An Array of Recent Reflections

August 3rd, 2016 by Alex Price

love lock bridge

Character Challenges

I’ve been labelled Cynical Clarkson countless times which is baffling as my mantra, “pessimism is realism” is so uplifting. I guess the whole “don’t get your hopes up”, is a form of self-preservation, as starting from a negative position means the impact of disappointment is reduced. This attitude has historically creeped into my work life, particularly around pitches. This was amplified when business cultures didn’t feel aligned and too much onus was put on who we were up against. The proposition is clear at Boutique – a creative lead communications agency who transforms client strategy, and being armed with that belief has meant my miserable mantra needs to join BRAD in the bucket! I’ve started to embrace the chase and accept the stakes, as in hindsight, those horror experiences often offer the most learnings and laughs.


Trends are Traps

Cue the bandwagon of sheep! I’ve seen an increasing urgency amongst media owners and clients to keep up with the ever evolving trends. Yes, video content has exploded, but not all clients have the budgets or capabilities to invest into creating quality assets. Bide your time and don’t compromise your brand with cheap executions.


We Are Simple

A large proportion of our time goes into the groundwork to form our strategic approach and there’s a tendency with agencies to take the client on a fluffy journey through market musings, competitor campaigns, audience behaviour and much (much, much) more. Depending on the audience this can be a fork in the road to either engage city or snore town.

Stick to the triptych…

Tell them what you will tell them

Actually tell them

Tell them what you told them


The detail should not cloud the core outtakes; clarity is needed for those who haven’t worked on the document for days on end.


Squad “Goals”

Leicester City and the Welsh international side proved the power of a true team. My favourite stat was that the foxes were more unlikely to win the league than Alex Ferguson to win Strictly Come Dancing which sat at 1000/1 – Fergie does the Flamenco is inconceivable!

Essentials for agency client teams;

  • Appreciate your peers – strengths differ; you are there to complement not compete with one another
  • Emotional intelligence – reduce knee jerk responses, let the red mist clear. Bad news only exists when it’s been delivered poorly
  • Introverts and extroverts – steady Eddies shouldn’t be sniffed at, they are efficient and get the basics nailed. Wheel in the personalities when appropriate but keep them on a leash


Room 101

Phrase Fools

  • “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” – mostly heard during creative and media tussles. Although, I have established this was to do with church taxes rather than the ‘Two Little Dickie Birds’ rhyme!
  • “Let’s touch base” – let’s not, where’s HR!
  • “Squad Goals” – Used begrudgingly above. This should only live on social not in creative!

Paid Social #Fail

Just because a channel exists doesn’t mean it should be used. I recently saw a security brand advertising their very functional and unattractive products on Instagram. Brands (and/or their agencies!) need to appreciate when to steer clear, as this is where “being at all touchpoints” falls down. Ideally, “Insta” would review their advertisers as it’s only going to be to the detriment of their own brand. I do not appreciate seeing a “mortice lock” amongst my feed of food, fitness and flowers! Actually, why don’t they just try a little harder at making their content suit the environment. What about harnessing the “love locks bridge” concept, this would at least encourage something more visually pleasing and emotive?!

Pushing the boundaries: Reality TV Wars

July 4th, 2016 by Charley Downey

senior citizens shocked at television

Within the past few months, the wonderful world of reality TV has exploded, dominating the land of gossip mags and a large proportion of our news feeds. Whether you’re a reality TV fan or not (I use the word ‘reality’ fairly lightly) the conversation around the ‘shocker’ headlines is one that can’t really be avoided.

I for one, fit perfectly within the ‘omg did you watch Love Island last night?’ audience – and I’m not even one to classify it as a guilty pleasure. I absolutely love modern-day ‘reality’ TV.  On one hand, I do anticipate that some of the shocking antics we see on our screens are somewhat ’advised’ – but even so, I look forward to the 9pm start with Twitter on-hand, group-chat ready, waiting to see what’s going down on the Island.

Over the years, we’ve seen the likes of Big Brother take the country by storm, with classics such as ‘WHO IS SHE’ still floating around in memes today. But it still surprises me how a programme that has been running for so many years can still spark so much conversation – particularly when it’s just an hour’s worth of coverage… of people… living together in a house.

But for some reason, and whatever reason that may be, we Brits bloody love it. We love it when someone gets dumped from the island, we love it when it’s eviction night on Big Brother, and we love it when there’s a bit of to-do at one of the parties in TOWIE – we just love the shock factor.

