From Zero to Hero – a case study

We were approached by Velo and Co with regards to selling their face covers off the page.

Previously a product used for sport, they had seen an article in the Wall Street Journal about a runner who had started using her tube bandana as a face cover when out running as she was finding it was getting more and more frowned upon to be running in the park and she did not feel comfortable (both in terms of look and feel) running in a disposable mask.A quick bit of research showed us that places like Amazon and Ebay sold them but only with a delivery time of 5-6 weeks We agreed there was clearly a market, especially if we moved fast.

So Velo Face Covers were born. A website was developed, stock ordered, photos taken, ads created and within 2 weeks of the concept the stock was in and the first ads ran with a small test in Daily Mail Scotland.  This uncovered a few issues with Google and PPC, but these we quickly ironed out and within days people were receiving their products – unlike if they ordered them elsewhere.  A ‘buy one get one free’ offer with a unique code for each ad meant that we could track the ROI.  The demand for the product grew as the Government announced firstly that they advise wearing a face cover when out of home, and secondly that it will be mandatory from the 15th June to wear one on public transport.

One thing we quickly discovered was that if you rely on PPC to drive traffic to your site you can’t compete with Amazon and Ebay – search terms ‘face cover’and  ‘face masks’ cost approx 60p a click and the conversions were poor at 3%.  When you run an ad in press you can drop these terms and just support your brand: ‘Velo and co’ clicks cost 3p and covert at 25% – making it impossible to make money if online is the only source of promotion.  Stick an ad in a newspaper and the whole thing changes.

So many new companies think that digital is the only way, that press has had its day – but if you want to drive traffic to your site, from people who have already decided they are interested in buying your product then you really can’t beat press.  Without running these ads, Velo would not have had business and in the 4 weeks since it began they have sold over 5000 face covers from a media spend of less that £10k.

The key was spotting the opportunity, acting fast, taking a low risk and being able to scale up with the supplier quickly and speaking to an agency with experience of selling off the page.

So if you have an idea or existing small business and you hadn’t considered press being the main driver of sales, then give us a call and see if we can take you from zero to hero too.

Still pretty much ‘business as usual’

As a business we’ve adapted well to working remotely and the team continues to be incredibly busy – so much so that our media partners tell us we are booking more space than any other DR agency out there.

It’s not all been plain sailing of course; IT can be frustrating and communicating remotely is never as easy as firing a quick question across the office.  We’ve had to come up with solutions to the raft of problems that lockdown has created to ensure we maintain and deliver the range – and high standard –  of services our clients are used to.

Regular phone contact, Zoom meetings and the continued swift turnaround from our creative head and studio team have ensured no time has been lost. And the media team has been quick to create schedules that make the most of the reduced rates and deals they have negotiated.

Helping our clients deal with lockdown.                                                                     We know that clients rely on us for a vast range of services and support and we’ve been very quick to help them make the most of this new situation. We’ve looked carefully at the changes in how media is consumed at home to help clients maximise the new opportunities available. Considering each client individually, we’ve identified how their messages – and their preferred channels –  could be adapted to suit this changing climate. Examples of this include focusing on leisure wear for one client, gift/treat ideas to cheer you or a loved one for another and a budget- friendly radio campaign for one of our gardening clients.  For those clients unable to physically sell their products or services currently, we have suggested cost-effective ways that will maintain customer interest so they are front of mind once selling can resume.

Continuing communications                                                                                           We see a lot of success sending printed pieces by post to help generate new business which in the current climate, with everyone working from home, is no longer viable. So, rather than lose this contact stream we have re-created our printed pieces into digital books.  Although not as tangible, they are easy for people to access and to read in their own time and a particularly useful tool as digital engagement is currently higher than ever.  And where we would usually supply clients with hard copies of their newspaper and magazine adverts, we have been supplying them with detailed digital presentations with the visuals and information so that everything they need, and would usually receive, is clear and concise and to hand.

Working with new clients                                                                                                  We are delighted that, despite the lockdown, we have been approached by two new clients looking for immediate help with their direct response advertising. In both cases, we have been able to respond immediately and have produced ads for both, agreed budgets and created media schedules in the usual way, without any delays. We are very excited to be working with them both.

Even a ‘visit’ from the auditors hasn’t held us back                                     Usually taking over the boardroom for a week, with all files and information close to hand, an audit from external accountants is a relatively straightforward process so we wondered how the remote experience might pan out. Whilst not the easiest of tasks undertaken remotely, we have managed to provide all the information required without too much difficulty and our financial controller – and the auditors – seem to have coped with the situation remarkably well and are still speaking to each other.

We hope our clients, old and new,  and our partners would agree that we are continuing to offer and deliver the level of work and range of services they have become accustomed to and expect. In fact, we are in the process of sending out our client surveys to ask them precisely this so watch this space for further news to see how we are really doing..

