Creative workshops: If it’s broke, fix it

Just like top athletes, even the best creative can fatigue. If results aren’t on target any more, it could be time to freshen up.  AJ’s creative department is just that – creative. Whether surprising existing clients or delighting new ones, the team is expert at developing innovative ideas and re-working old ones.

Attuned to the symptoms of creative fatigue, AJ uses in-house creative workshops to examine its work for existing clients.  The new creative is presented to the client not only with the changes highlighted but, more importantly, the reasons why.  It makes clear to them what the work is aiming to achieve – to be better, stronger, more effective and to grow business.

For new clients, creative workshops emphasise the importance of good creative in a way which can be better appreciated by an untrained eye. By their very nature, direct response ads are not always ‘beautiful’.  Taking clients through the reasoning also helps those new to DR advertising understand why the right creative and skilful media buying go hand-in-hand.  Neither one can go it alone.

Case study: Damart strives for innovation, fun and vitality through its range of thermal clothing.  Our aim is to produce creative to reflect their aspirations as well as improve results.  We took Damart’s existing block-style ads and made some simple but effective changes to the layout, background and style of writing.  We introduced a graphic to communicate the key message, bullet points for easy reading and a ‘benefit’ headline.  The ‘call to action’ was also enhanced with a coupon and the panel describing the offer re-worked to boost its appeal.  We produced a series of ads with different offers, all aiming to upsell and, in turn, increase ROI.  Damart have started using two of these ideas with the potential for using more based on results.

Case study: Donald Russell sells quality meat off-the-page.  Their meat is sourced from animals raised on the pastures of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, so has an impressive provenance.  When we evaluated their creative, it was obvious this compelling part of the product offer was not being portrayed in their creative.  They were also restricting their advertising spend to the Christmas period alone.  The success of our new creative saw spend increase to enable activity beyond Christmas to cover Easter and the summer barbecue season.

To learn more about how we can produce the right creative for you, contact Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email

Making press advertising work

Advertising is an essential element of any promotional campaign, but has to be right to work. Several clients started working with Attinger Jack disillusioned with press advertising believing it ‘doesn’t work for us’.  Employing AJ as a specialist full service direct response advertising agency has changed their minds and transformed their approach, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Outcome: Re-establishing successful customer recruitment channels

When reading light specialists, Serious Readers, started working with Attinger Jack in 2015, inserts had become the dominant customer recruitment channel.  Press advertising had taken a backseat because performance remained unprofitable year on year.  Charged with delivering profitable OTP sales for the range of Serious Readers lights, AJ set about developing creative and media strategies to re-engage the company with media successfully and grow their business.  By the end of the year, the press response target had been achieved with detailed attribution analysis showing press outperformed inserts consistently, becoming the lead source of sales.  The 2016 budget increased by 100% and the ROI targets beaten.  The campaign, which had been seasonal (four months a year), now runs for 10 months a year.

AJ Approach: The key here is attribution.  We needed to offer Serious Readers’ customers an incentive to provide a unique code so we could track the ROI.  Rather than offering a discount, the client opted for offering a free gift.  This produced two benefits.  Sales increased due to the incentive and we established the source of those sales.  With a small £20K test budget, we designed new creative which drove sales quickly, rather than enquiries, showing a big improvement in the results.  As a result, we have (i) increased the title list by 150%, (ii) a range of ad sizes from a full page to a 20 x 2 and (iii) a portfolio of ads so we can minimise the saturation in our key titles and ensure we are appealing to every potential audience.

Outcome: Responding immediately to performance by tracking ‘live’ data

“I had given up on press completely, now I am excited about it again.” Stephen Sacks, Owner

Wallace Sacks, an online furniture retailer, came to Attinger Jack not achieving their ROIs through their existing press advertising.  A key feature of AJ’s subsequent media strategy for Wallace Sacks has been a focus on attribution.  By allowing AJ to become actively involved in their business, with easy access to good quality intranet data, Wallace Sacks enjoys detailed analysis and week-by-week media planning in return.  Seeing ongoing press spend performance maintained above target levels, and by as much as 30% in key months, Wallace Sacks’ new-found confidence in press advertising is reflected in an 400% spend increase.

