Growth can be difficult to achieve in the current environment which makes Blast Brand Catalysts’ achievements even more laudable. The agency has adapted to the challenges and is working with clients to drive progress.
Independent agency, Blast Brand Catalysts, has spent the past 14 years specialising in brand identity development, advancement and advertising. The agency was established by Chris Primos and Angelo Beck, both of whom came from large agency backgrounds. They were later joined by Taryn Waldron and Hayden Hochfelden as shareholders. Waldron serves as the operations director while Hochfelden is creative director.
Essentially, points out Primos, what the creeping costs, diminishing margins and skittish clients mean for agencies is a shake-up of the status quo. It drives new expectations on the clients’ part, and sees clients cherry picking agencies. Added to this, clients have retained a ‘fighting’ mode and agencies are having to adapt and work within that dynamic.
“Even if the budget is tight, it’s vital to take the right energy to the client and act as the support mechanism to the marketing needs of the business,” Primos explains. “We’re fortunate to have a tight team in place who know and understand client needs and adapt to emerging trends.” As the lines between PR, advertising and promotions continue to blur, the agency has seen an uptake in demand for promotional work, reports Waldron.
With the growth of media platforms, marketers are hedging their bets by spreading work thinly across platforms. As a result, integration needs to be incorporated into the agency’s business, and strategic thinking. Employing an integrated team, maintains Beck, makes the process immediate and fluid, learning is shared and ensures stable and strategic brand continuity. Integration will become even more critical, as the difference between traditional and digital agencies falls away.
Driving integrated thinking is typically where larger agencies fall short and smaller, independent agencies shine as they are more hands on and can deal better with cost cutting. The age of the large agency structure, notes Primos, is unsustainable. Agencies will need to re-invent themselves to remain relevant. In fact, he says, all agencies will have to re-work their offerings as traditional media commissions continue to shift and priorities change.
Working within the environment of tightening margins, agencies must increasingly become more financially responsible. “There has been a loss of confidence in the industry as a result of a problem with research, and agencies are going to need to be measurable in order to be accountable,” Primos states. “Agencies need to start the measurement process early to best know the impact and effectiveness of media and advertising, which will aid in isolating the key media channels and placements that deliver the highest return on investment.”
By doing this, agencies can then shift away simply from cutting costs to illustrating value added. By adding value, Primos comments, agencies then need to be in the position where they know what is best for the client – and consistently deliver on achieving objectives. The Blast team is able to pursue this through a hands-on management structure that allows each of them to be involved in the day-to-day running of the company, as well as that of their clients.
Although the roles of the key people do replicate big agency hierarchies, the key differentiator is that problems get solved quickly and a solid, flat structure ensures that while everyone has a clear role, they’re able to take on other responsibilities. “We all, for instance, get involved in the strategy and intimately understand our clients’ businesses,” Beck reports.
Further, everyone needs to have a firm business grounding. All staff, notes Primos, have to have commitment and passion, but be business savvy too. It’s not sustainable to have a creative with no business appreciation.
“Creatives have to be more business-like, suits have to think more creatively,
and accountability needs to be immediate and fluid.”
However, there’s an inherent challenge in getting creatives to understand selling and business, as target markets continue to fragment and become even more disparate. Brands’ products appeal to widely different markets and LSMs are becoming more blurred, making it more difficult both creatively and in business terms. In some cases creatives deal directly with clients – as clients want the decision maker, not messenger – and the agency predicts that lines between roles are going to continue to become more indistinct.
Providing that level of service will ultimately lead to longer and improved client relationships as the agency is able to better understand their needs. Blast is fortunate to already be in this space of long-standing relationships with all of their clients.
Creative output is where Blast builds on the client experience. The agency aligns its performance with clients’ sales and growth. “If creative performance is based on clients doing well; rather than the amount of metal in a trophy cabinet, it can only be a good thing,” Beck reveals. “Although it’s easy to get lost in the creative process, we don’t intend to be an agency that creates beautiful work that doesn’t sell.”
“Clients are interested in sales, and so are we.”
Monitoring the agency’s campaigns, promotions and sales figures ensures that its creative output consistently delivers positively on clients’ bottom line. The priority at Blast will always be client interests. Overall, the agency is committed to opportunities that will up its creativity in a way that impacts business positively.
Firmly keeping in mind its commitment to fulfilling client needs, producing high-quality work that delivers will continue to be the first focus. Blast is well-placed to augment its portfolio of clients, particularly as it’s adept at re-inventing itself and adapting.
Being able to adapt in the ever-shifting brand communication space is a necessity, and Blast’s updated look and feel shows clients that they have the know-how to represent their brand. Adaptability gives the agency the edge both creatively and in business terms. “It’s a competitive disadvantage to be predictable – we’re fortunate to have a tight team in place who can grow and develop with our clients,” Primos concludes.