Black Friday sales – trick or treat?

Hot on the heels of the last commercial ‘event’, Halloween, we’re fast approaching Black Friday. But how easily are consumers persuaded to part with their money?

Shoppers used to eagerly await the January sales for the post-Christmas bargains. Then the sales moved forward to Boxing Day, seeing the keenest camping out over Christmas to make sure they were at the head of the queue.

Now we have adopted Black Friday from the US. Starting as a single day flash sale of electrical goods the day after Thanksgiving, it extended quickly across every retail sector. Joined by Cyber Monday in recent years, the last weekend of November has become a pre-Christmas shopping bonanza. Last year spending increased by 6% over this period.

As the sales move earlier and earlier, starting even nearer the beginning of November this year, how does this impact Christmas sales?  Do sales increase overall or simply move forward, leaving consumers shopped out by mid-December?

It would appear not, Boxing Day sales increased last year.

Clear trends are also appearing in pre-Christmas spending. Black Friday (or Black November?) has become a time people buy for themselves, leaving December to remain as the key time for buying gifts.

Can we therefore simply create ‘events’ and expect people to keep spending money?  It seems we can.

Chinese Singles’ Day began in 2009 as a bargain day for young singletons. Held on the 11th November, maximising the single number (11.11), it is now the biggest shopping day of the year for all Chinese shoppers.  Sales rocketed from $9 billion in 2014 to $18 billion just two years later.

So where is this going?  Grey Monday, Pink Wednesday, Divorced Day……….?!  Wherever it goes, consumers are keen to spend.

Find out how we can help you capitalise on that appetite.  Contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Success for AJ and its clients

AJ clients featured time and again among the business winners celebrated this week at the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards.

At a sumptuous lunch for 350 in Covent Garden’s elegant De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, AJ found itself on the podium three times collecting awards for clients; more than any other agency attending the awards ceremony.

AJ’s Ann Gardiner and Jack Gillett

Alongside agency giants such as Mediacom and Mediavest, AJ punched well above its weight positioning its clients successfully in a range of categories. AJ’s well-crafted entries ensured its clients’ top-quality products and services were recognised up against well-known brand names such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

AJ’s co-owner and Client Services Director, Ann Gardiner, hosted the agency’s table at the Awards:

“I’m so proud of what AJ and our clients achieved here today. I am pretty sure our table won the most awards, which shows just how well we stack up against larger, London-based agencies.”

David Salisbury triumphed as Best Outdoor Building Supplier.  The judges recognised the company’s unrivalled technical innovation, describing its orangeries and outdoor rooms as ‘top quality, thermally efficient and designed to fit around customers’ lifestyles’.

New AJ client, Dream Doors picked up two awards, taking out the Best Money Saving Product and Best Kitchen Supplier awards.  This is great news for a company looking to improve results, having recently appointed AJ to revive its direct response campaign.  These awards underline its position as a leading supplier of stylish replacement doors, transforming kitchens at an affordable price.

AJ client finalists:

  • Best Money-Saving Product             Kinetico Water Systems
  • Best Money-Saving Product             Dream Doors
  • Best Outdoor Living Furniture          Out & Out Original
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier        David Salisbury
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier        Eden Verandas
  • Best Retirement Living Solution      Nationwide Mobility
  • Best Kitchen Supplier                        Dream Doors


Frequency or coverage: which is best?

Media owners often tell us their readers need to see an ad several times before it’ll gain traction, but we beg to differ.

Media owners claim frequency builds a successful campaign, with readers needing to see an ad at least three times to secure a decent response.  With a limited budget, this suggests you’re better putting all your eggs in the one basket of your best targeted title.  You build your brand with just one readership, believing in return you’ll be rewarded with response.

In reality, we find quite the opposite is true.  The first ad we run in almost any title gives the highest response rate, becoming the target chased by subsequent insertions.

As a result, with limited budget, we take a ‘far and wide’ approach rather than ‘tall and thin’.  We test as many titles as possible showing strong coverage for the identified target audience.

New client, Dream Doors, is the latest to try this change of approach.  Traditionally, they’ve put all their money into the Daily Mail, but with flagging results, they’re keen to try our broader approach.  Our first schedule includes 14 titles so we’re expecting some interesting comparisons.