AJ Approach: When we first met Wallace Sacks, the only press working for them was advertorials set by the newspapers.  The traditional direct response ad formats failed to deliver the required ROI.  With this knowledge, we produced a range of advertorial-style ads, telling a story about the company and the product.  We also offered a large discount with a code used at check out.  The success of these ads quickly overtook the advertorials, and we now use almost all national newspapers and a wide range of magazines, with a range of sizes, sections and products.  The spend increased from £20K to £100K a month.  In addition, once we had maximised press, we ran similarly-styled inserts to make the most of their key periods and new audiences.  Our third tactic was TV.  In summer 2016 we produced a TV commercial from stills at a cost of £8K, with a £10K test media budget.  Their previous TV test hadn’t worked, but with improved creative, an incentive to quote a code and buying rates of 60% lower than their previous agency, we hit the ROI target and have now run a further four campaigns.

Outcome: Responding immediately to performance by re-building from scratch

Thomas Sanderson is another AJ client reaping the benefits of allowing the agency to become integrated into their company, accessing ‘live’ data on a daily basis through their sophisticated sales recording systems.  A ‘back to basics’ approach was used at the beginning of AJ’s relationship with Thomas Sanderson, developing creative over time for each product, responding immediately to performance through high-level attribution methodology.

AJ Approach: Faced with such poor press results, stripping ‘back to basics’ was the only way forward when AJ took over the account.  We produced hard-working, offer-led creative and reduced the buying rates, cutting back spend until we had the results back on track.  The ads wouldn’t win any beauty contests but they delivered high quality leads and a resulting ROI to validate the approach.  Building the schedule slowly, based on results, saw the spend return.  This allowed us to introduce emails, online display, lead generation, competitions and TV into the media mix.  Constantly refreshing the creative and bringing new ideas to the schedule has allowed us to maintain the results moving forward.

“We have been working with AJ for 6 weeks and already we have seen a significant increase in our press enquiries, better value for money and positions on our advert placements – they have revived press for us!” Nicola Owen, Senior Marketing Manager

Outcome: Increasing opportunities to advertise effectively

As a market leader in quality cashmere knitwear products, the Cashmere Centre saw Christmas and Easter as their only clear opportunities for press advertising.   In just a few months, AJ’s skilful media buying and new creative helped Cashmere Centre see ROI increase from 2:1 to nearer 4:1.  The tactics used saw AJ illustrate their ideas to the Cashmere Centre through new creative for their sister brand James Alexander and introducing the men’s range to off-the-page.  This was partnered with a small test budget.  Once tested successfully, a media plan was rolled out gradually increasing spend to ensure the required ROI.  As a result, the company’s growing confidence in what works for them has seen spend double with a media schedule now running beyond Christmas throughout the New Year.

AJ Approach:  The client was happy with their results.  They simply accepted they drove the media plan and the product was seasonal with a short customer recruitment window, mainly during the Christmas gifting period.  This had never previously been challenged but AJ saw an opportunity to maximise key periods. By analysing the results and testing titles with a similar profile to the top performers, the title list was broadened and new product lines added to the off-the-page activity.  Great introductory rates, a wider range of ad sizes and lengthening the season have all contributed to seeing the spend double and the ROI improve significantly.  This year’s Jan/Feb campaign is a first, and we have inserts planned for Easter.  Using the results from press we’re developing a low risk, robust plan which we’ll build on in their key winter period.

How are you feeling about press advertising and what it’s doing for you?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

To find out more about how AJ can help press advertising work for you, contact Alice Buttling-Smith or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

Media Buying: in-house or agency?

Is the investment made in out-sourcing media buying to an agency worth it?  A legitimate question clients often grapple with when reviewing marketing budgets.  These three AJ clients definitely think the investment is money well spent, seeing substantial benefit from employing the agency as their specialist press media buyer.

AJ has worked with bespoke blinds and shutters’ designer, Thomas Sanderson, since 2013, at which time cost of sale for blinds was 90%; shutters 61%.  Three years later, those figures now stand at around 13% for blinds and 21% for shutters.  A combination of new creative, full media analysis, new sizes, sections and offers transformed press into a cost-effective channel.  The confidence resulting from this clear and measurable value, led to TV, email, inserts and lead generation being added to the media mix.

