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When 30 Agencies Get in a Room …


ABC has been a member of the Second Wind Network since 2000. Over the years I have attended several of their conferences.

One of my favorites is the annual Small Agency Idea Lab (SAIL) Conference. This is an opportunity for small- to medium-size agencies from all over the country to come together and share their experiences in the advertising industry.

Topics cover everything from legal-type stuff to creative process and job-tracking software to client communications. It doesn’t hurt that they usually have this conference in the happiest place on earth: that’s right, Disney World.

So, what did I learn this year? What industry trends are worth keeping an eye on for all of us in the industry? Why do you care about any of this? Maybe you don’t, but at least you can find out what us agency folks are focusing on.

VR and AR: Don’t be a dinosaur.

One thing our clients rely on us for is to stay on top of marketing trends and, more importantly, how we can use them to help get their message out. Well, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) are the latest buzzwords in the marketing world right now and we spent a lot of time discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of both.

Much like the infamous QR code, we are often left wondering why did I do that? Why did I spend $20,000 on an app? Why did I get involved with Google +?

Just because it’s new and shiny does not mean it’s right for everyone. My favorite takeaway to explain the difference between these two shiny new toys is that VR tinkers with our reality while AR enhances it.

I’m not going to explain the differences in this article, but both of these tools can be fun new ways to tell your story as long as it is done right. What are some of the benefits of VR and AR?

Try before you buy. Some people are allowing you to virtually try on clothes or even makeup before you make a purchase. Product launches are a good fit.

It’s definitely a great tool for an enhanced tourism experience. Education and training applications and content marketing support.

Oh, and don’t forget voice assist. With the growth of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, you need to stay aware of how your product or service can play in these areas.

Of course, the boring stuff.

We spent a lot of time talking billable hours, employee time tracking and how best to explain this to our clients.

The good news for most of you is that we are definitely making sure we are tracking time and billing appropriately. The hardest part is explaining our process and making sure every client knows what it takes to get the job done.

It’s not just pretty pictures and words. A good agency has talented, educated people that can create effective marketing without a lot of guessing. Along with our constant media research and creative process, what we bring to a company should be of great value and make them money.

We also talked about the legal part of the agency world. Yes, I did take a short nap during this, but I also learned a lot – mostly scary stuff.

Basically, for both agency and client it is important to have a clear discussion and understand who owns what when you enter into a relationship.

All of this discussion made me want to create a simple and fun document for new clients that explains “what it’s like to work with ABC.” Maybe all companies should consider this one, especially service providers.

My employees love me!

Is that what you think? There is always a lot of discussion among agencies about workplace culture and how to best motivate and incentivize our unique employees. Yes, I said unique employees.

Most agencies are filled with half and half without much grey area. On one side you have the analytical, sometimes tyrannical, account managers who only care about client demands, budgets and deadlines. On the other side, you have the creative department that really would like to sit on a swing out in the park with a sketchpad and contemplate the meaning of proper font usage.

Now, let’s have a talk about how we can keep everyone happy. The good news I usually come out of this conference with a few gems to bring back, I will let you know how they work out.

Specifics … unlimited time off (yikes!), working remotely (hmmm?), cross-training departments (OK). What about your onboarding process? Is it good? Oh, and what the hell do we do with those damn millennials?

Just for the record, I hate that term. They are just people younger than you and you’re mad at them because they never had to be kind and rewind. Get over it.

One last treat: check out Office Vibe.

Emoji me. ?

One last funny little exercise we did (and if you have actually made it to the end of this entire article it’s worth it, I promise) was a little something you can try at home.

Take out your phone and go to your text message app. Somewhere in there, you will be able to access your most frequently used emojis.

Take a look … and then realize that this is a snapshot of your current life. ?

It may be scary, probably funny, but definitely accurate to your situation right now. Enjoy mine. Don’t laugh.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.