It seems as if there’s been an increase in the dominance of reality TV recently, and there has most certainly been an increase in the ‘shocker scenes’ we’ve witnessed. As more and more reality programmes emerge, it’s becoming increasingly important for programmes to keep a firm grip on their viewers and to push the boundaries even further. We’ve seen scenes aired this year that would have never made the cut a few years back.

A prime example being Love Island that launched back in May, with the shocker of the season so far being the ex-Miss GB’s antics on air. Regardless of for-or-against, the social conversation this sparked was huge- and the story dominated TV and Showbiz columns across the board. Let’s take a look at the Google trends for the term ‘Zara Holland’ (the woman in question) shortly after the episode was aired…

Google trends for Zara Holland search term

And the viewing figures showing the launch date, the episode on the 15th, and then the ratings figure a few days afterwards…


The proof is in the pudding right?

I appreciate this does seem pretty obvious – cause a stir to get more ratings – but I do think it’s really interesting to see the lengths these shows are going to and the ways in which they are dominating the media. These people aren’t just a ‘soap’ character who we grow to love. They are an integrated business within themselves, launching fashion lines, hosting events, writing books, bringing out fitness DVDs – expanding their portfolio as an individual, away from the shows that once launched them. Reality TV and the characters they have introduced are the norm, and the impact/influence they have on their cult of followers is impeccable.

And after the rise of Geordie Shore a few years back, it seems that getting up-close and personal with your favourite TV personalities is the norm. But I’m pretty sure my nanna would suggest otherwise! Regardless, I’m intrigued to see what the future of reality has to bring… perhaps an Only Way is Leeds could be on the cards?

Sometimes you have to be wrong to be right

June 9th, 2016 by Mike Bates

bright ideas

I think this is the third time I’m writing this. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kinda new here, and I’ve never written a company blog post before, so perhaps understandably I’ve had some difficulties getting this in the neighbourhood of acceptability. It’s only as I write this (hopefully) final version, that I realised that I am relearning the same old lessons. Vital lessons for anyone, but especially those of you interested in, or working in, marketing or PR.

Firstly, I tried writing a piece that was essentially a mea culpa. I wanted to show people that accepting failure, both personal and professional, is an essential character trait to develop in SEO and media. It can be difficult to swallow your pride and say “I got this wrong, I may well get other things wrong in the future.”

It can be especially hard telling your colleagues, and harder still to tell your clients. But if you can do this, then begin working together on a fix, you’ll develop trust far quicker than if you gloss over it all. You might think you’ve gotten away with it, but people know when you’re evading the question, and when analytics data gets involved there’s no place to hide.

Be honest and own your mistakes. You’ll learn how to avoid doing the same in the future, how to react to unforeseen outcomes. You’ll become a better marketer, and a better colleague.

This blog post is, in part, me saying I got this wrong. I mainly got this wrong because I failed to remember my second point, which is as old as the hills, and yet so many people fall at this hurdle.

Remember your audience, your objectives, and your medium. I tried to be clever and write something that was, to me, intellectually gratifying and cringe-inducingly punny. I was, on reflection, writing for myself, but why? I’m not my target audience: I already know the content of the blog post, I’m not going to learn anything from reading or writing that.

Sometimes the good ideas are actually terrible. Take a moment away from everything you do and think about that before you convince yourself that you’ve nailed it.

The blog is where we can show people our human side. Why the Boutique team are fundamentally great people who care about what they do, and do it well. The fact that we’re good at our jobs comes through in the quality of our output and of our service.

So here I am now, writing for myself, but just as a reminder. This time I’m writing for you as well, so you can learn from my mistake. Sometimes we all get things wrong. Sometimes, I get things wrong. But if you analyse your processes, your rationale, and your results, you can turn every mistake into an opportunity.

That’s how we can all think and do better.

Newbies say cheese!

March 16th, 2016 by Sarah Bartlett


March has been a busy month for Boutique as we say “G’Day” to three new team members!

Glenn (the taller of the two blue-shirted chaps) has joined us from an in-house role at a home furnishings company where he led the team as E-Commerce Marketing Director. After a digital career that has spanned almost a decade, Glenn is looking forward to making a big difference in a growing team here at Boutique and excelling our digital clients into online success. We’re delighted to have him on board and even more delighted to learn of his VW Beetle obsession – of his own proud confession!