With access to the company’s sales intranet, AJ are able to track sales to individual products within each ad created for Wallace Sacks, the on-line retailer of home and garden furniture.  AJ effectively becomes the marketing department, taking full control of the marketing plan.  The agency decides the titles, sizes and products for each ad, before allocating the copy and codes, loading them on to the company intranet.  Reporting back to the client on a daily basis, AJ is able to show exactly what returns the company enjoys from each ad placed.  Since employing AJ as their agency, Wallace Sacks has seen ROI increase by 25%.

The relationship we have developed with the agency is totally transparent and they have become our virtual marketing department within a short time. The impact they have had on our business is in no way incremental but all-encompassing and vital to our ongoing progress.” Stephen Sacks, Owner.

Reading light specialist, Serious Readers, employed AJ after becoming increasingly disappointed with their previous media campaigns.  Having used a small test budget successfully, AJ now receives a substantial spend, from which the agency has lifted attributed ROI by 500% and made press their most cost effective medium.

“Another record breaking week of sales for us last week – beating the record from the previous week. Ads are not the only contributor of course but a significant factor. Thanks to all at AJ for doing a fantastic job.” Richard Read, Senior Marketing Manager

Growing a client’s business is AJ’s single-minded goal and we never give up.  Our planning process cycle of test, learn, refine and optimise produces a continual range of fresh ideas and responsive creative at the lowest possible cost.

For more about how AJ can enhance your media buying, contact Alice Buttling-Smith or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

Attribution: Cracking the code

Being able to determine the source of a sale or track customer behaviour accurately is a critical part of media planning.  But constructive attribution is not easy now customers have an increasing range of buying options and methods available to them.

At AJ, we use a collection of tools to improve the quality and quantity of attribution, making sure activity is measurable and media spend effective.  Assigning unique codes is one such tool used to achieve better attribution specificity.

For Aquability, a leading supplier of bathroom mobility solutions, unique codes provide a m
echanism by which to analyse the 300 ads being run each quarter.  Over the 18 years of working together, AJ has grown the Aquability business from £30K to £180K a month whilst
maintaining marketing percentage.

Offering an incentive to quote a unique code produced good outcomes for reading light specialists, Serious Readers. From a low starting point, press has now become their leading source of sales, with ROI increasing by 500%Kinetico, designers and manufacturers of water softeners, offer a free installation as an incentive to use unique codes and telephone numbers so results can be analysed to better effect.  In a similar vein, online furniture retailer, Wallace Sacks, give a substantial discount incentive.  The resulting data generated on a daily basis enables AJ to plan week by week to maintain press spend performance.  Using this approach, Wallace Sacks spend has increased by 400% with ROI improving by 25%.

The many elements able to be scrutinised include ad copy and size, press titles and sections, and days of the week published, as well as volume and cost of leads plus conversions to appointment and sales.  The resulting optimisation of media plans and schedules and growing return on investment enables AJ clients to increase media spend with confidence.

Thomas Sanderson, maker of bespoke blinds and shutters, is a good example.  AJ works hard with them on attribution, using robust data generated from unique codes tracking right through to sales.  Seeing results improve significantly over the last three years, including a reduced cost per enquiry of 85% for blinds and 54% for shutters in the first nine months, the company has doubled its media budgets.

Quality attribution methodology gives AJ and its clients a detailed understanding of how every media channel is performing at any time.  Consequent scheduling is designed to deliver the greatest volume of high-quality response – exactly what every client wants from a Direct Response advertising agency.

For more information about the success of AJ’s commitment to developing attribution, see Knowing What Works:

Weekend changes at the Telegraph

Did you notice anything different about the Telegraph newspapers last weekend?  The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph both relaunched their weekend offerings. Saturday’s previously-named Weekend is now called Saturday, with Sunday’s Living section becoming, wait for it……Sunday.   Saturday now includes the sections on gardening and cars, alongside its other lifestyle segments.  Sunday has changed to a broadsheet format enabling amplified coverage of gardening and property.  But are these changes good or bad?  Alice Buttling-Smith reviews the implications for clients.