It remains to be seen, of course, how long we will continue to work under lockdown but we are glad to report that here at AJ at least, it continues to be pretty much business as usual.

Media Update from Alice Buttling

In a week where we thought things might be getting clearer with the promise of a ‘road map’ to exit lockdown, it seems the opposite has happened and there is more confusion than ever (and frustration I am sure). Not a huge amount has changed on the media landscape, but there is certainly talk of pricing returning to ‘normal’ from June with the ‘lockdown’ deals coming to an end, but this will obviously be dependent on demand, results and circulations from a direct response perspective. Below is a quick snapshot by sector.

Newspapers – the circulations have settled, with winners and losers, but even the ones that decreased have not seen significant drops.  Sunday papers are seeing increases in double figures in the case of Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday.  Circulations were up 6% on average in the week running up to VE day – it was welcome to see news on something other than COVID19.  For the rest of the month at least there will still be some great deals, which will make the CPT lower than pre-lockdown – we have seen many clients getting some of their best ever results and ‘out of season’ spikes thanks to a combination of pricing, engagement and product suitability; in fact for some the biggest issue has been not being able to get enough stock.  For those who have been most impacted by the lockdown in terms of accessing their customers, it could be a good time to take advantage of the prices as we emerge at the end of the month.

TV – still going strong with linear viewing up 21% and VOD viewing up 45%.  The largest increases from 16 – 34 and ABC1 audiences.  72% of viewing is now on the ‘big screen’ taking 10% share from mobiles and the largest increases are from group viewing over individuals.  There is still a large appetite for news with a 45% increase, but also family viewing such as films seeing a 34% rise.  With pricing set to remain low on Channel 4 and ITV (Sky are currently putting their prices back in for June) there has still never been a better time to be on TV.  As recent study by Thinkbox showed their direct sellers web traffic increased by over 300% when they started on TV during lockdown enabling them to sell direct whilst the retailers were closed.

Inserts – third party inserts have struggled to despatch the volumes they forecast as these would have been planned way before any of this happened so there is a bit of catch up in this area, however subs for mags are getting great results and there are many deals to be done as the availability is high due to many advertisers who typically run large insert campaigns pulling out – mainly travel.

Magazines – still a very strong sector with subs high – the real winners being home interest and hobby titles magazines and news/current affairs.  The prices are set to revert for the August issues, out in July, but this will be gradual and there will still be some good deals in these issues I think.  I would expect September to be back on track for them.

Postcard mailing– Now is certainly the time to make contact with your database, whether this is a customer base to cross/upsell to or an enquiry base to start easing into making appointments from existing leads, this will undoubtedly be the most cost effective exercise and it could not be any more flexible or low risk with a printed postcard at 60p, regardless of volume you can dip your toe in and test the water then ramp it up quickly if the results look good.

Mail newspapers carried out some research with their readers and found that 1 in 3 of those surveyed have bought from e commerce sites they have not used before, 50% of those who have not ordered online groceries before have done so for the first time and intent to continue.  They have seen a 56% increase in use of their voucher code site in April and people are saying that they will choose to come out of lockdown very slowly – with mail order purchasing being favoured over high street retail.  Now is the time to make a good impression and reap the benefits of changed consumer behaviour – more virtual meetings, online shopping and less face to face contact.  Top of the list for when lockdown ends though is getting a haircut and having a beauty treatment so that we can emerge back into society without the Zoom filters.

Alice Buttling, MD, 15th May 2020

The ‘no plan’ media plan

As we came out of April we would usually be thinking about media plans for June; as a short term agency we don’t tend to plan too much ahead so are used to working short term. This year however, we are looking at May and forecasting for Q3 has gone completely out of the window. This is the ‘no plan media plan’: no commitment, no budgets, no pressure and I quite like it.

Every client is in a unique situation right now, all have challenges (some greater than others) but there are opportunities too.  We have found that by taking each week (and sometimes each day) one at time, we can maintain a steady flow of spend, look at results as they come in and make a decision about what to do tomorrow based on these.

So how did April shape up? Some clients have had to fully exercise the furlough scheme as it makes no sense for them to try to operate in the current market, so they are ‘on hold’ but actually still receiving a steady flow of interest for when they can function again.  Others have remained fully functioning as a business, despite not being able to sell, and used the time to ‘tidy the classroom at the end of term’ poised in a very strong position to hit the ground running as soon as they can.  We are still running ads in their key titles at much reduced rates to maintain momentum.

Finally, we have the ‘operators’ –  those who have been able to function (albeit with some adaptions and restrictions) with staff working from home, factories running with half capacity, deliveries no longer being signed for and people’s acceptance that delivery does not have to happen the next day.  For some the main issue has been stock: things selling too well and reduced ability to re-stock; but for a number of our clients we have seen our best ever results from individual ads.  With buying rates at rock bottom, circulations still strong and engagement still high it is very much possible to get amazing results from advertising.

