BD Sessions

The BD Sessions: insights, inspiration and empathy

We successfully launched The BD Sessions – an interactive virtual meet up for those involved in generating new business to share insights and encouragement in this challenging time – and to have some fun in the process. 

With three guest speakers and held together by quick-thinking link man Alister Heywood from sister agency Propeller (or Ali Woods under his stand-up comedy nom-de-plume), the inaugural session attracted dozens of BD practitioners 

The speakers – Charlie Martyn, head of New Business at Wunderman-Thompson, Cat Hartland, Head of The Drum Recommends and Dave Currie, CEO of Winmo and agency search consultancy AAR Partners – gave hints and tips and advice about tackling morale, the appropriate strategy for business development right now and what sectors are offering opportunities for potential business conversations. 

Serve Don’t Sell

The overriding message was ‘serve don’t sell’ – this is not a time for the hard sell but rather to show you can add value and support without expectation of an immediate brief.

Advice for keeping the team cohesive and alert to opportunity from Charlie included maintaining  a good dose of positivity. The BD team is often seen as the source of news and excitement within the agency so find what nuggets you can to keep people upbeat across the board – whether it’s about clients and their successes or light-hearted memes and gifs.

At the same time the agency must present its best face to the wider world, so BD and marketing need to work together to come up with ways to show the agency has a strong culture, is resilient and innovative.

“What you say isn’t enough. It’s what you do that builds a culture of positivity”, said Charlie.

Positivity can translate into real benefits, according to the theory that those with an upbeat mindset are better at spotting opportunity; their ‘peripheral vision’ is more developed and they can identify potential in the most unlikely ways.

Relationship Building

In terms of relationship-building there are opportunities to strengthen ties and make new connections that should deliver in the longer term. The importance of building trust and maintaining share of voice was underlined by Dave who said: “Your competitors are either going to hunker down or are going to pivot and be deliberate and strategic.”

Cat pointed out that current clients will need all the help you can provide and your support will give long-term payback:”Your clients will remember how you treated them during this time.”

Clients often still don’t know the full breadth of an agency’s capabilities and so now it a good time to remind them of all the things you can do. Many are switching their budgets and creative execution into digital formats and they’ll need assistance. But lay out how you can help without it becoming a hard-nosed upsell conversation, stressed Cat.

Charlie added that one of the best things an agency can do right now is “help their clients not be tone deaf.” Some brands are making missteps in their messaging or the way they are delivering those messages. If you can bring some crisis-comms advice to the table, you will be invaluable.

The current pandemic means that business strategy has to be “a long-term play” said Dave and agencies need to set up expectations with Managing Directors and Chief marketing Officers, who in many cases are becoming Chief Growth Officers  “with a broader view of what their business needs.”

Where to find business and how to win it

Live briefs are still coming through and according to recent research from The Drum Recommends, 80% of conversations are still taking place directly with agencies (rather than through intermediaries or procurement). Pitches are still taking place and both clients and agencies are having to adjust to how this is done virtually – for instance, for those on the creative agency side the element of ‘pitch theatre’ is harder to deliver.

Cat said that the focus “should be on supplying the information prospects want to know.” Prepare the case studies and use the conversations to show the way you work and your processes in ‘the new normal’ to your best advantage.

Dave brought some granular insights based on very recent market data.

Looking over categories, he said that some retailers were doing well and upping spend with marketing budget going into social media, sponsored posts, podcast sponsorships and other channels. Sub-categories showing spikes in ad spend include Home Improvement, Gaming, Health & Fitness, Home Office equipment, Consumer Electronics and many more.The players in these categories are now in a fierce battle for share of voice.

Online services from counselling to personal finance advice are also ramping up and looking for assistance in moving from a  ‘freemium’ model where the lower tier of capability is free into subscription-based models. This can include developing tone of voice to practical UX design skills.

CPG challenger brands are also finding they are being trialled in greater volume than ever as they become substitutes in people’s grocery baskets for brands that are in short supply. Their  challenge is to find ways of keeping hold of the customer so it’s not a one-off sale.