Full page, Daily Telegraph Magazine
Half page, Sunday Express
Full page, Guardian Weekend

We’re confident we’ll see a lift in their results, and look forward to reporting back when we do.

To discuss replacing your restricted media schedule with one aiming far and wide, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Location, location, location

Location has come to dominate house-buying. Can it be lucrative for advertisers too?

There is a direct correlation between position and response rate, so AJ works hard to secure its clients prime sites.  Despite buying short term and in classified, we often achieve sites under or facing matter without paying extra.

But is it worth paying more for these positions through a campaign or just when trying to build a brand?  The answer probably lies somewhere between the two – the ideal being prime sites bought last minute below market rate.

Cover positions are seen, theoretically, by every reader.  Our results reflect this with ads placed on the outside back cover (OBC) gaining a response four times higher than a site under editorial within the classified weekend section.  As long as we’re not paying 400% more for this site, it’s a winner.

In contrast, ads in display, i.e. nearer the front of the paper, do not generate the necessary high-level response required to justify the increased price.  Time and time again we see prime, solus sites, such as front or back covers, working for direct response.

Not surprisingly, it’s been a hard sell to clients, but we’ve converted scepticism into enthusiasm with good results.  They are now snapping up these sites as fast as we can secure them.

We saw one of best results this year for knitwear specialists, the Cashmere Centre, with a 10 x 8 front page strip in the Telegraph exceeding ROI by 40%.

Daily Telegraph 10 x 8 Front page strip

Also in the Telegraph, quality meat producers, Donald Russell are keen advocates of 25 x 4 ads under food and drink editorial on a Saturday, with a circulation 15% higher than mid-week.  To expand their options, we tested a mid-week OBC.  It hit the target for new customers by the end of Tuesday and is still going.

Daily Telegraph 25 x 4 OBC
Daily Mail 15 x 2

Even a small 15 x 2 OBC in the Daily Mail, which costs more than a half page in classified, generated three times more leads for our new client, Dream Doors.

Encouraged by the success these positions are bringing AJ’s clients, you’ll be seeing us use plenty more of them.

To discuss how the right ‘location’ can bring success to your campaign, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Buy local – does it apply to advertising?

‘Buy local’ is a common catchphrase used by food producers these days.  But does is also apply to advertising?

The short answer is YES.

Kinetico is a leading UK designer and manufacturer of water softeners.  The ability to advertise regionally is an attractive option given their products are tailored to those in harder water areas.  Geographically-targeted advertising protects against the inevitable wastage seen with a more widespread approach.

To address their need for more specific advertising, AJ ran a campaign for Kinetico using the Telegraph’s postcode targeting tool.  Kinetico works through a series of dealers throughout the country.  This targeted tool enabled AJ to tailor each insert to detail the local dealer on each one.  These versions of the insert, all 18 of them, ran against the test copy, with a generic message, giving Kinetico’s contact details.

Local dealer insert
Generic Kinetico insert

The results clearly show it pays to think global, act local, with a 100% higher response rate to the localised version.  Building on this success, AJ is planning a second campaign, adding in the Royal Mail door-to-door service, using specified postcode areas.

Find out about our extensive experience of using inserts as an additional vehicle for lead generation through Look and feel: why inserts work and I is for inserts, and by contacting Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or



AJ clients impress

AJ’s clients short listed in the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards have reason to celebrate.

All AJ’s client finalists shape up well against their opposition, according to the judging panel comprising some of the UK’s most respected journalists and designers in property and interior design.

‘Technically brilliant’ is how the judges describe Kinetico’s Premier Compact water softener.  Noting its ‘neat and pleasing design saves money and has a positive environmental impact’ illustrates why it’s on the Best Money-saving Product short list.

In the Best Retirement Living Solution category, Nationwide Mobility’s inflatable bath lift, The Bathmate, is deemed a ‘great idea for people no longer able to climb in the bath’.  Its simple design makes it a highly popular mobility product.

Outdoors, two clients are vying for the ‘Best Outdoor Building Supplier’ award. ‘Uber-stylish and contemporary’ is how one judge describes Eden’s glass verandas, with David Salisbury’s orangeries and garden rooms noted as being ‘top quality, thermally efficient and designed to fit around customers’ lifestyles’.