Saturday’s changes are good.  For gardening clients, the relevant content is retained but with an almost certainly higher readership being among other lifestyle segments than when it was a stand-alone section.   This is particularly true out of season when gardening alone might become less popular.  For advertisers in Weekend, again the change is good.  Gardening is popular so its inclusion should boost the section overall; it’s a good fit with the other lifestyle content.

I’m not so sure about incorporating Cars into Saturday though – to me this doesn’t work so well.  Cars, traditionally, has a male audience, which seems to go against the food, health, lifestyle feel of the other Saturday segments.  Cars advertising, outside of the brand ads, tends to be a bit crude, e.g. Machine Mart, BiGDUG, WOLF Garten.  I think Cars would fit better with Property.

Sunday’s content remains very similar to Living, but with an increased focus on the strong features of gardening and property.  The big change is format – and something I welcome.  25 x 4 ads under editorial have good stand out and this new format allows plenty of opportunities for them.  There is also a new ad site on the puzzles spread; in Living, this was just a DPS with no ads. The new site is great, attracting a long dwell time and a perfect fit for many of our clients.  We were quick to secure it for reading light specialist, Serious Readers, in the very first issue.

Overall the changes are good but it’s really about the numbers.  We wait with anticipation to see how Saturday and Sunday perform over the next few weeks.  AJ placed 10 ads in the launch weekend sections, capturing some of the best sites.  We’ll keep you posted on how they perform.

Homing pigeons – new staff come home to roost

Attinger Jack begins 2017 with a full team having recruited into key positions and taken on extra resource to cover a growing workload. Three of the four new staff members have returned to the UK from all points of the compass, bringing valuable insights from their experiences abroad.

Hannah West – Media Manager

Hannah joins Attinger Jack with a background in marketing and media from UK and Australian markets.  She brings an array of experience from building successful acquisition strategies for many direct response clients over the years.  Having loved her five years in Australia, Hannah has now swapped flip flops for wellies.  She enjoys country walks, sunny bike rides and yoga, although still looks forward to planning the next adventure to somewhere hot.

Billie Arnold – Production Co-ordinator

Bath Spa University brought Billie Arnold to Bath from Gloucester in 2012.  After completing a year of a Fine Art degree, Billie transferred to do Graphic Communications, including a year studying History of Animation at the College of Columbia in Chicago.  Billie returned to Bath last year graduating with a 2:1, while also maintaining a successful job at GAP.  Now living in Bristol, Billie is enjoying her first taste of office life.  And much to the delight of her new colleagues, being a keen baker, Billie is a willing participant in the office Bake Off ventures.

Jamie Home – Media Executive

Having grown up in the Bath area, Jamie Home leapt at the opportunity to work close to home with Attinger Jack.  As a Media Executive, Jamie’s responsibilities include looking after TV advertising through BRTV and assisting the media team with the planning/buying process.  Jamie brings useful skills from a background in customer service, and, like Billie, is relishing being in a new environment called an office.

Jamie is a huge music fan and studied Audio Engineering at SAE in Liverpool.  Aged 10, his vinyl album collection started with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s self titled; reportedly his father’s proudest moment. Jamie considers his buying Sean Paul’s Dutty Rock album on the same day far less cool.

Fiona Carruthers – Media Executive

Although a West Country girl originally, Fiona Carruthers joins AJ having returned home after 15 years in New Zealand.  Fiona’s background in marketing and communications, makes her well positioned to provide in-house PR and communications support to an agency with a good deal to shout about.  With expertise in tailoring communications to key target audiences, Fiona is enjoying working with a completely new range of clients – a far cry from her early days in nutrition.

When not at AJ, Fiona can be seen running or cycling around the trails, having developed a passion for off-road running in the mountains of southern New Zealand.

To discover more about the team at AJ and what we can do for you, contact Alice Buttling-Smith or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

The power of attribution

In a world where customer journeys are increasingly complex and fragmented, attributing a cost or sale to a specific channel can be difficult. If conventional attribution methods are no longer working for you, we can help.

AJ uses a series of tools to greatly enhance the accuracy and quality of attribution across all media. The result is consistently lower cost per sale and improved ROI.

You can find out how  we do this and who we do it for by clicking through to our Knowing What Works section here: