One of the phrases that agencies tend to use when it comes to marketing their shops is: “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” The gist is pretty simple. Agencies are so laser-focused on helping their clients that marketing their wares often gets lost in the shuffle.
And, let’s be honest, one of the most challenging things is marketing something you’re so close to. Ironically, this is why brands hire agencies in the first place—to get an outside perspective.
Earlier this week, the Portland Advertising Federation (PAF) hosted a conversation with Michael Moszynski, CEO of London Advertising. The subject was what his agency did to market itself as it grappled with a tough economic climate.
Moszynski, the former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in Hong Kong and the Middle East, set up both offices, building them from scratch. And an essential part of what he learned in his early days at the venerable U.K. shop was how to make it famous. Of course, part of that was through the agency’s work, but there’s much more to it.
In 2008, he started London Advertising (noting that putting his last name on the door would be an SEO nightmare) and leaned into what it stood for. However, the financial crisis presented a problem: work was grinding to a halt, and the agency had no business considering that brands were focused on survival.
“How do we promote an agency that hasn’t got any work?” he thought.
To get out of the gate, they put together a research study that showed the best examples of marketing in a recession that increased sales. The 100-page report was picked up in the press and featured globally on CNBC.
“What was rewarding was that all of the global ad networks requested a copy,” recalled Moszynski.
There were other ways that the agency navigated its growth, including running a popular contest with the help of then-U.K. prime minister David Cameron, where the agency funded a sister shop focused on tech and AI. The stunt generated 1,400 applications from 60 countries and landed massive press again.
As the pandemic hit earlier in 2020, London Advertising was at a crossroads again. Looking at an 80% revenue loss (the agency didn’t cut any staff), Moszynski said to his partner: “Look, we can keep going to three or four months and hope something turns up, or we can try to make our own weather.”
So what did an agency that markets for brands do? They took a page out of the playbook for clients and ran an ad campaign promoting a sale for marketers. OOH dotted London, and the shop somehow managed to get Dame Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson for radio ads (which you can listen to here).
According to the agency, awareness of London Advertising, according to research done by Populus, went up by 50%, visits to the website increased 27-fold, and several clients have ‘virtually’ walked through our door. It also landed, you guessed it, some new biz.
“Marketing your agency should be the most fun you should have. It shouldn’t be a chore,” said Moszynski.
“London Advertising did what every agency should do. They used their expertise to advertise their services,” added Marc Moran, PAF president. “It’s a shockingly simple strategy that clearly made an impact with potential clients and within the industry.”
Disclosure: Doug Zanger is on the board of the Portland Advertising Federation.