Bridging outdoor and in, Out & Out Original’s ‘upmarket range of outdoor lounge furniture’ is ‘durable enough to withstand sun and rain outdoors and stylish enough to be kept inside in a conservatory or garden room’.  The company’s impressive environmental credentials also set it apart.

Short-listed in two categories, Best Kitchen Supplier and Best Money-Saving Product, is AJ’s newest client, Dream Doors.  We’re excited to be working with a company described as making the ‘updating of tired kitchens look easy’ using the latest computer design software.

Congratulations to all our short-listed clients.  We wish them every success at the Awards on 26th October.

Still coming up trumps for Donald………Russell

The honeymoon period could have been over, but not so as Donald Russell’s results keep on improving. Here’s how the story of their impressive results continues to unfold.

Like losing weight, it’s easier at the beginning.  When an agency takes over an account, clients often see an upturn in results from fresh ads and innovative ideas breathing new life into a tired campaign.  But just as weight plateaus, so too do results.  It’s hard to keep coming up trumps month after month.  But at AJ, we’ve done just that for meat specialists, Donald Russell.  Five months in and we’re about to celebrate our best month ever, generating new customers well below the target cost, and smashing all our goals.  How have we done it?

Creative sweet spot: we’ve maximised the control copy through a series of enhancements and introduced new magazine creative, carefully balancing the offer and brand messages.

Specialist media buying: AJ is a specialist late space buyer, capturing considerable value through our expert planning and clever last-minute buying.  We’ve also secured a number of key positions, which as we’ve discussed before (What’s your favourite position), can impact results significantly.

Another phase: in line with our ‘never give up’ mentality, we never stand still.  To keep up this great momentum, the next phase of the campaign is to test a number new titles, particularly magazines.  Freemasonry Today is the early superstar, hitting targets within days of hitting the doormat.

To find out how AJ can improve your results, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or


City’s famous daughter epitomises region’s creativity

This weekend sees the conclusion of the annual Jane Austen Festival here in Bath, and a big week for the city’s famous daughter.

This year’s Festival marks the bicentennial anniversary of the writer’s death in 1817, with 10 days of celebratory events including the creation of a local beer in her honour.

Possibly of more note (literally) to all of us, though, was yesterday’s launch into circulation of the new £10 bank note, featuring a picture of Ms Austen on the reverse side.

For a woman who only lived a little over 40 years, publishing just a handful of novels, the scale of her influence in Britain some 200 years later is all the more remarkable.

And it seems she started something of a trend; the South West continues to punch well above its weight creatively.

For 75 years, the locally-based BBC Natural History Unit has been producing quality television, made famous through its work with David Attenborough, and still generates 25% of the world’s natural history programming.  And who doesn’t know award-winning Wallace and Gromit were born in Bristol?  Bath also lays claim to those with more culinary-flavoured creative talents, namely the nation’s favourite baking doyenne, Mary Berry.

The region’s more recent growth as a modern tech hub reflects the national trend for creative industries being the fastest growing industry sector.  Popular with workers wishing to move away from London, Bath and Bristol are attractive to those wanting a better quality of life, while remaining within easy reach of the capital.

We’re growing talent here too with excellent universities across the two cities offering courses supporting the industry; two of AJ’s own talented studio team graduated from Bath Spa University.

Jane Austen’s legacy is set to continue for another 200 years.

AJ clients on track for Express Home and Living Awards

Five of AJ’s clients have been short-listed in the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards, celebrating the UK’s best household products, services and retailers.

When the Express first announced its new awards celebrating the best of British home and living solutions, AJ was quick to encourage its clients to enter.  The awards comprise 15 categories, judged on design innovation, ease of use, sustainable sourcing, customer service and value for money.

AJ’s finalist clients are featuring in the following categories:

  • Best Money-Saving Product              Kinetico Water Systems
  • Best Outdoor Living Furniture          Out & Out Original
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier         David Salisbury
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier         Eden Verandas
  • Best Retirement Living Solution       Nationwide Mobility

Here’s a taster from the entries we submitted on behalf of our clients, highlighting how each company and its products fit the attributes being judged.

Best Money-Saving Product: Premier Compact Water Softener, Kinetico Water Systems

Kinetico’s Premier Compact Water Softener is powered by water – not electricity – making it both economic and environmentally sound.  Its patented technology removes damaging minerals from hard water as it enters the home, eradicating limescale and its associated problems.