So what about May?

With some lifting of lockdown what will be the impact?  I don’t know – but I do believe that the majority of people will still favour mail order over standing in a queue outside a shop, 2m apart, 1 person at a time. Socially distanced shopping will remain only for those shopping for necessities or for those who have a really strong desire to obtain something particular – there is no real  pleasure to be gained from retail shopping for the foreseeable future.  Beyond that we will continue to monitor daily as the responses and the deals come in – the beauty of direct response is you get to see exactly what your £1 spent has generated so you can justify (or not) the next ad.

So no predictions for the future just yet – except perhaps a baby boom in the New Year – as among the busiest websites currently (gardening, home learning and DIY) are Love Honey, whose sales are doing particularly well during the enforced ‘stay at home’!

Alice Buttling, MD & Media Director

 

A message from our MD, Alice Buttling

If only we could freeze time…but we can’t and yet the Government’s assistance to business assumes that we can; that by giving employers the option to furlough their employees they are solving the current problems that businesses face.

Often the employees are keen to be furloughed so that they can stay home and stay safe, even when the employer is providing a safe place to work within all the restrictions that have been set.  The employee is working on the basis that they can get 80% of their pay (or 100% in some cases if the employer tops it up) and they can return to work in a few months when everything goes back to ‘normal’.  Unless, due to having no employees there is no business left. The doors may be closed but work still needs to be done to keep the business functioning: a garden centre with plants that need watering, a shop full of stock that needs to be paid for, a restaurant full of consumables and a landlord that needs paying.  What about the business owner that can’t furlough themselves and relies on the income to support their family? How about the business that survives 12 months of the year based purely on their season sales which carry them through off-season and their season is March to August….what happens to the lost revenue?  Suddenly all those wonderful, individual businesses set up by brave individuals or handed down through families, that are not cash positive enough to ride the storm and don’t have a few months buffer to get them though, disappear.  Then all those who were furloughed and thinking they had a job to go back to, are now redundant after all.

So, I urge everyone to think about where they spend their money right now, as it will make a real difference to what our country looks like when we come out of the other side.  The big companies like Amazon and the supermarkets stand to be the winners so far, but they don’t need our cash.  Shop local, the Co-op were the first to recruit for their stores offering jobs to people who had been made redundant within days of the virus spreading, way before the businesses knew they were protected by the furlough scheme.  Farm shops are working around the clock to provide fresh produce for us.  We don’t need to load up our trolleys (virtual or otherwise) these shops have food on their shelves every day and I guarantee you won’t find people fighting over the loo roll.  There are lots of business that are doing all they can do keep trading – restaurants offering takeaways, pubs delivering draught beer in jugs – please do all you can to support this.  One thing we don’t need right now is free next day delivery (and we won’t get it anyway) be patient, choose wisely and put your pounds in the pockets of the businesses that you really wish to buy from in the future..

And on that note, if you know anybody who has been forced to close their retail doors but they have products that they could sell direct to consumers through advertising then newspapers could be a great opportunity to keep the till ringing.  Demand is very high for anything that brings joy and can be delivered contactless – this could be fresh coffee, garden play equipment, DIY tools, books, flowers and plants, grow your own kits, clothing, jewellery, the list goes on….. We would be happy to help, advice and support any small business to try to sell direct – either on the phone or online, we will help find the best solution for them – things are changing and I have the feeling they will never be quite the same again, but in there is opportunity.

 

 

How do businesses stay healthy in times like these?

Survival of the fittest, agile working, flexible hours….how do businesses stay healthy when faced with such tough and uncertain times?  Is it OK to try to capitalise on the current situation?  Yes, it will be essential.

A perfect example is Mail Newspapers, who are offering to deliver the paper for free for 6 weeks.  It will work for them – they are already seeing circulation increases (estimated up 20k this weekend and 10k Mon to Fri) due to high engagement with the content (Corovavirus, Cheltenham & Budget) but they are also offering something that could be highly valued to the generation that are worried about imminent isolation, keeping them connected with their main news source, but also for whom reading a newspaper is a hobby, pastime, habit that if they could no longer access could cause even more upset.  I feel certain that this service will lead to circulation increases over the next few weeks as the story unfolds on what happens next.  Perhaps other newspapers will follow suit, but the Daily Mail will benefit from being the first.

I think we all need to do the same. At AJ we don’t make money if our clients are not spending and our clients’ businesses would grind to a halt pretty quickly if they stopped advertising, so I will be focussed on coming up with ideas for all of our clients to ensure that it makes sense for them to keep spending, working with them to find pockets of opportunities. Being realistic we are talking about riding the storm here (have we not had enough of them already this year?) rather than flourishing, but there will be plenty of time to flourish in times to come.

