Is There Too Much Advertising Agency New Business?

Advertising Agency New Business Clutter Is Insane

Five words that do not fit well — advertising agency new business clutter.

Muchos años ago when I was running new business development at Saatchi & Saatchi, Advertising Age erroneously, stress erroneously, wrote that our stock brokerage client Bear Sterns was about to look for a new advertising agency. The Management Director on the account told me that the client had immediately received a pile of incoming ‘sales’ pitches from interested agencies.

I used the situation to do some research and asked our client if they would send over some of the stuff the other agencies were delivering. A few days later we got a bunch of letters, folders and some boxes. I laid a few of the cooler boxes on a conference room table and asked some of my agency friends to pick the one that they would open first. The clear winner was a large box covered in deep blue velvet with the agency’s name embossed in gold. Classy, if over the top, and very 1980’s. People seemed to go for the richer elegant look. I learned that looks matter in the world of sales.

By the way, the client told us that she was horrified when a Boston agency sent her a box of live lobsters. Note to self: do not send live animals to prospects.

Here’s a related story about advertising agency new business clutter.

Lisa Colantuono, President of AAR Partners, recently told me that some clients receive upwards of 500+ emails per month from hungry advertising agencies. The number seemed so high that I went back to her for confirmation and got it. Over 500!

Let’s Look At Two New Business Facts:

  1. If you want your ad agency to grow it has to reach out to prospective clients to let them know that you are ready to help them. Awareness is generally a good thing.
  2. The clients you want to reach are inundated by agency sales pitches.

Here’s A Plan

If you were one of my agency new business clients you would hear me hammer the idea of having a new business plan – a sales plan – that is unignorable. Of course, the opposite of unignorable is that you will be ignored. Being ignored sucks. So, back to my two facts. You want more clients but live in a world where there are too many agency alternatives.

I have an array of strategies and tactics that deliver unignorable. Here are two.

1. Lead With An Insight

There are many ways to fail at new business outreach. One of them is to simply send a prospective client your standard, bland, universal, agency credentials. You are close to out of your mind if you think that this client wants to read about how wonderful you think you are.

However, there is a way into their consciousness. Lead with a relevant insight. A business-building insight. Speak the client’s language and act as a smart business consultant who understands the client’s pain points and has a solution worth reading. The right clients you deserve will be interested in the right insight.

Here is an example. A couple of years ago I interviewed Ian Beavis EVP Automotive at Nielsen and ex-auto CMO (Kia, Mitsubishi) for Advertising Week.

Ian has been pitched to by dozens of agencies (and ran the Toyota account at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, as well). He offered a way into a prospect’s head.

Levitan: A final question. Agencies have a hard time creating a competitive agency brand positioning. Any insights and advice you can give to the agency world on how to be distinctive in this highly competitive category?

 Beavis: You rarely hear of an agency being a business solution provider, as it just doesn’t sound cool or creative. A good agency solves a client’s business issues and is a partner. Very few qualify and even fewer truly embrace this challenge.

Note that Ian said… “Rarely.” Huh, agencies rarely deliver business-building insights?

Here is an insight for you. Need a quick way to do some consumer research to unearth an attention-getting insight? Use Google Surveys. From Google…

Google Surveys give you a quick, cost-effective way to get valuable insights into the minds of your target audience. Gather the insights you need to make smarter, faster business decisions — in a fraction of the time it takes for traditional market research.

I’ve used Google Surveys to answer questions – overnight. When I first moved to Mexico, I was considering writing a book about the where and how of the expat experience. Just for the hell of it, I asked men and women over 50 if they had ever considered moving to Mexico. I was surprised to find that 13% had (and this was before President Trump).

2. Act Different

My Bear Sterns’ velvet box story points to the fact that acting, looking and sounding different works.

If so many of your agency competitors are sending boring emails, you have an opportunity and obligation to do something different.

One of the unignorable tactics I discuss is the use of zines. You know, actual custom printed paper that arrives in an envelope with a stamp. I got the idea of using a zine a few years back when I went to Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair. The fair was a major idea generator. I’m surprised that more agency types do not go. There are other similar fairs around the country.

Zine’s stand out, offer you the opportunity to customize the message (as in customizing by client name or client category) and look different than all of your agency competition.

I put my money where my mouth is. I created a zine to distribute my La Gente photo series to my Mexican community. 2,000 free copies. The full series is here at La Gente. That’s me above holding up the zine.

Oh, here is another interesting ‘zine’ source. The UK’s the Newspaper Club – check it out.

Act Today

I would be remiss if I didn’t urge you to spend fifteen or so minutes on the phone with me to see how I can help you grow your advertising agency faster. I’m at








Free: 26 Ways To Grow Ad Agency Profits
Business-building tips from over 30 years running ad agencies.

One Comment

  1. Preston Bealle
    | Permalink

    As to being unignorable, agreed that it’s the path you want, and to your point on insights, you can actually customize them. It’s worth your time to come up with one thing that pertains only to the client you are targeting. It might take 15 minutes to an hour to come up with one thing they really want to know, either about what a competitor is doing online, something on the client website that is wrong or could be improved, a technique you use that could be applied by them for free tomorrow even if they don’t hire you, or a few other approaches. It does tend to get your call returned and that’s why it worth investigation for each key prospect.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.