McKinsey released a thought piece earlier this month entitled “The Great Acceleration” on how successful companies will use the Covid-19 crisis as a slingshot to achieve significantly greater profitability versus those who don’t.
Our agency, London Advertising, decided on our response to the crisis before we read that article. But we did not need to hear it from McKinsey as we could hear it from our own mouths – and I suspect from those of every agency in town – as we told our clients that brands that advertise in a downturn gain a higher market share versus those who don’t.
So, we decided to “eat our own dog food” as Phil Edmonds, of The Catalyst Group, so eloquently put it.
London Advertising made an ad about London Advertising.
TV audiences had risen and airtime rates were close to rock bottom. We had the skills and team to produce the campaign when our clients were less active. And, as none of our competitors were advertising, we had the field to ourselves.
We designed our campaign to demonstrates the three criteria we believe work must satisfy to be effective: Is it simple? Does it stand out? Can you remember who it’s for?
Given correctly attributed ad recall has fallen in just a few decades from 30-40% to only 8% today, it is clear a lot of advertising fails to do one, two or all three of these things. (Think about it: 92% of the money clients spend on media is wasted. That is shocking.)
We also wanted to show it’s the size of your idea that matters, not the size of your production budget. As the campaign had to be produced during lockdown, a type-led approach made sense.
For the TV, we understand the value a powerful, professional voice can add. We have worked with more than 100 of the world’s best talent on our Mandarin Oriental "I’m a fan" campaign, including the fantastic Dame Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson. So, I told our team I would contact them, but that it would be a “million to one shot”. Remarkably both said "yes".
I have to give credit to Alan Jarvie, our creative director, for coming up with the idea to advertise – and, of course, the campaign. However, it is entirely in keeping with the philosophy of the agency, which has been built on the belief if we want to advise clients on how to build their brands then we should demonstrate we can do it for ourselves.
London Advertising was founded in 2008 at the start of the last major downturn. Our reaction then was to offer a £100,000 prize to find the best digital talent. That chutzpah secured us a partnership with The Times, the Prime Minister to launch it at Downing Steet and PR coverage from America to China.
We incubated the winner and secured £4m in funding, making it the most invested tech start-up in Europe.
Ten years on, I fear this crisis is going to be longer and deeper.
When ad agencies have occasionally advertised themselves in the past it has been the odd quarter page in a newspaper or a bit of paid social.
We believed given the scale of this crisis we needed to invest in a proper campaign that would generate wider fame for our brand.
TV and outdoor (remember them?) are the best media to deliver this. So, we booked 9,000 spots on Sky and a national campaign on Ocean’s super-premium digital outdoor sites.
The ads began running at the start of July and the response has been phenomenal. Our website traffic has increased 3,000%. We have been interviewed on national TV news, newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs.
We have been inundated by talent and partners wanting to work with us and, most importantly, potential clients – all on account of having seen our advertising. One has appointed us without a pitch and we are currently working on proposals for four others.
Why am I telling all our competitors this, as surely it will encourage them to do similar and erode our competitive advantage?
Well, we take the view that as an industry we need to collectively demonstrate confidence in our product or there will be no market for any of us to steal share in. So, come on in. The water’s freezing!
Michael Moszynski is founder and chief executive of London Advertising