Alice Buttling, Managing Director,

 

 

Make the most of these turbulent times

Our clients are already starting to feel the impact of the effects of Coronavirus: in the last week the number of responses they are getting to their press ads have dropped and we have clients with a lead/appointment/sale model who are seeing up to 30% of their appointments being cancelled.

Again we are faced with uncertainty, in particular with what the Government will do next and how that impacts our lives and of course how far and wide this virus will spread.

Most of our clients don’t have a retail presence and they are far more focussed on generating sales than building a brand, so how do we ensure that their businesses continue to thrive in the current time (given we don’t have any clients selling anti-viral hand gel or loo rolls…)?

Firstly, stay light on your feet.  We book the majority of space short term anyway, so that is easy – there will be less people out and about and buying newspapers, so it is highly likely that the circulations will take a hit in the next few weeks – especially if we go into ‘lock down’.  There will be lots of space available as many clients (travel companies are doing it already) are cancelling space.  People will still be buying newspapers though, so it just means you need to buy cheaper – stick with day to day short term and pick up some bargains

Secondly, up your TV advertising – there will be more people at home watching TV, the available inventory will increase and again there will be travel clients pulling airtime so it will be a buyers market.  Higher TV consumption, lots of boredom = online shopping heaven!   It is like the sweet spot between Christmas and New Year when the working population is off, you can therefore reach them with daytime time TV (far cheaper than peak airtime that you would usually have to buy to reach them) and more responsive as the programming is low engagement.  So if you have a TV ad and you are an online retailer then you could really make the most of a bad situation.

 

365 Days of running later…

A final word from Alice

So, I did it – 365 days of running. I covered exactly 1700km, which was far more than I anticipated.  There were many highlights (some literal ones when I went on holiday to Capri and couldn’t find a flat run anywhere and again when my friend decided it would be fun to run up Cley Hill on Boxing day) but my challenge meant I got to explore some lovely new places both close to home and on my travels.   I also saw amazing sun rises, rainbows and views.  I probably ran 75% of the time with just my trusty 4-legged friend, Newt, for company;  but I was also joined at various points by friends, my kids and family – none more so than on my final run back in my home town on New Year’s Eve (above) cheered back by Becky who was my inspiration behind this challenge.

So now me and Newt can put our feet up, I am very proud to say that we have raised over £5000 for Dorchester County Hospital Chemotherapy Department, where Becky is currently being treated – so hopefully she and many others will get the benefit of the funds raised very soon.  It is not too late to donate, every penny is much needed and very much appreciated.

Thank you very much to all those who have been generous already.

To donate please visit:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alice-buttling-smith1?fbclid=IwAR2AmM995xTig7HM4eu3tmbXwgUMhYHl7zU0mOjIg2sf4kb3e7t7wReebhE&utm_campaign=pfp-share&utm_content=Alice-Buttling-Smith1&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_source=Facebook&utm_term=VJnJPpZDn

 

The only certainty is uncertainty and the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees…

 

In the advertising environment you have to be able to substantiate every word you say and if you don’t then you can’t get your ad onto the TV screens.  If you run a press ad and even if just one person questions your claims or disagrees with what you say, the likelihood is that you will have to change your ad. 

So, here at AJ, we are finding it increasingly frustrating that the people running our country seem to have no such requirements to adhere to.  We’re days away from the due date to leave the EU and nobody seems any the wiser.  The ‘brightest minds in the country’ still can’t tell us what the consequences of leaving will be, either with a deal or without one – and the various parties can’t even agree among themselves.

So, what does it all mean?  Well, it’s a great time to be advertising in National Press! People are consuming more news now than ever, with many reading a wider variety of titles to get a fuller perspective on the range of thoughts and opinions out there – and so get closer to the truth.

If you can make your advertising budget stretch a little further – and have the flexibility to make things happen quickly – you should be able to see some positives out of this negative time.

Let’s get on with discovering what life is like outside of the EU and see what happens, surely it can only be better than this? And in the meantime, make the most of it while you can and if we can help you do so, all the better!

Quooker appoints Attinger Jack

We are very excited, and rather proud,  to have won the Quooker account for press & TV from September.

This is a real case of playing the long game – we first met with this client over four years ago and we have always felt that we could make a real difference to their business.

The appointment comes at an exciting and important time for Quooker,  coinciding with the launch of their incredible new product ‘The Cube’.  This includes new TV creative, the main objective of which is to both build the brand and drive sales through the retailers.  We also felt that there was a huge potential market in selling direct, something they currently do by default from their advertising rather than running a true DR campaign.

We’re looking forward to building a long, rewarding relationship and helping Quooker to grow their already very successful business even further.