Remember we’re human

Finally, the speakers agreed that recent weeks has taught everyone – if they needed reminding – that we are all human, clients and agencies alike. People have a lot more to deal with now they are trying to work from the home environment and businesses are under huge pressure, so kindness and empathy should be the order of the day.

The next BD Sessions is scheduled for April 23rd with a speaker line up and topic to be announced. The format will be lively, interactive  and keep you on your toes, so make sure you join us and to help keep the BD community flourishing.

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The Future of Creative Communications – Event Takeaways

On Wednesday 2nd November, leading Creative Communications agency Margaret_ hosted an exclusive breakfast event at the House of St Barnabus on the Future of Creative Communications. This was the first of a series of talks and discussions around communications and the ever-changing world we live in as agencies, brands, consumers, and as people. #MARGARETMORNINGS

A wide range of marketers from leading brands across FMCG, fashion, retail and drinks joined in for a dynamic discussion where we explored how brands can engage with the right influencers and early adopters over coffee, croissants and the odd pain au chocolat.

A fantastic line up explored the power of creativity, sharing examples and providing some wonderful insight and tips on best practices as to how brands can use creative communication and storytelling to really stand out from the crowd. Guest speakers included:

James Turner: Founder of Glimpse Foundation, who was behind the recent C.A.T.S takeover of Clapham Common tube station replacing advertising with Cats

Michael Zee and Mark van Beek: the cult food Instagrammers behind Symmetry Breakfast. he pair have over 600k followers and regularly attract over 15k likes for their daily posts of pristine, identical breakfasts.

Aimee Hartley: Owner of a new magazine Above Sea Level, a platform for exploring the relationship between wine, food, design, people and places

Joel Gethin Lewis: Artist, with a basis in mathematics and Interactive design. His latest project, ‘A Piece Of Art as Big As India’ is an augmented reality sculpture created to map the exact footprint of India and allow the millions of smartphone users in India to interact and effect its construction and outcome.

Oliver Dixon: the Creative Director at Communications agency Margaret_. Olly has been behind stand out campaigns and helping likes of Diesel, Kopparberg, L’Oreal and SONOS to engage with influencers and early adopters.

Here are some of the insights and recommendations shared during the morning:

Every minute of every day, Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content, Twitter users tweet 277,000 times and Instagram users post 216,000 new photos (and that’s only covering a small segment of the digital ecosystem).

Digital platforms are often considered to be the great equalizer for brands and how they communicate with consumers, competition to engage in meaningful ways has increased exponentially as a result.

Brands should always consider the relationship between medium and message, evaluating whether they complement one another.

For example, while Symmetry Breakfast is almost exclusively suited to a visual platform like Instagram, the physicality of a print magazine compliments a publication like Above Sea Level that’s proposition aims to humanize wine in order to engage a younger audience around wine, using print as a medium to connect the two worlds.

Brands must be willing to challenge traditional marketing methods and re-evaluate traditional communication strategies in order to engage a wider audience.

‘Forward thinking’ is the key for a positive brand future, and this is because the digital ecosystem is always evolving. With the recent shut down of Vine, we’re reminded that platforms like Instagram won’t always be around – so how will your brand evolve? Michael’s creative journey evolved into a deliciously symmetrical book. What will your brands evolution look like, and who can you partner with to ensure your success?

James who is behind Glimpse, an organisation set up to encourage social change and give people glimpses of a better future, discussed the importance and power of ethical marketing, and the theory that better advertising born from creativity can encourage positive values in society. ‘Meaningful’ brand trends have been on the rise, and perhaps this is the market evolution for creative communication.

Furthermore, he talked about how brands can help take back public spaces for consumers and how that can reinvigorate creative communications by bringing people together in a very human way.

Brands and businesses need to start treating people like people – and not consumers. This was the key focus for the C.A.T.S. campaign, giving people a break from being advertised to and seen as citizens rather than just consumers.

