Social Media

101 Insights from Advertising Agencies in the US


By Colin Gilchrist | Digital Strategy Planner

April 19, 2011 | 11 min read

Taken directly from my friend Michael Gass and his blog “Fuel Lines” (Fueling Ad Agency Business Through Social Media)

“The reader’s digest version of the top insights from the largest advertising agency new business conference of the year. The 2011 Mirren New Business Conference was recently held in NYC. With over 400 advertising agencies represented, this is the premiere event of the year for agency new business. Over 400 agencies were represented for this 3 day event that included 30 sessions.”

The next best thing for those who missed it would be sharing some of insights gleaned from the attendees who were Twittering live from the conference using the Twitter hashtag #MIRREN, sharing some of the best-of-the best information.

Enjoy these top 101 nuggets from the conference attendees:

@hugeinc @edwardboches: kids coming out of school today are fearless and don’t label themselves according to job descriptions

@edwardboches: the single most important thing you can do is create the best internship program in the country

@jbraftus: The only proprietary tool agencies have is their people

@dglittlefield Biggest trend in agency selection is category experience. Agencies need to narrow and go deep as opposed to wide and broad.

@HeatherWit Stop selling the agency and start fixing their problems.

@LaurenOnDemand …great marketing is about being seductive…..about creating content and ideas people want to spend time with.

@kfiddner Congrats on recognition at #mirren for your “brilliant” blog: Relevant, focused to your target clients.

Brent Hodgins featured as best practice example in today’s agency website discussion.@dglittlefield: @kfiddner

@therealadbadger: Clients don’t have time for blogs. But they do have time for focused blogs

@mediatwo 7 basic principles for agency wesite: 1) objectives 2) targeting 3) USP 4) value 5) supported 6) tone/personality 7) user experience

@awbrown 2011 statistic: Agencies lose 95% of pitches when they lack category experience

@greenergirl put your category expertise up front to get the clients u want via your site

@awbrown: There are nearly 70,000 marketing services companies in the US. Over supplied market, receding demand.

@pinkbird_biz Diversify ur pipeline across prospecting, organic growth & pitching; increase ‘qualified’ at bats to improve winrate

@HeatherWit Client anxiety is evolving. Clients are asking “what is my social strategy? Can any of my agency partners do social well?”

@HannahPoferl: “In a meeting, whoever talks most thinks it went really well.” ~ Brent Hodgins

@MikeDuda Start every pitch w/ shot of tequilla, vow to one another the team will win & failure’s not an option. Period.

@pinkbird_biz Laura Maness Is your agency’s positioning client-centric? [hint: the agency monologue is dead]

@tomzazueta: “Fastest path to revenue is influencing your client’s revenue.” – Brent Hodgins

@cullenob Agency biz dev dir’s encouraged to take control of their own job desc’s to be clear on what they’re accountable for.

If you wait to start the brainstorm at the brainstorm, cancel the brainstorm (via @maureendevine)

@omutak Will centralized global capabilities be a profitable revenue source 4 mid-size agencies?

@DMVAND Which of the archetypes Is your presentation style? Motivator, Counselor, Drill Sargent or Professor? Use them all?

@maureendevine: 20% of what you say provides 80% of your persuasion in a pitch. Key is to make sure your client can find your 20%

@cullenob If you want till the brainstorm for ideas, you’re in big, big trouble. @levyinnovation

@maureendevine 20% of what you say provides 80% of your persuasion in a pitch. Key is to make sure your client can find your 20%

@therealadbadger Great ideas are only logical in hindsight.

@pinkbird_biz Search consultants parting advice: believe (u are who u think u are), velocity (be faster), authenticity (be true to ur brand).

@pinkbird_biz communications should drive action: clicking, liking, passing, tweeting, shazaming, sampling fast becoming rule

@jsidess when you focus on what your consumers focus on, you can be much more effective on getting their attention

@therealadbadger Brainstorming sessions destroy the ability to spontaneously create big ideas. You can’t schedule ideation.

@mediatwo “account planning is the future of the industry” – Brent

@mnburgess Social ROI is still murky. But none of us have the courage to give up on it!

@pinkbird_biz If a client sets clear rules for the pitch, you should probably follow them.

@therealadbadger Pay attention to the CEO. It’s their job on the line. What have they promised to their shareholders?

@therealadbadger: Clients always reveal the secret to winning a pitch if you’re listening closely

@Linkergy: CMO’s say they need Reader’s Digest version of what makes the agency unique.It’s a culling exercise.WOW us in 30 mins

@Linkergy cmo panel says analytics are absolutely table stakes today, no longer just a nice-to-have.

@Melissa_Robison Average lifespan of a #CMO is 2 years: Nick Utton, E*Trade at#mirren

@pinkbird_biz Clients are adding to roster vs. wholesale change. Implication?…get in the door, solve a problem, build a relationship over time.

@omutak: The worst agency cliche: Take your brand to the next level.

@tomzazueta: “Fastest path to revenue is influencing your client’s revenue.” – Brent Hodgins

@Melissa_Robison E*Trade CMO: we are ruled by Wall St. and graded every three months. Need agency big ideas. If they fail, fail cheap and fast.

@ashandy73 “Agencies try to be liked at the cost of being respected.”

@cullenob: “Results” doesn’t mean results in clients’ eyes. Use their lexicon, not yours, if you want to show category expertise.

@therealadbadger: Process is process. There’s nothing proprietary about it.

@cagrana: What’s the most powerful word in New Business?: NO. Have self respect and stick to your limits.

@cagrana Best presentation tools? PPT is out, conversations and Prezi are in.#Mirren.

@edwardboches: if you have to tell a client you’re digital, social, or mobile that’s a crock. If you really are they’ll see it.

@HeidiReys Search consult panel: “U have more control over price than U think. Ex: recent winning agency comp was 40% higher than others”

@tonysignore Don’t try to be all things to all people. Focus. Look at where you do your best work and add to that.

@awbrown: Hiring people with computer science backgrounds is a major trends for agencies.

@mediatwo: #mirren If a client doesn’t fall in love with you, you will NEVER win the business.

@cherwenka Funny brand example: Designer condoms called Proper Attire. If you aren’t wearing one you aren’t getting in

@hugeinc: @edwardboches we try to learn from ourselves too much. We shd get as far away from ad industry as possible to learn.

@HeidiReys Reviews are elimination process all way thru and usually won in pitch vs. client preferences at beginning. Chemisty is huge.

@pinkbird_biz Don’t underestimate the importance of structuring your physical space to support innovation & collaboration

@markschnurman If you can’t present well (or any team member), you are not going to win. I did not pay him to say this:-) Brian Goodal

@dherscott Its not over until its over – never give up throughout the pitch process – indeed!

@rinsights Online surveys are the most cost effective quant research technique. Make sure they are well designed by experienced researchers

@rinsights: Focus groups are great, but many bad decisions can come from them. Use them for “exploring,” not “deciding.”

How did you change your agency to make it more innovative? @tonysignore “make hard choices including personnel changes”

@markschnurman Re: Search consultant- Doing work that gets notices puts you on search consultant radar-Brian Goodall

@cherwenka “74% of the time when a client fired it’s agency, they said they were happy with the work.” -Signore, CEO Taylor

@Malbonnington Love this, from @edwardboches @ #mirren: “Mullen’s new one word mission statement: #velocity“

@jbraftus The only proprietary tool agencies have is their people

@LindsayBL quoting 4A’s study: 617 pitches last year, only 23% of which run by search consultants (down from 38% in prior years)

@rinsights Webcam focus groups trim deadlines, save on time and travel cost, allows geographic diversity

@mediatwo All agencies only have ONE proprietary tool: your people. Showcase them in RFI

@mediatwo Worst mistake in submitting RFI is length. Be innovative and show examples but keep short

@MARKLIMBACH Interesting 4. Clients and agencies agree…67% rely on gut & instinct, 33% on data.

@mjgoldberg Act your way into a new way of thinking instead of thinking your way into a new way of acting.

@cynthiahprice Enthusiasm around what is possible is still one of the best business development tools. Andrew D. From Mother at #mirren

@jbraftus Agencies and clients are more alike than different

@dglittlefield 59% of agencies and clients think an agency’s role is becoming more important in the world of branding and marketing.

@DavidRCampbell: 52% of agency employees like there jobs vs 31% of clients

@pinkbird_biz: @4As Tom Finneran encourages agencies to adopt P&G’s BAL Model: ‘one throat to choke’ for agencies & client

@pinkbird_biz The world is changing. New business today is more global than it’s ever been before.

@cullenob Thought leadership, and standing for something as an agency, formula for new biz, not gimmicks. @scottfrog

@dglittlefield Agencies: Be bold. Be distinctive. Today’s bold doesn’t mean outrageous.

@HeatherWit Today, clients are looking for thought leadership. Gone are the days of the “dog and pony” show

@edwardboches: RT @HeatherWit: Agency cliches: We have: “the best people, award-winning creative, proprietary process…”

@thinairchi: 4As reports average digital agency hourly billing rate is half that of a midsize law firm.

@Cathy_Carl When a client sends you an RFI, you should send them an RFI. An adult, peer-to-peer discussion is a must

@joelparent If we don’t all play by honor system Agencies will lose battle against Brands that seek 2 abuse us. #mirren Hold the line! This. Is. Sparta!

@cherwenka AAAA study across 98 spec work pitches: 67% of winning pitch work was implemented.

@dglittlefield AAAA’s has benchmark for agencies when dealing with… “Your rates are too high!” did u know average hourly rate is less than $150?

@galaxie65 I believe that Tom Finnernan from 4A’s speaks for all agencies and we must increase our rates for our business

@HeatherWit “Vet it quickly and vet it early” (regarding knowing a client’s budget sooner than later) – Stephen Larkin

@mediatwo 4As Tom Finneran says marketing survey shows brands use avg of 13 agencies and 5 are digital

@dglittlefield Creativity is often a feeble weapon… the client problem is strategic, not creative.

@HeatherWit More than having the will to win, you must have the will to *prepare* to win (via @HeatherWit @tomzazueta

@galaxie65 Interesting that agency fees on a standardized basis decreased more than 50% in past 20 years. This needs to change.

@HeatherWit The most substantial thing you can do to regain your power – is to walk away. Take control of how you operate your business.”

@HeatherWit “In all negotiations, you usually have more power than you think you have. They key is to tap into that source of power.” (Gleason)

@maureendevine stop thinking like an agency and start acting like a consultancy = seen as more credible and get make more moolah

@cherwenka: Ouch. “your real competitor is your client, not other agencies.” That seems to be the theme here.

@jonjonbailey Be the orange in a basket of apples.

@MARKLIMBACH The avg agency is doing 20% of its work for free, with the othe 80% being under-paid by client

@HeatherWit “Vet it quickly and vet it early” (regarding knowing a client’s budget sooner than later) – Stephen Larkin,

@DavidRCampbell: Quote of the conference #mirren “Pee in the Shower, it’s fun and 69% of agency people do it”

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