If you hadn’t already noticed Steph’s glowing tan, this is a result of a 12 month stint at Intermarketing Sydney and Melbourne where she helped launch the agency down under. Now firmly back on Yorkshire soil having swapped her backpack for a laptop, Steph can’t wait to get involved bolstering Boutique’s broadcast media offering and maintaining our top notch client services reputation. She’s also pretty nifty on the netball court…

Steve knows a thing or two about digital careers, having spent 8 years on the other side at Fish4jobs. He understands just what it takes to integrate digital clients into the agency and is already waxing lyrical about the virtues of working with Boutique. Hailing from Bradford he’s a big football fan and is no stranger to Call Lane on a weekend, making the most of Leeds city life.

Totes Emoji

October 29th, 2015 by Sarah Bartlett

three wise monkeys

Monday morning in the Boutique office saw us revelling in emoji heaven when usually we’d be headfirst in a caffeine fix. I’m talking unicorns, turkeys, telescopes and even upside down smileys (but still no ‘fingers crossed’ – come on, Apple!) Nevertheless iOS 9.1 was blessed upon us over the weekend, bringing with it a whole host of colourful characters to keep us as far from the Queen’s English as possible.

2015 has truly been the host of the ’emoji boom’, with six billion emojis getting sent every day – we’re amidst a generation of sentence-hating, code-loving emoji fiends. Traditional linguists must be curling their toes, in fact Noam Chomsky himself told The Drum he had heard nothing of the emoji language, which only highlights it being a language lost on an older generation – and especially highlights the need for being selective when it comes to brands and their use of emojis (i.e. know your audience!). It doesn’t mean, however, that using emojis is a second-rate or ‘lazy’ form of communication. It simply spells out a development in the digital age, and quite frankly it’s fascinating to watch it progress.


Taking over the world, one brand at a time.

Aside from a bit of messaging fun, emojis are close to world domination (if only Pinky and the Brain knew!), having been adopted by big brands in strategic marketing campaigns. Dominos recently won awards for offering an express emoji pizza ordering service, and Coca-Cola became the first brand to get its own emoji as part of their #ShareaCoke Twitter campaign. And there’s no sign of ’emojification’ slowing down any time soon, with the rising need for brand loyalty, companies are constantly finding new ways to engage with and relate to their consumers on a different level – especially with generations Y and Z.

So why do we feel the need to communicate in this way? Psychologically speaking, people build relationships through the reciprocal act of sharing emotions. So, by sending each other a string of emotion-laden emojis, we’ve really just found a quicker, easier way of telling someone how we’re feeling and, at the same time, solidifying relationships and giving context to a conversation (much in the way gestures do for real life). In addition, the human brain responds positively to seeing faces, even more so when these faces are smiling (angry faces, not so much…). We are fundamentally wired to seek out faces in our environment, so with a continued stimulus throughout the day in the form of emojis, this is going to please our facial recognition centres to no end!


Don’t be a dad dancer…

But what about those brands that don’t appeal to the Millennials? Should they be using emojis to communicate with their audience? Such brands are at risk of being the mum that wears her daughter’s clothes, or the dad that thinks dad dancing is cool. Using emojis needs to feel like a natural extension of our expressions, not a forced use of advertising. Brands that can tap into this will be the most successful. Those that are marketing with emojis for the sake of the old bandwagon are going to devalue the sentiment and ruin it for everyone else, I mean, can you imagine a world without emojis?

It doesn’t  bear emoji thinking about…

Head over to The Drum to see how well you can really ‘read’ emoji… And in the meantime, translate this:

Emoji sentence


Share your emoji stories with us on twitter @WeAreBoutique and test our emoji-reading skills!




Leeds Business Week 2015

October 13th, 2015 by Sarah Gough


This week, much of our local business community is gathering to attend some or all of Leeds Business Week. Held in various locations across the city, hundreds of speakers will ‘present their ideas, share their knowledge and inspire thousands of delegates at 100+ events’. This year, we’re getting in on the action.

For us, Leeds Business Week is a chance to meet some individuals and businesses close to home. We might be able to make quick-fire suggestions to help an emerging entrepreneur get on their feet, we might set up meetings to discuss a particular business’ short term comms needs and how we might service that, or we might strike up a working relationship that is still going strong ten years from now.

If you’re attending the week and want to catch us, below is our schedule of attendance. It culminates in a drinks evening which promises to be a corker (and which we happen to be sponsoring). We’d love to see you there – tweet us @WeAreBoutiqueUK with the hashtag #LeedsBizWeek!


Wednesday 14th October

We Are Boutique – exhibition space

When: 09.00 – 16.00

Where: The Leeds Club

What: Sarah and Tom will be manning a stand in the exhibition area. Not only will they be poised for questions and advice, but they’ll also be providing sweets and refreshments…


Simon Bollon – seminar

When: 11.00 – 11.45

Where: The Leeds Club

What: Our MD Simon will be presenting his seminar entitled ‘Why my business is better than yours.’ With almost two decades of experience, he’ll discuss common traits he sees in the best agencies – traits which are so often missing across other business sectors.


