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Will new business be out for the summer as people take time out?

July 5, 2021

Agency new business has been bouncing back at a steady rate as marketer confidence rises and budgets start to unfreeze. At Propeller, we’ve seen the trend continue throughout Q2, with June being particularly lively for meetings, briefs and opportunities across a wide range of sectors.

Traditionally, things tend to slow down over the summer. But with so much disruption over the last 18 months, coupled with the current uncertainty over traffic lights and travel plans, we wanted to take the industry’s temperature as to whether new business is likely to be out for the summer as people take time out, or whether agencies need to stay on their toes.

At Propeller Group we’re always looking to keep in tune with the priorities and decision-making cycles of marketers to keep our clients front of mind and ahead of the game. So, we asked senior executives in our network from both client and agency side what they were expecting over the next eight weeks, and to give some tips on how agencies can successfully stand out and stay front of mind.

Here’s what they had to say:

Pete Markey – CMO at Boots
“No. I think as we start to emerge from lockdown everyone will look to the future, and this includes brands ensuring they are with the right agencies, which in itself presents opportunities.”

How can agencies stand out right now?
“What agencies can do to stand out right now is to be relevant and show how what you offer will help a brand carve a successful path through the challenges and opportunities ahead – and show how your agency evolved to meet the challenges of the past 12-15 months, and how this has given you a competitive edge.”

Andy Nairn – Founding Partner at Lucky Generals
“No. While we could all do with a break there will be no rest for the wicked (at least for new business teams). That's because brands are looking ahead to autumn, Christmas and January campaigns – and all of these need to be thought through over the summer. One positive is that marketers are becoming less wedded to full-blown pitches; with all the time and expense they entail. So perhaps this will be a way in which the industry ‘builds back better’. More new business and less pitching doesn't sound too bad, does it?”

How can agencies stand out right now?
“The market is more oversupplied than ever, so it's important to stand out. The best advice I can give is to look after your existing clients, first and foremost. Make sure they stand out and you'll have no shortage of new business enquiries. Then you can be selective and only go for the ones you feel passionate about.”

Claire Sadler – Executive Director, Marketing, Fundraising and Engagement at the British Heart Foundation
“No. New business never stops… whether it’s short-term briefs or longer-term new business opportunities through fostering good relationships and watching the market. Even if there are no new briefs in August there’s still change happening – restructures and consolidation of activities and departments. Large-scale business change often opens up new things. You can still do your research on what might be on the horizon for the flurry of September ‘back to school’ projects, briefs and 2022 planning.”

How can agencies stand out right now?
“Build strong, respectful and honest relationships and do great work that gets noticed and is impactful and effective. This can be hard without face-to-face time. When pitching: think about how to make virtual meetings as engaging as possible, with shorter sessions and more time for discussion. For existing clients: understand their business… what’s keeping them up at night? What’s changed or changing? What can you to help with that? Great people in great agencies do that.”

Melissa Robertson – CEO at Dark Horses
“No. The whole notion of cyclical new business has been turned on its head. As we blearily emerge from Covid the imperative of seasonality has been replaced with necessity. We need to do things differently, and that might mean different partners. Prepare for an influx!”

How can agencies stand out right now?
“It may sound blindingly obvious, but the best thing an agency can do is to know themselves. We're often good at shining a light on our clients to help them define themselves, but terrible at turning that light on ourselves. If you can't get to a strong articulation of who you are and why you’re different – the classic 'elevator pitch' – then why should a client believe that you can do anything for them?”

Judging from these responses it’s a little premature to switch on your ‘out of office’ just yet and there is not much suggestion of things slowing down over the summer. Seasonality has been swapped for necessity as brands look to make up for lost time and focus on how they can make the most out of the rest of this year.

New business waits for no one, so agencies will need to stay responsive over the coming months, make sure they are clear on where they add value, and double down on marketing, PR and new business to really stand out.

Click here to find out some Tough Truths from Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Diageo and the AAR as to how to get on the radar for future work and some dos and don’ts for agency new business.

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