Are you the world’s leading marketing services agency?


By Diane Young | Co-founder

November 6, 2012 | 5 min read

Unless you are Sir Martin Sorrell himself, I’m sorry to say that the answer is probably no.

Bolt declares himself a legend – but is this something he decides?

Imagine you receive a beautifully gift-wrapped box. You tear off the paper to reveal a Tiffany box (your excitement is building now) only to open it and find a voucher for H. Samuel.

The fantastic build-up without the anticipated result would leave you pretty flat and maybe a bit hacked off that you had been misled. The giver of your gift will have shot themselves in the foot pretty badly.

Yet this is the approach that I often see from agencies when they are marketing themselves to clients.

If I’ve seen ‘one of the UK’s leading agencies’ or even ‘the leading agency’ once on agency websites or in their credentials, I’ve seen it dozens of times. I’ve been quite surprised to then find upon further investigation that these agencies are maybe 40 strong and have not done one single bit of work for any of the world’s or UK’s leading brands.

To see agencies (whose job it is to help clients to position themselves) using such a tired approach to describing themselves and one which isn’t honest either is depressing. It leaves me pretty cold and it must leave clients confused and cold too.

Another trend I’ve noticed in agency blurb is to describe the senior people in the company as visionaries. You can also spot quite a few twitter and linked-in descriptions where the person describes themselves as a thought leader or even a guru. Don’t they realise that nobody likes a smartarse?

Superlatives and titles like that can be valid but they must be bestowed by many others, not just by oneself, or the sycophantic staff member who wrote the copy on the website.

There is no doubt that competition for business is fierce, so you do need to be able to differentiate your agency. It’s really hard for clients to discern amongst agencies, so help them out.

Making sure that you are participating in standard industry measures and quality marks is a great way of doing it. And if you have excelled in any of these then by all means shout it from the rooftops, but do make sure that you cite the source.

Our job at RAR is to help clients to find the best agency for their brief. We spend a lot of time researching and comparing agencies, teasing out which ones will do the best job for the wide-ranging types of clients we’ve been helping. Not once has a client (whether a big brand owner or a small professional services company) come to us and asked us to find the leading UK agency. They usually have a complex set of needs and wants with the overall requirement being that the agency is the best one for them at that particular moment.

So please, avoid making overblown claims and just say something interesting, meaningful and honest about yourself.

Diane Young is a director at the Recommended Agency Register and will be running a workshop at the forthcoming Vision conference.

The RAR Top 100 Agencies will be published in The Drum on 23 November.


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