The increased efficiency of appliances using softened water can save a family of four up to 12% on energy bills and £400 per year on groceries.

The Premier Compact’s reliability and performance, together with Kinetico’s excellent customer service, led to it being chosen by the National Health Service for their ‘Home Kidney Dialysis’ programme.  Kinetico water softeners are also used in such prestigious establishments as Buckingham Palace and the Savoy Hotel.

Best Outdoor Living Furniture: Outdoor lounge furniture sets, Out & Out Original

Out & Out Original’s outdoor lounge furniture design combines outdoor durability with indoor style, allowing the lounge sets to look as good in a conservatory as in the garden.

Out & Out Original understands its moral and ethical responsibilities to both its furniture makers and the environment.  Using a number of natural materials, including FSC-certified sustainable eucalyptus and recycled teak, the company works to ensure valuable resources are retained or replenished for the future.

This range of furniture is also fit for purpose, with features essential to its use outdoors.  These include UV stabilised resin, 100% polyester cushions with removable covers and tempered glass on coffee tables.  It is designed to wear in not out, making it cost-effective and robust.

Best Outdoor Building Supplier: David Salisbury Orangeries and Garden Rooms

David Salisbury describes itself as ‘engineers in wood’. Every product design is unique and precision-made, remaining in keeping with its surroundings.

The company was an early adopter of environmentally-friendly policies, installing a biomass boiler over 10 years ago, feeding it with timber shavings and offcuts generated during manufacture.  Factory roof solar panels provide 20% of the company’s power supply reducing its footprint by over 88,000kg CO2 per year.

Every aspect of a David Salisbury product is considered carefully, and corners will not be cut at the expense of quality.    The company demonstrates unrivalled technical innovation as well as a commitment to excellence in customer service.

Best Outdoor Building Supplier: Glass verandas, Eden Verandas

Eden’s glass verandas allow customers to enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather.  The high-quality materials used give customers total confidence in their outdoor living products.   Eden’s glass verandas can complement any home, new or old, large or small, and can be retro-fitted giving maximum versatility, with the option of converting into a glass room at a later date.

Eden Verandas offer a free design service with a no obligation quote. Designers are based throughout the UK, providing a local business experience coupled with the peace of mind gained from a national company.

Eden’s glass verandas add value to any home and any lifestyle.

Best Retirement Living Solution : The Bathmate, Nationwide Mobility

Nationwide Mobility is a company with a simple philosophy – it is dedicated to offering the best possible bathing solutions for those no longer able to enjoy safe bathing at home.  With over 20 years’ experience, Nationwide Mobility has a deep understanding of customer needs.

The Bathmate is an inflatable bath lift offering a simple solution for those having difficulty stepping in and out of the bath.  It doesn’t require installation, fitting into a customer’s existing bath, gently lowering the customer in and out by inflating and deflating at the touch of a button.

The Bathmate’s uncomplicated design makes it one of the most ingenious and popular mobility products available.

We’ll keep you posted on their progress; the winners are announced on  Thursday 26th October.




Ready, steady, go

AJ is helping lifestyle women’s clothing brand, Mistral, break new ground in their upcoming recruitment campaign.

Mistral is born and bred Wiltshire, with stores situated predominantly in the south and west.  With a brief to grow their customer base nationwide, AJ has put together a multi-platform media campaign including great new creative, targeted at Mistral’s female, ABC1, 35+ target audience.  Now in the starting blocks, the campaign is timed with the launch of Mistral’s new autumn collection.

Using a small test budget, AJ’s plan includes a combination of press, direct mail and inserts.  We’re confident we’ve found the best fit for the women we’re seeking and competitive deals for our client. Press kicks off in mid-September, with the first of three direct mailings accompanying it.

And we love our new creative. Each mailing tells the story behind an individual fabric design.  With a client passionate about colour and print, our talented creative team had a field day producing the new artwork.

Feast your eyes.

The mailings feature a collection of new pieces, reflecting the company’s ‘style me’ offer of putting together the look for you.  How often do you buy a piece of clothing then realise you have nothing to wear with it?  Mistral’s approach provides the solution.

Together with a compelling offer, the mailings are tasked with drawing in direct sales to Mistral’s website.

Like what you see? Learn more about how we can produce the right creative for you. Contact Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email