Risk Management and the Oscars

March 9th, 2017 by Rory Dunlop

Oscars award

I’m sure everyone’s heard what happened at the 2017 Oscars by now? Well, for those of you that have been living under a rock the last couple of weeks, I’ll give you a brief rundown. All was going well at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony up until the award for Best Picture. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were in charge of announcing the winner, but as Warren Beatty opened the letter he paused for a split second, almost as though he couldn’t believe what he was reading. Ignoring any doubts, he passed the card to Faye Dunaway to read out the card and announced La La Land as Best Picture, instead of the actual winner, Moonlight. All the cast and crew from La La Land came up on stage and began making the thank you speeches, before the ceremony was interrupted and Moonlight was revealed to be the winner.

But how on earth does that happen at a night as prestigious and supposedly well-organised as the Oscars? How could it happen after months and months of planning and preparation to eliminate any possible risk of something like this occurring?

The answer is apparently largely down to how PwC (the accounting firm), who oversaw the envelope exchanging process – it’s really no wonder something like this has happened! Instead of having one person in charge of handing out the envelopes for each of the awards, it was decided to have two people on either side of the stage holding the same envelope for the same award. So what actually happened on the night was Warren Beatty was given the duplicate Best Actress envelope by mistake, so when he went to read the award out it said ‘Best Actress Emma Stone – La La Land’. Which would explain the slight pause as he read it out…

But the ironic thing here is that in attempting to make the award ceremony error-proof, i.e. by having a person each side of the stage each with duplicate envelopes, they actually created a process that became very high risk – hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I’m sure we’d all agree!

Brian Cullinan, one of the PwC accountants in charge of the envelopes had this to say about why they use duplicates:

“We have two briefcases, that are identical, and we have two entire sets of winning envelopes. [Fellow accountant] Martha [Ruiz] carries one of those briefcases, I carry the other. We go to the show separately with police escorts. I used to think it was for our security, it’s really for the briefcase. [Laughs] We take different routes to get there just because of the kinds of things that can happen in L.A. traffic. We want to make sure that no matter what happens, one of us gets there. We’ve never really had a problem with that.”

Like me, you’re probably thinking of ways that you might have run the envelope exchanging process to avoid this from ever happening. Perhaps there should only be one briefcase but they leave for the awards earlier than normal… human error is a difficult thing to manage to having duplicates would always present this risk – case in point.

It just goes to show that even at one of the biggest ceremonies in the world, a huge mistake like this can be made and it’s all down to how efficiently risk is managed. This seemed to work well when making sure the envelopes arrived at the Oscars on time, but once both briefcases were present at the ceremony, the risk of possible mix up became very real.

As an agency responsible for our client accounts, we pride ourselves on being able to manage risk effectively, reflecting on all potential outcomes before and after any strategy is implemented (no matter how big or small), throughout the agency. We very much work on the assumption that if we have the right structure and processes in place, led by an experienced, skilful and motivated team then we have more chance of succeeding with a client, than failing. Human error is unfortunately one of the hardest things to manage, but if you have a proven system in place to manage any potential risk of mistakes, then you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at avoiding them.

A bit of a cheesy quote to finish on but one that I think is pretty relevant. Lee Child always said “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” A quote that, even more than usual, will resonate with everyone who was involved with or watched the Oscars this year.

Agency-client relationships

September 22nd, 2016 by Simon Bollon

client meeting

Customers have moved and evolved

Marketing is in a period of fast change. Technology and the rise of digital has changed the marketing landscape and the role of the marketer and agency has been rewritten.

Consumers now have a plethora of information at their fingertips, loyalty has diminished and decision making processes are influenced by a greater number of elements than ever before. Consumers utilize influencers and their own bespoke research ahead of brand messages directed at them. Audiences are more cynical, less receptive to the ever growing volume of marketing messages and as such have become more selective. Permission marketing has impacted greatly and brands need to earn the right to communicate, gain trust and in turn engage a consumer. Only then, will ‘selling’ convert a customer.

Traditional selling approaches through marketing are delivering diminishing direct returns whilst driving increased market/product awareness and/or desire.

Customer journeys have become more complex and navigating your way through the vast array of channels can be confusing and daunting. Customers choose the channels in which they wish to engage – not brands, the channels themselves, or agencies. That means brands need to be at every touchpoint with the right message, at the right time.

The historic processes of segmenting audiences and making well-supported assumptions about the demographics that engage across platforms is becoming less relevant as society moves and evolves.

Brands themselves have had to adapt and evolve to changing consumer behaviors and in turn so have agencies.

Total adspend in the UK is set to grow by around 4.5% in 2016 but ‘digital’ is set to grow at a much more rapid rate whilst mobile alone will see 35% growth in spend. McKinsey and Company estimates global adspend will grow to $2.1 trillion in 2019 with digital accounting for more than 50% of that spend.

This increase of digital disruption in customer acquisition models has created digital dilemmas. Further, the early focus on digital being an acquisition channel is now changing and those brands that use digital purely as a route to sales growth will be left behind by those who win hearts, minds and heads through strategic digital implementation.

The ‘I need’ has changed the agency game

Having undertaken a research piece (more on that another time) on why clients use agencies and what they expect from them, we have seen a clear shift. The volume of reasons has multiplied due to the complexity of the landscape and there’s an increasing requirement for brands to engage with agencies who offer solutions around understanding customers; who they are, where they are, how to engage them, how to use disparate channels appropriately, access to competitor activity and more. All these things proceed activation of campaigns so agencies have become rich in knowledge and data like never before.

Further, scale and/or buying power have become hygiene factors for many clients (though, understandably and rightly, not all) because price is not a key persuader in agency selection when customer understanding and market complexity are top of the ladder.

The fundamental media agency model has changed little in 10 years beyond a diversification of service delivery rather than value proposition. This will change.

The need of many clients has changed.

Think and Do.

Overwhelmed by channel opportunity, many brands and marketeers could be forgiven for focusing on implementing actions rather than ensuring those actions are cohesive to the long-term strategic plan. Indeed, long-term strategies are becoming difficult to develop due to the speed of change and as such we tend to favour long-term objectives, delivered through mid-term strategies and short-term implementation.

At this point I am drawn to the workshop of Roger Harrop who talks about ‘Staying in the Helicopter’ and this should resonate with those leading marketing teams, developing marketing strategies and leading agencies; ensuring a bird’s eye view of everything on the table will ensure better strategic implementation.

At Boutique we have a focus on ‘Think and Do’, which means we understand that balance between strategy and implementation. Activating a PR, media or digital campaign (or ideally, a combination of them all!) that isn’t embedded in long-term objectives or short-term strategies will ultimately fail. Therefore, we only implement when we’re confident that we’ve developed an appropriate strategy.

Agencies evolve

Born in 2011 we’ve grown up in a period of dramatic change. It means that it is core to our culture to remain nimble and flexible, open to change and disruption. It also means that we have moved from a ‘media buying agency’ to a media communications agency delivering strategy and implementation across the fragmented media landscape.

Whilst no longer fresh terminology, the acronym of an agency of POEM (Paid, Owned, Earned Media) still resonates with us internally as we cover all areas through core disciplines in media, digital and PR.

Income split

With agencies having so many disciplines it is easy to retain a structure of silos with individuals focused on their core discipline. The problem with this approach is when agencies remain implementation-focused with strategy only cascading in short bursts, structured around actions and ‘to do’ lists. Further, those silos are disrupted as people watch TV on tablet devices, PR strategies blend with social and SEO becomes content-focused in which the PR team leads through their ability to communicate brand stories most effectively.

At We Are Boutique we have remodelled our structure so that client engagement comes through two divisions; Client Services and Implementation. The Client Service team is focused on integrating with a client’s business, putting us inside that business, developing better understanding and harnessing tighter partnerships. Doing so creates agile collaborative partnerships that thrive. We call it intimacy.

That allows the implementation team to focus on their core strengths of doing.

All is underpinned through strategy. That’s why we Think and Do. Only, we do it better.


We Are Boutique is a multi-disciplined agency working across paid, owned and earned, with core skills in media, digital and PR. We believe that strategy comes first and better results come from hard craft combined with creative thinking.

A modern agency structured around the ever-evolving world of disparate communication, we work with clients to whom we can add real, sustainable and measurable advantage.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help navigate you through the plethora of communication channels, contact Simon at simon@weareboutique.co.uk or call us on 0113 394 8990. We love to talk.

