Is It OK For Ad Agencies To Shout?

Yes, it is OK for ad agencies to shout.

bobknightFirst, a story.

I received an email last week from a reader that told me that he thought that I was promoting my book on presenting and pitching too hard. I found this comment thought provoking for a few reasons.

I have, like most of you, been ‘selling’ something for years. I’ve sold creative, strategic thinking, internet startup ideas, ad agency services, an ad agency itself and two books. Selling comes naturally to me. Not hard selling. But, selling nonetheless.

Why shouldn’t I be promoting my book? It is after-all my book; a new business tool for me (I get new clients because they have read the book) and it is a great read, if I do say so myself. OK, I’ll let others talk about its value at the bottom of this post.

I wrote the book as a marketing tactic and ‘publishing event’. It delivers credibility and gives me an outbound marketing tool (I send it to the right people) and an inbound source of lots of content. It has 70,000 words that I can repurpose on this blog, as guest posts, on LinkedIn and on SlideShare.

The book forms the basis of one of my strongest recommendations to my ad agency clients: help your agency stand out by writing a book.

I spent 6 months slaving over the book’s advice and detailed content and it delivers what I think are some very important ad agency new business advice that I know will actually help agencies win more pitches and therefore more new business. After working this hard to deliver value, I think that I am allowed to shout about it.

Finally, don’t tell me to stop selling my work.

Back to ad agency shouting.

Most ad agencies do not like to shout out about their work, brand, staff skills and new business proposition. I understand this reticence as many agencies don’t want to appear too assertive, aggressive and full of themselves. OK, I get it.

But… With over 4,000 agencies in the USA alone, how can an agency really stand out if it is too quite and in some cases very wall flower? A few agencies can make it by being quite because they have creative work that is unquestionably brilliant (Droga5); or a founder name that is famous (Goodby); or brilliant press like an Agency Of The Year award  (R/GA); or  a positioning that owns a distinct space (like Barkley and its millennial expertise)  or a new(ish) business model that attracts the right clients (Mechanica and its: “Our next-generation model offers a unique combination of collaborative strategy and expansive, open-source execution.”)

I get it. But, the vast majority of advertising, digital, design and PR agencies may not be that special. They are good and should be considered by new clients. But because of their vast array of  decent competitors, I think that these agencies should use a bit of chutzpah – even breast beating –  to get the word out.

I think that having the goal of being famous is a smart business development objective. After looking at a large number of ad agency new business plans, I can say that vast majority do not include the objective of actively driving BIG BROAD AWARENESS of their expertise or brains. This manifests itself in websites that look and sound like the competition (many agencies are fearful of looking and sounding to different) and brand positions that sound like most other agencies (just spend a few minutes reading agency home pages on my Pinterest agency directory website.)

How to shout?

My advice…. get past sameness, pick a positioning (even a sub positioning) and then shout-out about it. Take a leadership stand and you will look like a leader. This is what the Saatchi brothers did in my saatchi days.

Shouting can play a big roll in new business because 2015 clients are ever more worried and perplexed by today’s vast array of marketing options. This can be scary. They need help and want! an agency that actually tells them that the agency will get the job done.

Go ahead. Be bold: Tell prospective clients that you are the solution.

Here are some ideas:

  • Have the objective of making sure that your home page says something different that your competition.
  • Use a video on the home page to state your point-of-difference. Actually tell prospects why they should hire you. Don’t just have pictures of your expensive reception room, happy staff and foosball table.
  • Write and distribute a well crafted POV on where advertising is going. Challenge the current sacred cows.  This worked for The Gate Worldwide and it book, “Death To All Sacred Cows.”
  • Get past hoping that the right clients will find your agency. Test advertising your agency brand in highly targeted ad units on LinkedIn (use your corporate page), Google (test a range of landing pages), Twitter (you can even directly target your competitor’s Followers) and run ads that stand out ads in client category trade magazines. Try advertising. I’ve heard that it works.
  • Run an event in a cool space that gets attention. My agency Citrus ran a marketing series where we had speakers from hot companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo! (yes, it can sound hot) and Google speak to our clients and prospects.

Act like a leader. Use some chutzpah.

Back to me.

book for pop upBuy my book “The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.”

The title itself is a SHOUT! I felt I had to go dramatic because of all of the other books on advertising.

I had to stand out.

I had to tell people to buy it.

The book is about pitching and I am pitching it to you. Buy it.

This chutzpah worked for me. I got the word out. This week alone I have had conversations with two prospective agency new business clients that told me that they called me about my services because they read the book.

I wrote – I shouted – they found the book – they called me. Aren’t incoming calls from prospects what you want?

Oh, I can even let others shout for me.


  1. How can i buy it from brazil? Do you have an digital version of it? like epub…?

    • It is on Amazon…. Must have it on Amazon in Brasil!! Afterall, you’ve got the river.

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