential

within an agency, but new business cannot be left to a new-business


Senior executives must be involved but some fear this might jeopardise

existing relationships.’

This approach seems to suit many clients. Chris Meredith, the marketing

director at First Drinks Brands which handles the UK distribution, sales

and marketing for Campari, says he is approached by agencies using

’every trick in the book’ including cold calling, mailshots and gifts.

He recently appointed Mellors Reay & Partners to handle the relaunch of

Campari - a match made via the AAR. It removed the artificial and

sometimes misleading downside of the traditional agency beauty parade,

he explains. Increasingly, Meredith asks prospective agencies to give

him their perspective on his business (not the agency’s), welcoming

speculative research or market analysis. However, he admits: ’The best

contact point will always be someone you know and trust.’ Andy Fennel,

marketing controller for stouts at Guinness, agrees. ’We see a lot of

mailshots, although not from large, successful agencies. We don’t read

them.’ The track record is key, he says. ’I look for good ads, profound

consumer understanding and evidence of long-term relationships with

other clients. It’s a hard job being a new-business director unless you

are sitting on an extremely hot creative department.’

Clients’ growing use of new-business consultants and the willingness of

some to take on an agency for project work is opening up new avenues for

agencies pursuing new business, many believe. Even so, the best

strategies are long-term in focus and avoid short-term ambulance

chasing, Jones says. ’It’s about understanding where your agency is,

where you want it to be and how to get there,’ he explains. ’Without the

product, you’ll get nowhere.’

MT RAINEY - Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe

Picking up the pounds 30 million pan-European launch of General Motors’

latest Astra model was a major coup for Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe

last year.

The agency also won pounds 11 million of new business from existing

clients and selective pitching secured the Savile Row tailor, Gieves &


Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe achieved all of this without a dedicated

new-business director - an appointment less relevant to small- and

medium-sized agencies whose reputations are more closely allied to

perceptions of the founding partners’ core skills, according to the

managing partner, MT Rainey.

’We don’t employ people to go and say ’please, please, please’ - we

don’t need to,’ she says. ’I’ve never quite understood how fast

(new-business) people move around now. And I’m not convinced about the

value of someone who could call up and say: ’Remember, I rang you about

that agency last week, well I’m calling about another one.’’ New

business today is a seller’s market, Rainey believes. Increasingly,

established agencies are turning down approaches from clients. The

pressure is on effectively managing client lists -the talent fit must


While the AAR remains the industry’s key new-business tool, a move

towards project work is a positive force, she adds. ’Project work gets

your foot in the door. They pay, you get to know each other and

hopefully you get on the pitch-list next time. That’s how it happened

with Thorntons. Now we’re working on the Astra launch while Lowe

Howard-Spink retains the parent brand.’

MICHAEL BAULK - Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Aer Lingus, British Digital Broadcasting, English Heritage, Halfords and

Guinness are just a few of the recent additions to Abbott Mead Vickers

BBDO’s client roster - evidence of a consistent new-business strategy

which helped the agency retain its premier position in Campaign’s Top

300 Agencies this month.

Committed senior staff rather than a dedicated new-business team is the

key. ’There isn’t one way of doing new business,’ the chief executive,

Michael Baulk, explains. ’The most successful approaches are those that

spring naturally from a particular agency’s culture and personnel.’

New business is an attitude of mind shared by all AMV’s senior

executives, he insists: ’It has to be an integral part of an agency

rather than a separate department.’ Even so, the agency does have a

new-business manager, Helen Calcraft, who joined as a graduate trainee

nine years ago.

Her role is to co-ordinate rather than instigate the agency’s approach

to new business, Baulk says. ’She knows the agency, its culture, its

people, how things work.’ The larger an agency, the more categories of

business are closed to it due to conflicts. This is why AMV’s approach

to new business is highly targeted. ’We have a carefully considered list

of prospects we admire,’ he says. Senior people in the agency have often

had some past contact with a prospective client. This ensures close

involvement in new business and, ultimately, the pitch.


Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper streaked ahead in Campaign’s Business Performance

League last year with net billings gained over the 12 months exceeding

pounds 42 million.

Abbey National was the biggest prize, followed by others including

Cadbury’s Astros, Haagen-Dazs and Wonderbra. ’Success in new business

depends on the people running the agency being the people running the

new business,’ the managing director, Chris Pinnington, believes. ’A

number of agencies pay for top new-business talent but don’t get far

because they expect them to come complete with a magic wand.’

Clients see through ’a smooth new-business sell,’ he says. Which is why

Pinnington prefers the personal and targeted approach and why the agency

has no dedicated new-business director. Even so, a new-business support

system is essential to track contacts and client response. Participation

from the top down, careful targeting and patience are crucial to


Pinnington adds: ’It takes time to develop a network of contacts, to

keep them onside and get to know what they like.’


M&C Saatchi scored an impressive number of new-business wins last year

with pounds 26.5 million-worth of net billings gained, according to

Campaign’s Business Performance League. It adheres faithfully to the

top-down approach - Lord Saatchi is regularly prepared to phone

prospective clients at the eleventh hour, rivals claim.

Even so, having someone to manage the agency’s new-business strategy on

a day-to-day basis is essential, David Kershaw, a partner, explains.

’New business is the lifeblood of an agency. The best conversations are

one-to-one and the best people to have these with are senior


However, sometimes you must cast the net wider to feed the hopper - an

agency is a hungry machine,’ he says.

All communication with prospective clients must be carefully tailored -

advertisers want to know how you can help them. This is becoming

increasingly difficult as a growing number use new-business consultants,

he adds. Consultants provide an additional barrier between agency and

prospective client and a filter for that much desired personal


Yet, Kershaw believes, consultants also provide a number of benefits to

agencies, notably the smoother running of a new-business pitch.

’The challenge at all times is to maintain personal contact with the

client,’ he maintains.