Clients Are Like Snowflakes

April 26th, 2016 by Alex Price

five star rating

It’s that time again, ‘validate your role day’ – cue spotlight! As Client Services Director, consider this a tickle at the topline…

Over the past year, Boutique has been deploying a client services team which will ensure we’re delivering value beyond implementation. As an agency in fast growth it’s all too easy to churn out the basics without thought beyond the immediate box ticking.

We Are Boutique is a service provider; we’re selling what others create (excluding PR which is a different kettle of creative kippers!). We have limited influence on the product existence which means that agencies are flogging a very similar sell. The variation comes in the added value that agencies wrap the assets in and we’ve seen this become mandatory rather than price being the sole pleaser. Service is one of the ways to differentiate agency brands…


Some Essential Practice

– Ensure that we have multi-lead relationships. Do we hold positive relationships at all layers of the account? It’s crucial to empower the executives to build relationships with their opposite numbers client side as much as the senior squad at the top.

– We should play client advocate in the agency. Always pre-empt what the client’s response will be and nip any grey areas in the bud.

– Clients are like snowflakes: unpredictable, unique (and sometimes frosty!) which means bespoke attention and the ability to wear multiple hats.

– Question if we’re reducing client pressures. We encourage our contacts to open up about the challenges in their own role so we can make steps to support them and ease any internal peeve!

– Always think beyond our remit and individual roles. Offer opinions on creative, other brands, market insights, agency trends, industry shifts.


Snippets for Survival

– Lead, don’t manage meetings

– If things go awry, be swift, be honest and be sorry

– Be a chameleon, but don’t compromise your character

– Dignity before debauchery at social events

– Be concise, be creative and be gone

– Be a bag carrier but have an opinion

– ‘No’ is absent from your vocabulary

– Relationships aren’t developed at your desk.


Final Thought

The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them!

Major Re-brand Safe with us

December 2nd, 2015 by Simon Bollon

Collaborative agency team

We’re chuffed to be working with 10 Associates to create and implement a new brand and creative comms strategy for Safe.co.uk.

One of the UK’s leading security product retailers, Safe appointed us to roll out a strategy across media, digital and PR to deliver the story of their rebrand. Challenging perceptions of functional security, the campaign has been designed to encourage people to realise the value of their items beyond monetary worth and appeal to matters at the heart of the nation, championing ‘priceless’ sentimental items.

“The joint expertise of Boutique and 10 Associates made perfect sense for us. The re-brand was the result of significant investment so we needed a team we could trust to deliver, and we’re confident in their combined ability to secure the right exposure and to build the brand with us.” Anthony Neary, Safe MD.

The team at Safe have some hairy ambitions and the re-brand has set them up to dominate their market. We’re pumped about where we can take them!

To get a glimpse of the new brand, visit www.safe.co.uk

Your Referral Traffic Is Lying To You

June 22nd, 2015 by Jamie Richards


Earlier in the year I noticed that the conversion rate from a client’s referral traffic was dropping YOY. We pride ourselves on creating targeted and loveable content and getting it out in the right places so this came as a surprise. Is our content getting less relevant? Are we reaching out to the wrong places? Surely not…!

So I had a dig around in the referral sources and sorted it by sessions. Here’s what I saw:

Referral Sources


The top three traffic sources are registering over 4k sessions alone, making up close to ¼ of all referral traffic, despite not registering any goal conversions. That’s a big skew in our data.


What are semalt and adnxs?

Put simply, they’re referral spam. Google Analytics works by transferring information via HTTP requests directly to Google Analytics servers. What these sites do is send fake HTTP requests making it appear as if you’ve had traffic when really they haven’t accessed your site at all. What happens then is people like you and I dig around in analytics data and wonder what semalt is, check out their site and hey presto they’ve just got a hit!

The problem is these sites – and there are loads of them, look for social buttons in your referral traffic – skew data significantly. Your overall traffic is inflated, conversion deflated and bounce rates and time on site taking a hit either way.


The Solution

To help stop this traffic being reported in Analytics and skewing your data there’s a button in the admin panel called ‘bot filtering’ that should ignore most of these sites, and to block semalt specifically you can request directly that the crawler stops accessing your site here.


We’re not everybody’s cup of tea…

April 24th, 2015 by Simon Bollon


After a recent pitch I got sight of the scoring system that the client was using to rate us. They shared the results after, and whilst some of the criteria was surprising, I realised in hindsight that whatever they had put on the sheet we would have scored highly. That might sound arrogant, but the reason I say it is because we knew we had every chance. We had carefully selected the client as a good fit for us, and us for them. On that basis, we knew that we would tick most, if not all, the boxes.

My point being, whilst clients select agencies, agencies should also be selective in their process. We have a refined list of potential clients with whom we want to work because we know we’d add value to their communications strategies. We use a 6 point tick-off when assessing whether a prospect should hit our ‘we want to work with’ list. That means we have absolutely conviction when telling them we’ll do a better job.

So, whether it’s an agency picking prospects or clients selecting an agency, I think there’s key criteria that stand out. With that being said, here are my 6 killer criteria for selecting an agency…

Culture – Does it match, is their synergy and will relationships build? Generally, similar sized clients and smaller agencies will find that synergy whereas bigger operationally driven agencies will find a good match in process focused clients. Don’t appoint a beast of a corporation and then complain when the 5th account exec in 12 months isn’t ‘feeling it’.

Hierarchy – How big an account are you to the agency? The client wants to be important but not the account the agency relies on. They don’t want to get lost in the agency but they need to understand the agency has a track record of delivery. A level of reliance and therefore collaboration is healthy but make sure the love goes both ways!

Management – Essentially, clients need to consider who will work on the account. Team A for the pitch and Team B for running the account is no bad thing for some clients. The question is whether the agency is delivering the right resources and skill set for the account. A marketing team of 25 working with an agency of 5 is going to get underserviced and pissed off pretty quickly. On the other side, a business owner that has a graduate running their account shouldn’t be comfortable with the arrangement.

Experience – Can the agency demonstrate a knowledge of the client’s marketplace and a case study of a similar sized account? In some sectors this is critical, in others maybe not so much. As a media agency we would argue that it’s an experience in the pertinent media avenues as much as the experience of the sector. Perhaps sector experience in broader marketing and creative is more important? Either way, a track record should provide some comfort that they know what they are doing.

Resources – If the client needs it, does the agency have the resource in-house? What tools does the agency have access to? What solution is right for the client and can the agency deliver? Equally smaller clients with limited requirements need not finance the capacity of an agency to deliver to the biggest clients. Be clear from the outset and ensure the agency can show you what’s on offer.

Price – A proposition relevant to the client and their requirements is obviously a key consideration (and let’s be honest, probably still the most important element?). The very biggest spending clients will appreciate the scale of the account and will expect agencies to resource the account appropriately. They will also understand the cost of running their account and look to structure deals accordingly. Equally, and something we see far too often, is the smaller spending accounts expecting the rates of the biggest spenders. It ain’t going to happen so be realistic!

I always find myself talking about size when I debate the agency/client relationship, but I think it really matters. Big agency, small client or small agency, big client are two combinations that experience tells me do not work. Ensuring you select an agency that feels like the right kind of size will ultimately be a good starting point.


Client win: Costcutter Supermarkets Group

February 25th, 2015 by Simon Bollon

Costcutter appointment

We are very happy to confirm that we have been appointed by Costcutter Supermarkets Group to handle its media strategy and implementation following a four-way pitch.

This is a brilliant win for us; a client that saw the value in our ‘think and do better’ proposition. Our approach is around matching products with audience and utilising the most pertinent media in a new and creative manner. We will be also be playing a fundamental role in the gradual integration with digital. The cultural fit between the businesses was evident from the outset, and we’re confident we will be integral to an exciting growth period for Costcutter Supermarkets Group.

The decision to recruit a new media agency comes as the Group embarks on a brand new operations and marketing model – a change which will present positive opportunities and growth potential for its retailers. Working on a 17-period a year system, our media plan has been designed to complement the extensive marketing activity being undertaken internally.

Costcutter Supermarkets Group Marketing Director Jenny Wilson said of the appointment, “Our new vision and model marks a significant step change for us, and we were keen to work with a new media agency who would provide a fresh, strategic media plan with a difference. Boutique stood out as they displayed real creativity combined with an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve. Their industry experience offered the best of both worlds – an ability to support us on a full-scale, national level whilst supporting our ‘proud to be local’ ethos.”

Client Wins for Boutique

January 27th, 2015 by Thomas Selby

Boutique II-170

It’s been a great start to the year! With five new digital client wins already under our belt, and a large, full service client win soon to be announced, 2015 looks to be an extremely busy and hugely successful time for Boutique.

