Marketer turned maker

By The Drum | Administrator

February 25, 2009 | 4 min read

How many creative agencies actually practice what they preach? And why do more agencies not invest in marketing their own ideas? Well, Chris Quigley, MD of Rubber Republic, decided to “lay his balls on the table” with the launch of aMap.

Yet, what I can never understand is that if an agency is so darn hot – if its ideas and strategies can lead to product literally falling off the shelves – then why don’t more agencies practice what they preach, and invest in marketing their own ideas?

Why spend your life making money for other people, if you can make more money for yourself?

Well, maybe us marketers are more altruistic than arrogant. Or maybe, more truthfully, most marketers aren’t really as good as they say they are, and wouldn’t trust themselves spending their own hard-earned marketing pounds.

So taking these thoughts to heart, as MD of an arrogantly self-proclaimed “shit hot viral marketing agency”, in the last 12 months I decided to lay my balls on the table, turn from marketer to maker and launch our own in-house venture.

Holy grail

As a viral agency we weren’t interested in launching any old product, but the key was to create what we call a “viral product” - the Holy Grail of commerce - a product that is innately talkable, thus requiring little marketing as it (in principle) markets itself.

And our answer to creating a viral product is the launch of “aMap”. aMap’s a fairly non-obvious left-field product, and stands for “argument map”. aMaps come in two formats: online (obviously) and offline. The printed version is a series of “argument guides” providing guides to arguments such as “Does God exist?” right through to “Is modern art rubbish?” and “Are children worth it?”. The internet version allows people to create their very own personalised aMaps - which they can then embed in their blog and start an argument with friend or foe.

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

Although left-field, aMap is standing up to its status as a viral product. With a launch marketing budget of £0, aMap’s created a genuine buzz across the world – with stories being picked up from the likes of to the Washington Post to the In its first week the aMap website received over 50,000 views, and importantly, the buzz has also turned into $$ with product flying out of our online store.

As much as I’d like to pat our team on the back for aMap’s successful launch the hard work’s yet to come. And this is where the difference between marketer and maker comes. Marketers are used to, well, marketing, but aren’t so well versed in the other aspects of business – for example, distribution, fulfilment etc etc.

We’re not the first agency to launch their own in-house venture. Recent history’s littered with a whole bunch of the successful, mildly successful and down-right rankly stupidly awful.

Leeds-based brand agency Elmwood scored a hit recently with the launch of their own-branded tea bags “Make mine a builders” which are now sold through ASDA (a success). Uber-ad agency Mother (NY) launched a series of scented Mother candles over x-mas (a mild success). And what must rank as rankly stupidly awful was Droga 5’s launch (and subsequent closure after spunking $25m of Publicis’ cash) of online shopping sensation


Quickly analysing these successes and failures, the main success criteria for any in-house agency venture seems to be the difference between “product” and “business”. Agencies are good at dealing with the former, and terrible at the latter – especially if the new business venture is radically different to their existing agency model. So, Elmwood found it easy to launch their own branded tea bag product, whereas Droga 5 struggled to run their own online shop business.

And so where does that leave us and aMap? Well, if I was to listen to my own words of wisdom I’d lower my aspirations and keep aMap as a product-based venture, rather than a whole new business line. But unfortunately I’m a little more ambitious (stupid) than that, and have visions of developing aMap from a mere “viral product” into a “viral business”.

And the reason why I think our team can pull this off? Well, because my marketing strategy predicts eight times return on investment and guaranteed fame, of course.

Have an argument online at


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +