Advertising Agency New Business Failure

San Francisco’s MosaicSF Failed

mosaicsfWay back in 2007, my Oregon advertising agency Ralston360 (we eventually became Citrus after buying the design firm Citrus), decided we’d enter the San Francisco advertising market because, you know, SF needed yet another creative advertising agency.

Since there were only a zillion agencies in SF, we made the strategic decision to break out from the competitive pack by launching a VLOG (video blog for those of you who have forgotten) about the city’s cultural diversity. MosaicSF was created to showcase the quirky lifestyles of the people living in around the bay area. Interviews with Internet startups, bands, actors, pimps, boxers, drag queens, the San Francisco Giants, and even midnight pillow fight enthusiasts, were all a part of the video mix. Our business development director MC’d the show.

web site mosaicsf602_16_MosaicSF_AD_wide_SF_WeeklyWe supported the program with a dedicated website, a launch party, ads in SF Weekly (we had a partnership deal with them) and advertised a promotion to win $1,000 all designed by one of our art directors Michael Hofler.

Our goal was to become famous by not being ‘yet another advertising agency’ touting its superior creativity, strategic chops, totally unique marketing philosophy, happy people, cool office furniture, pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge… you got it. The same old, same old.

Did MosaciSF work as an advertising agency new business tool? No.

MosaicSF didn’t deliver enough new business traction in San Francisco. Frankly, I was surprised. Despite our failure, I think, even with crystal clear hindsight, we did everything right. We had the goal of becoming famous (something I tell all  my ad agency clients to do to get noticed), created a brand new video program before everyone talked about the power of video, looked like we knew San Francisco (remember, we were introducing a Portland agency to the city), covered a wide range of crazy subjects, built a new brand, delivered attitude and showcased our own digital and analog marketing expertise by putting our talent and money on the line.  Why didn’t this work? I actually have no clue. Do you?

Hmmm. Here are a couple of good reasons why our VLOG might not have worked. 1) SF is actually a very small, provincial city and really does not need another agency. 2) It isn’t very welcoming for newbies – especially Oregonians. 3) It is a very ‘who you know place.’ Connections matter. 4) Maybe they don’t like pimps (and, yes, I know we pushed the PC envelope on this one. But, it was about the mosaic after all… see below).

But… we gave it a shot. A type of shot at breaking out that I think more ad agencies need to try. And, importantly, we had a lot of fucking fun and have no regrets. Hey, it’s OK if you want to use your agency’s talent to make things for yourself.

MosaicSF Videos

Below is Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy, our best-viewed video at 54,000 views (!). You can see some others right here on YouTube. There are more, But, you’ll have to search for them.





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