Successful creative communication is all about making purposeful change – this idea should sit at the heart of what your brand stands for. Motivation out of conviction rather than marketing is the key to success. Don’t force it.

The importance of being authentic was also a big theme throughout the morning’s discussions – and this is a critical for brands to get right as people can see through this.

Today’s market suggest people respond more positively to authenticity and purpose than anything else. That means marketing ethically, and considering transparency in your process. If your brand doesn’t have anything to hide, then share it! This can have a tremendous effect on consumer loyalty.

How can your brand ensure authentic creative communication? Work with the right people, and then create an environment of trust and flexibility – this is where storytelling really thrives.

If you are interested in contributing to the discussion, or running your own events, then please get in touch.


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Unity help to Join The Dots

Upfront was delighted to partner with Unity – the agency nominated for no less than 10 PRWeek Awards this week – for their breakfast briefing; ‘Join the Dots… On Real-Time Marketing’.

Speakers included Phil Lloyd, Paddy Power’s Head of Advertising and Paul Flatters, Chief Executive at The Trajectory Partnership, who were joined by a great range of brands to discuss the latest thinking in Real-Time Marketing.

Trends and opinions were shared and a number of interesting approaches to real-time marketing were brought to light. Speakers shared insights on how brands can embrace real-time marketing to increase fans, as well as value.

Here are five key take outs from the session:

  1. Fear of failure is a failure too. In such a fast paced environment – experimentation is key, marketers and brands need to be aware that not everything will be a success; however this awareness allows brands to embrace experimentation, learn from it and build stronger campaigns.
  2. Understand the importance of a social media presence. Brands should take note of Paddy Power, who are leading the charge – their social account outshines their above the line campaigns in consumers eyes. Phil Lloyd, Head of Advertising for Paddy Power stressed that social should be seen as an opportunity to illustrate how responsive and reactive you can be – to a situation, news or event, amplifying brand ideas.
  3. You need the right team in place. Behind any successful real time marketing campaign it is imperative that there is a dedicated collective with an ‘always-on’ presence. Passion, curiosity and innovation within a team drives rich, engaging content that will mean you are consistently on brand.
  4. Creation of creative content is key – great content is shareable content – and this does not change because it is happening in real-time. In reality, there are numerous technologies that exist in real-time marketing but have been too niche to make an impact, such as augmented reality. It is much easier for a technology to become main-stream when it truly engages with its audience.
  5. By definition, real-time marketing needs to happen quickly – it requires teams to be working together in new instant ways, a team that can be interesting, relevant and always on brand understanding that audience and their moods vary on a daily and even hourly basis. It is being fluent in these subtleties that can determine and set your brand’s real-time marketing strategies ahead of your competitors.

The breakfast briefing provided a fantastic format for bringing marketers together to share insight and learnings, with some great take aways. Watch out for future Join the Dots briefings coming later this year…

If you are interested in running your own event, then please get in contact to find out how we can help.


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The Drum Independent Agencies Census

This week the Drum published it’s annual Independent Agencies Census. This benchmarks the UK’s independent agency sector based on financial performance, agency staff size and client satisfaction.

The report provides a great overview of the current landscape – and it was encouraging to hear that 77% of the agencies featured, reported an increase in turnover. A lot of our clients are fast growing independents and we take great heart to see so many taking high positions in the rankings for both financial and client satisfaction.

Congratulations to the winners for each category:

Elite (balance across client satisfaction & financial performance)

100+ staff – Intermarketing

51-99 – MB advertising and Marketing

26-50 – Bluesky Interactive

1-25 – Miramar

Media – Space and Time Media


100+ Elmwood

51-99 – MB advertising & Marketing

26-50 Bluesky Interactive

1-25 – Ink Digital Agency

Media – Sleeping Giant Media


100+ – Oliver

51-99 – Red Brick Road

26-50 – Fold7

1-25 – Friend Studio

Media – The Specialist Works

Please click here to see the full rankings.

