Romantic notions of the industry aside, Chris Primos and Angelo Beck have built Blast Brand Catalysts around one basic premise: ad agencies are there to sell their clients’ products for them.
“For us, it’s about thinking like a sales person and really understanding the client’s business and experiencing their brand at the coal face,” says Primos. Both maintain that the size of an agency is not what matters. Rather it is the stamina and actions of the team working on the account that makes the difference. “The drive comes from the top down and essentially it all boils down to actioning a sale,” he insists.
Blast opened its doors in 2001. “It was an exhilarating, yet naïve move – if we knew then what we know now, we may not have done it,” laughs Beck, adding that in 12 twelve years they’ve learnt a lot about growing the business – not to mention how to breathe easier as they take things in their stride.
One of the greatest lessons has been that clients want to have access to senior management – and not just during the pitch process. “We run a tight ship. We’re a small team and it’s our quest to ensure a better business experience for our clients,” says Primos.
The agency is in a good place; revenue has grown by 21 percent in the past year and over time, Blast has picked up some significant clients and moreover, has grown along with its existing clients. “The operating environment is such that we’re often expected to do more work for less money, but the advantage of being small and nimble is that we can adjust easily to cope with change,” Beck informs.
It’s also an environment where clients want a different relationship with their agency. “They want to feel that you’re an extension of the business and that you understand their struggles. It’s about proving strategic support and showing that you’re on their side,” Primos continues.

He maintains that the best client relationships are those where you can fight with the client for the right reasons. “It’s always dangerous to bow down to pressure and give your client what he wants when you don’t believe it is the right thing for his business. Of course, you have to really understand the business if you’re going to go this route,” he argues. Yet for Primos, this type of client relationship is entirely possible. He also points out that in this climate, small agencies are in the ideal position to service larger clients, as they possess an agility simply not found in larger agencies. “Overseas there are a number of really big clients who are making use of much smaller agencies. We believe Blast is in a great place to do this on a local level, however we also like to take a cautious approach to growth.”

Beck agrees that there is more opportunity for small agencies than ever before, however he adds that size is less important than the calibre of people servicing the clients. “Having a good chemistry between agency and client is also a big factor in the relationship – we place an equal weight on EQ and IQ,” he stresses. Ultimately, both agree that a client must believe that his agency has a better way of doing things. “Not only do clients enjoy working with a full service agency, they want to have access to the ‘head honchos’. Agency senior management must be seen as the ‘go to’ people for clients – they expect strategic involvement at the most senior levels,” Beck maintains.

To this end, client relationships at Blast are seen as a meeting of the minds. “We need to bring something of value to the clients’ business,” Primos emphasises. “Our three largest clients have relatively small marketing teams. I think this is due to the fact that there is an expectation that the agency will literally become a strategic extension of the marketing arm of the business.” Beck concurs, adding that the fact that Blast is owner run means that the two are passionately involved and invested in the business. “We have a better degree of respect and are prepared to nurture and sustain every element that goes into making the agency successful,” he comments.

Another factor in a changing environment is that agencies are under pressure to offer multidisciplinary skills to clients. “The days of having one specific skill to take to market are over. We need to staff the agency with people who get the concept of selling and who are multi skilled thinkers,” comments Beck. “At a senior level, one needs to understand production, strategy, digital and print. It’s not always easy to find people who fit the bill and it’s particularly challenging when you’re looking at candidates who have just graduated. In the past, we would hire junior people who would work alongside me for a few months, after which they would have learned the necessary skills and would be up and running. Recently, however, we’re finding that the talent out there is just not up to scratch. We’re seeing kids who may be Mac literate, yet beyond that they lack conceptual and design ability – there is just no substance,” he laments.

That said, every person at the agency contributes to the palpable sense of energy and stamina that pervades Blast’s Dunkeld offices. “We have an innate sense of who we are and what we do. And yet, we also continually challenge ourselves to do what we do better. By always asking ourselves, ‘what’s next’, we believe we capture and maximise the fun and excitement that should be part of working in this industry,” Primos enthuses.

There’s a lot on cards for Blast. Primos and Beck have matured their talents along with that of their agency and they maintain that now is the time to go out there and aggressively market themselves. “We’re in a prime position to pitch on larger clients – there’s no doubt about it – our trajectory is ascending,” Beck confirms.