Thursday 15th October

Leeds Business Lunch

When: 12.00 – 15.00

Where: Bibis Italianissimo

What: Put simply, we’ll be joining up to 200 fellow diners to network while we eat.


Big Drinks Evening – as sponsors!

When: 18.00 – 23.00

Where: Chaophraya

What: We’re delighted to be sponsoring this year’s big drinks evening at Chaophraya. We attended last year and loved it so much that we wanted to return with gusto! As well as drinking and chatting, we’ll be offering the chance for two new business acquaintances to win a bottle of bubbly. Keep your eyes peeled…

Ships and Sheep

September 7th, 2015 by Alex Price

Ships and Sheep 07.09.15

Snobby shopping? That ship has sailed!

Taking your PE kit to school in a Netto bag during the noughties was an error that provoked some serious sniggers – damn the Danish dog! Fast forward to 2015, and whilst the ABC1 females compete at the school gates over who’s got the best bargain on Prosecco, I’d bet my Casio calculator that there are a few Aldi and Lidl bags being used, ridicule free, in the playgroun

So! How did these shabby stores of the past lurch into the land of acceptance. Let’s topline it with some supporting Mad Men gems…..

– Make people feel it’s acceptable. Your peers have tested the water and so it’s time to slip into sheep mode and join the new flock. PR has contributed to setting the shopping savvy bandwagon in motion by dripping product endorsement through “experts” (Martin Lewis) and media outlets (Loose Women).
“Scream with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.” (Don Draper)

– Throw a creative curveball. Don’t just be a price dictator, but execute tactfully with a Lidl surprise through a taste test, strengthening the quality aspect and heightening customer curiosity. Or alternately, align yourself with an affluent audience utilizing a BBC treasure such as Jools Holland to tinkle on the Aldi ivories. Throwing money at creative surprisingly helps change preconceptions.
“Brands tell us who they are, and we accept it.”(Peggy Olson)

– Disperse spend into channels which will challenge opinion and create a new pool of potential shoppers. Interrupt the habitual audiences in a variety of environments to reinforce the proposition. 2015 has seen Iceland put regional press on ice, reduce investment in the red tops and see further presence in mid-market titles such as the Daily Mail. They’ve also entered new territory via the Metro and London Evening Standard with their trend driven pulled pork products as opposed to their classic 90’s nouveau riche king prawn party rings.
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” (Don Draper)

– The mass marketing delivers the footfall but the investment hasn’t stopped there with the foreign discounters also forking out for in-store revamps, unsurprisingly starting with their sites situated in wealthier conurbations. The advertising pitch needs to transpire in store to aid with the long term game and to generate the jackpot, advocacy.
“One never knows how loyalty is born.” (Bert Cooper)

Combined with these tactics have been wider market influences which have also contributed to the further fragmentation of the supermarket scene;

– Consumer backlash towards a dehumanized Tesco, relentlessly expanding at the cost of local businesses. There was a resistance to a monopoly landscape, people want choice which in 2015 is certainly what they’ve got.

– The joyous arrival of the recession in 2008 meant that loyalty became diluted and accelerated the opportunity. There were, however, discounter casualties with the likes Kwiksave slipping into administration due to competitor NPD of own brand, and the big four slashing prices across the board.

– Neigh! Who fancies horse lasagne for tea? The 2013 scandal increased the demand for fresh over processed produce, which saw Aldi bring in their weekly fresh meat special buys.

Our no frills German friends have been players in the UK market for over 20 years but they’ve seized the opportunity to take their combined share to 9% compared to 5.4% stake only three years ago. Their original proposition hasn’t fundamentally changed, but now it’s socially acceptable, it’s time to jump ship and dabble with the discounters!


Under the influence of OOH

August 20th, 2015 by Emily Holgate

20.08.15 in-copy

Outdoor industry body, Route, has recently undertaken a study into the time spent consuming media channels vs. the media channel’s share of the astronomical £16.2bn UK advertising spend-pie. The study was inspired by research undertaken by Wall Street analyst Mary Meeker, who infamously draws parallels between US ad spend vs. the average American’s daily media consumption, dividing opinion across the media industry.