We find the Independent Agency Census is a great guide for clients to help find the right agencies. Often clients will want to make sure agencies are the right size for them – they want to be considered as important and one of their key clients, but not too big that the agency will be over dependent on them. And the rankings on client satisfaction, gathered through the Recommended Agency Roster (RAR), help future clients to better understand what it is like to work with each agency.

We find the report a very useful tool for Business Development and something we regularly reference when talking to prospects.

If you do appear in this year’s report, congratulations! Now make sure you share on social and as part of your keep in touch communication; it will help future clients to better understand your agency, build your credibility and give them greater confidence in your agency.

If you would like help building on this to further grow your agency, please get in contact.

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Econsultancy Top 100 Digital agencies 2016

Econsultancy has recently published it’s annual Top 100 Digital Agencies report, the definitive listing of the UK’s largest digital agencies. The report shows that marketing spend on digital in the UK continues to grow with total fee income across the top 100 digital agencies up 20% to pass the £2 billion mark.

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report lists the UK’s top 100 digital marketing, design and build, technical and creative agencies. These are ranked on their fee income from digital activities in the UK.

In an ever increasing digital landscape, a large portion of total digital spend is now taken up leading consultancy groups who have diversified into digital marketing. IBM iX took top spot, with Accenture Interactive a new entry straight into second place. Last year’s winner Sapient Nitro dropping to third spot.

Click here to see the full list.

Business Development is increasingly important for digital agencies as competition hots up. Exciting new entrants to the list included EPAM, Isobar, BIO agency, Enviqa, Fetch, Poke, ANDigital, ORM, Geeks, Propellnet, Vaimo UK and Delete. Welcome!

Meanwhile, ones to watch for next year are Engage, 383 Project, Exposure Digital, UXB London, The Unit and AB… the ideas agency.

It was great to see so many Upfront and Upstream clients (past and present) with nearly 20 making the top 100. Particular mention to Ayima who jumped 25 places to 63 and Redweb breaking into the top 50.

Well done to everyone listed.

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Client Wins of the Year 2015

Upfront is all about helping helping our clients win new business. We focus on developing the right types of opportunities to deliver agency growth. For some it’s all about revenue, others it’s the fame. Or it could be opening up a new sector, or even a new market.

This year we have seen a wide range of wins across a variety of sectors. This has included: Retail, Travel, FMCG, Professional Services, Charity, Media, Higher Education, Leisure, Financial and Gaming.

Our business is focused on helping clients win new business. We get excited every time a client has a big account win or gets involved with a new campaign. Looking back over the last year, here are some of our favourites:

Yoplait, Maynard Malone

In a cluttered yogurt aisle, creative digital agency Maynard Malone were challenged to demonstrate to kids that Frubes is now even more fun and to mums that it’s the best lunch box snack. With the help of the Minions, Maynard Malone created a best in class 360, multi channel marketing campaign.

BBC, Unity

Unity partnered with the BBC to remind people of the BBC’s work and engage them – digitally – in the corporation’s future. With 97 per cent of us using the BBC weekly, it was important to recognise its unique value and #BBCMoments was born.

Häagen Dazs, Love

Ice cream brand Häagen Dazs recently named Love its global lead design agency. The appointment sees Love initially charged with handling the brand’s design direction, the first of several briefs the agency will face. Please click here to read more.

Greggs, Shoutlet

Over the last couple of years we have helped US social tool Shoutlet establish it’s presence in the UK market. This has included pillar clients in Travel, Financial and Retail sectors. You don’t get much more authentically British than Greggs, with Shoutlet (recently acquired by Spredfast) now the tool of choice for the bakery chain.

Arthritis Research UK, e3

As reported in the Drum in September, Arthritis Research UK  handed its account to e3 as part of plans to boost its online presence, with the agency also taking the lead in the strategy and execution of ongoing digital campaigns and projects.

Other big client wins this year have included Expedia, Durham University, Spreadex, Baker Tilly and Morrisons.