We’re delighted to announce that Fortune Frenzy, Beads Direct, Be Protected Insurance, Lawyers United and Oakam Personal Finance have all joined the Boutique family.

The scale of this achievement should not be underestimated; some of the accounts are significant, and were won through fighting off stiff competition from some of the country’s largest, digital-specific agencies. It’s clear that our quality service, personal approach and focused strategy are working well for us!

Over the last 12 months we’ve refined our ethos and how we position ourselves to prospective clients. This new positioning – as a strategy and implementation agency – helps us get across the point of thinking and doing better. Simply being cheaper no longer cuts it.

Another key driver for growth has been client selection. We take the time to carefully select the businesses we approach; each company has been picked because they fit our skills and experience and, most importantly, excite our employees.

We know we’re well positioned to help growing entrepreneurial businesses thrive. Our own growth, of 30% YoY for the last 4 consecutive years, is testament to that. In the past 6 months we have added 5 new members of staff, all recruited to support both our won growth and our ability to service our clients growing needs.

We’re expecting big things for 2015, for both ourselves and our clients. After all, with the success we’ve had so far, our bullish attitude and our successful collaborative business model, who wouldn’t?

Let’s keep things relevant

August 7th, 2014 by Sarah Gough

Have you ever asked the question: what is great content? More specifically, have you ever asked Google?

If you have, you’ll know that the internet isn’t short of advice about content marketing. Pose the question to any search engine and you’re met with a multitude of how-to guides, bullet point lists, presentations and infographics offering information on the content process. These results are all good and well, but how often do you see the advice put into play?

When Panda 4.0 kicked in, marketers hurried to find ways to improve their sites’ media experience. In many cases, these ‘ways’ included employing or outsourcing to a team dedicated to improving SEO through content creation. Though as a content creator at an agency I’m pretty biased in regards to this, this was a smart move. The not so smart move was made by those who opted to create content for the sake of content: basically, a load of old rubbish that is totally unrelated to the site, its services and its target audience.

For me, the discovery of irrelevant content is an all-too regular occurrence. Much of the time it takes place after client acquisition, when concurrently to the technical audits that the agency conducts, I’ll have a look at both on-site and off-site content. Whilst perusing, I’ll take note of all opportunities for additions and improvement, as well as observing the instances where the content just isn’t up to scratch. Other times, I’ll make my discoveries when keeping an eye on a client’s rivals, findings that are met with frustration. Why is a competitor that manufactures, let’s say, conservatories and double glazing blogging about ‘The history of computers’ and ‘How to make loom bracelets’?

Whilst the regular updating this of content, albeit irrelevant, can be of benefit to the site and appease Google for the short term, it’ll add no value to brand awareness. After all, who’s going to associate a blog post on jewellery making with a site that offers home improvements? I’m also certain that Google will tighten up on the relevance aspect of its content algorithm in further updates, which will bring these content blunders to light. That’s great for us, of course, because our clients will benefit, and those who discover a sudden drop in rankings are likely to turn to a team that offers an excellent content service. Perhaps us…?

Most frustrating of all is that relevant content isn’t difficult to achieve. Though on the surface a client’s industry may seem overly specialist, uninspiring and a little bit boring, there are ways and means to create content that is pertinent yet compelling. It sounds cliché, but it’s all about thinking outside of the box.

Ask yourself questions about the brand, its target audience and the industry itself. What’s so special about this company? Has anything significant happened to them recently? What is their history? What makes them stand out in the market? What’s their main client base? What other products or services are they likely to be interested in? What could their hobbies be? Has anything noteworthy happened in the industry recently? Are there any ongoing debates? The list goes on, and so do the opportunities for relevant content.

As I mentioned before, the internet brims with advice (much like this post), but how often do we see it put into play?! Again, this may seem biased, but here’s a really great example…


Yorkshire G and Tea



We created this piece for a client that specialises in luxury holiday cottages based in Yorkshire, and while many may consider the content potential of a holiday rental website to be limited to photos of the location and customer reviews, this creative demonstrates otherwise. It’s simple, original, shareable, enjoyable, and of course, it’s extremely relevant. After all, who doesn’t like Yorkshire Tea and gin?

Want to find out more about our content service? Tweet us @WeAreBoutiqueUk