The UK media study was conducted by the Outdoor measurement body, so it would be fair to assume a level of bias towards their medium – however, contrary to any pre-determined scepticism, all data used to compile the study has been taken directly from each media channel’s industry body (BARB, RAJAR, NRS, etc.), creating a level playing field and providing weight to Route’s findings.

Which media channel commands the most eyeball-time? You guessed it! Out-of-home (OOH) steals share with over a quarter of media time spent consuming this medium (28%). And it’s unsurprising really, as studies show the average Brit spends 3 hours and 10 minutes per day out of home and in a public place.

Commutes are longer than ever, with the average daily commute weighing in at 1 hour and 14 minutes, as young professionals prioritise higher paid jobs over a swift commute, with the ‘upmarket and ambitious’ travelling up to 30 minutes extra per day for a 20% higher salary. This increase in time spent “out and about” results in an average daily consumption of 71 out-of-home adverts per day, with the average for men exceeding this at 82 ads per day.

What is surprising is how this tallies up against ad-spend, with the media channel achieving 28% share of media time, receiving only 10% of advertising spend share.

So, how does this stack up against other channels?

  • TV receives an enormous 45% of ad-spend, whilst achieving just over a fifth of media time share
  • National press ad-spend outweighs time spent reading the papers, with 7% of the consumers time spent getting printy fingers, whilst an inflated 10% of advertising spend is being placed within this medium
  • Radio is another undervalued channel, with the % ad-spend half that of the media consumption share (10% media time share vs. 5% ad-spend share)
  • Magazines and regional press both display fairly equal levels of time share vs. ad-spend share
  • Internet is a bit of an anomaly – the study shows a fairly equal ratio between time and ad-spend, however the ad-spend figures exclude paid search, which equated to £3.7bn in 2014

Of course there are various factors that influence channel ad-spend…

A factor restricting the OOH markets ad-spend is the shortage of inventory available, with a finite volume of panels, which are increasingly being sold-out months in advance of in-charge.

Additionally, OOH is often construed as one of the least measurable channels, as post campaign delivery figures aren’t available as they are in TV and online. To the contrary – Route provides a coverage and frequency measurement pre-campaign, which is based on the GPS tracking of 30,000 people across the UK, collecting billions of data points, which are then multiplied using a super-complex algorithm to determine how many impacts each and every panel across the UK will deliver. This may seem far-fetched, however if we consider the measurement of TV, the BARB survey is based on the recalled TV consumption of 5,000 people, and multiplied to be representative of the UK population – and no one ever questions X Factor viewing figures!

Finally, perhaps the most crucial point is how much importance we should place on time spent consuming a channel, when each channel has unique attributes that engage the audience in different ways. Different mediums command varying levels of attention, recall, trust, cut-through and enjoyment, and possibly most importantly, context.


New York magazine & the Cosby Controversy

July 30th, 2015 by Sarah Gough

30.07.15 tweaked

This week New York magazine unveiled its latest front cover, a black and white portrait of 35 women who have allegedly accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Such was the interest in the cover/story that ‘35 Bill Cosby’ began trending on Twitter in America (and the site crashed, though that was later revealed to be the result of hacking).

It’s not for me to publically pass judgement on the legal proceedings themselves, but it’s fair to say there was a general air of surprise in the office that the magazine had chosen to be so vocal on the matter. The cover smacked of a publicity stunt, but that’s not normally coupled with such a sensitive subject matter. Indeed, it made a compelling purchase, but it also highlighted the ethical balance that media outlets face.

It’s usually pretty easy to pinpoint the political views of newspapers, with a general sway towards left or right wing angles on stories. It isn’t, however, commonplace for a media title to take such a clear political stance on an ongoing legal battle (in which nobody has yet been charged), particularly considering sexual assault is such a notoriously tricky and delicate subject. Additionally, the symbolic empty chair is almost a call to action for further accusers.

So I suppose the question is, are they exploiting or are they supporting? Is it good that they’ve given mass exposure to such a taboo subject, or is it concerning that they’ve given such a bold account of an ongoing case, ultimately to drive sales? Either way, sales, web and social traffic have rocketed. Controversy is something our society increasingly suffers and, equally sadly, controversy sells.

Sometimes it’s difficult to put your finger on why something simply doesn’t feel right.

Meet the MD: Simon’s BQ interview

July 29th, 2015 by Charley Downey


Earlier this month Simon was interviewed by Business Quarter (BQ) Magazine. The opening line reads, ‘People are at the crux of We Are Boutique’s success, as MD Simon Bollon recognises. He chats to BQ to tell us more about how he came to buy the agency he was enjoying working for so much.’

Click here to read the full article.