Please get in touch if you have a wish list of brands you would like help winning in 2016, we’d love to see you on this list next year.

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Hi Mum! Said Dad win award for iPint sequel

Last year, Carling appointed Hi Mum! Said Dad to deliver the long-awaited sequel for the hugely successful iPint app. The new iPint is a comprehensive loyalty solution offering beer, banter and brand rewards. This was one of our nominations for client win of the year in 2014.

A year later and we were delighted to see Carling and Hi Mum! Said Dad win the ‘Most Effective Loyalty Campaign’ at the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards.

Driving mutual benefit for consumers and brand, the pubs and retailers that stock Carling, the application is built on a comprehensive CRM, segmentation, targeted messaging and attribution engine. This allowed us to deliver smart on-boarding, location triggered rewards, cashback and money off vouchers that can be redeemed across thousands of pubs, restaurants and retailers.

Take a look at the video here, or download the app for yourself.


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Join O2, Paddy Power and Channel 4 at the Figaro Digital Conference; 26th November 2015

The next Figaro Digital conference is set to take place on 26th November in London – and Upfront is once again delighted to be a partner. The line up is already looking impressive with  Telefonica O2, Channel 4, Standard Life, Paddy Power, Time Out, Rufus Leonard, Tempero & Branded3  all speaking on the day.

The full-day event brings together experts from a whole range of disciplines and industry sectors to provide the latest insights and issues shaping digital marketing.  View the full line-up of currently confirmed speakers here.

Figaro Digital conferences have become a key part of our contact strategy for a number of our clients. We’ve found it can provide a great opportunity for agencies to meet and engage with potential clients. Speaker opportunities provide a great way to demonstrate your expertise and experience – and we have already seen a number of big wins as a direct result of clients presenting at previous conferences.

Please get in contact if you’re interested in speaking or attending this.

See you there.

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Upfront clients well represented in Econsultancy top 100 list

Econsultancy has recently published it’s Top 100 Digital Agencies report, the definitive listing of the UK’s largest digital agencies. The report shows that marketing spend on digital in the UK continues to grow with total fee income across the top 100 digital agencies reaching £1.696 billion, this was up from £1.48 billion in 2014.

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report lists the UK’s top 100 digital marketing, design and build, technical and creative agencies. These are ranked on their fee income from digital activities in the UK. Click here to see the full list.

Congratulations to Sapient Nitro who retain top spot with growth of over 15% last year. They were followed by IBM Interactive Experience and AKQA, with Tribal DDB a new entry at 4 and DigitasLBI slipping to 5th.

It was good to see breakthroughs by 4PS and True entering the top 100, both were highlighted as ones to watch back in 2014. And well done to Branded3 who enjoyed stand out growth of over 100%, jumping 39 places to 49th.

We were very pleased to see 10 Upfront clients in the top 1o0, with an average growth of 20% and very proud to have been a part of this.


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#Social speaker line up announced

Upfront is proud to be a lead sponsor of #Social, taking place in London on 15th April. With over 200 senior digital marketers already set to attend – including the likes of Coca Cola, Barclays, GSK, IBM, SONY Mobile, Virgin, Diageo & EE – it’s set to be big. And it just got even bigger with the speaker line up now announced to include Twitter, Facebook, Google and Eventbrite. Here is the full line up for the night…

Damian Ryan, Chair of GADM

Guilhem Fouetillou, Co-Founder, Linkfluence

Tariq Slim, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Twitter

Mark Walker, Social Media Manager Eventbrite

Gareth Evans & Richard Strachan, FivebyFive

Anais Hayes, Head of Brand Innovation, Google

Guy Levine, CEO and Founder of Return On Digital

Nick Pestell, Agency Partner for Facebook

Rob Mansfield, Age UK

Katy Howell, CEO, Immediate Future

We hope to see you there – and with many of our clients, partners and friends in attendance, we will be using the occasion to celebrate 10 years of helping bring brands and agencies together.

Click here for further information on the event.

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