Still pretty much ‘business as usual’

As a business we’ve adapted pretty well to this new way of working 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 in this climate now is 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.

Working from home, love or loathe it?

Ralph (trainee artworker) doesn’t like to be disturbed

At AJ we are endeavouring to maintain ‘business as usual’ wherever possible, which means the team working remotely from home. Clearly a very adaptable and capable bunch, we’ve just got on with it. Like many out there, we continue to keep in touch with each other, our clients and media partners via regular phone calls, Zoom catch ups and of course, many, many emails. Having asked the team for their feedback, it’s been interesting to find out the impact this has had and for those of you also working from home, you might find some common themes…

So, what do we miss? – Each other, apparently. We are social beings and miss the chance to chat and tease – along with getting each other’s opinions and advice, whether that’s thoughts on Boris/Trump/Killing Eve or what goes best with smoked garlic/Manchego/roasted aubergine.

Eva’s impressively tidy spot

And what do we absolutely not miss? The commute. For those spending time travelling between home and office sitting in traffic or battling with public transport, the lack of commute is a real bonus; whether it’s another half hour in bed or just extra time at home, it’s bliss!

Are lunches at home any different? Always interested in others’ food choices I was curious to find out whether people are eating differently at home or whether we are all creatures of habit? It seems there are two camps here: those who have embraced the opportunity to eat more healthily, taking time to prepare more interesting meals, with healthier, fresher food and perhaps following this with a swift lunchtime walk or run…and then there’s those (of us) who relish the opportunity to have a second breakfast or a ‘dinner sized meal’  for lunch and breakfast and embrace the close proximity of the fridge for endless daytime snacking.

Ann’s home study

What difference does WFH make to your job? On a positive note (rather impressively, I think) most of us are getting much more done – without the distractions of the chat that we all miss. But for some, and I count myself in this camp, the lack of camaraderie and visible ‘team spirit’ can be difficult from a motivational point of view. Sitting at a desk at home alone can make it harder to get on with the more tedious jobs or tackle something you are unsure how best to approach and would welcome a little ‘committee advice’.

So, is it harder to do our job at home alone? Overwhelmingly yes – and if not actually harder ‘definitely less enjoyable’. And although we are finding ourselves in many ways more efficient and productive, technology can let us down; slower download speeds at home and working from smaller screens can be frustrating.

So, do we actually prefer to work from home?

It seems the ideal mix is probably a bit of both – flexible working that reduces a commute; provision of some quiet time or a calmer space to concentrate on work with less distractions but also allowing plenty of time to enjoy being part of a great team who work well together and get along too.

Roll on July!

 

 

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

 

Whatever the weather, the run must go on……

Back in February, we wrote that our MD, Alice Buttling, is running every day of 2019 to raise money for The Dorset County Hospital Charity in support of her step-sister, Becky.

Despite successfully fighting breast cancer and being in remission for two years, Becky’s cancer returned late last year and is incurable.  Alice is determined to do what she can to support her and now, with nearly eight months of her challenge completed, Alice has clocked up a mighty 1,100 km.

“ I have managed to get out and run every day,” says Alice. “ And whilst I am looking forward to a rest, I have mostly enjoyed it.  I use the time to think about my amazing step sister – who has now finished her three months of chemo and is continuing to fight hard while striking things off her bucket list.”

Obviously tinged with sadness, thinking about Becky brings mixed emotions; “While running I have had lots of laugh-out-loud moments, remembering (many!) daft things we’ve done together and happy memories growing up.  I’ve also been lucky to have lots of running partners – my most loyal being my lovely dog Newt, who is by my side for every run (as long as I am not running overseas as I am doing this week!)”

Alice has also been joined by friends and family on many occasions and her favourite runs are with her three boys.

“I have run in the dark, rain, wind and snow and I am really enjoying the summer sunshine (and the odd shower). The terrain varies from road and canal paths to running across fields and even through a river! I have run whether at home, work or on holiday and I’m actually enjoying exploring new places too, which is great. I wouldn’t say I’m counting the days…….but it is just over four months to go before a lie in! “

If you would like to support Alice, you can do so at the link below. All donations are very gratefully received, thank you.

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

To learn more about The Dorset County Hospital Charity please visit:  http://www.dchft.nhs.uk/charity/Pages/home.aspx

 

Come rain or shine

Like clouds heavy with rain and the brightness of a summer sky, our lives are made up of both darkness and light. When life throws some darkness our way, it can be hard to see through the clouds however, it’s at times like these that the best of us knuckle down and make sacrifices to do something positive and serve as an inspiration to others. Recently, AJ’s own Alice Buttling received some desperately sad news. Her step-sister Becky, who having fought breast cancer and been in remission for two years, was told that the cancer had returned and that it is so aggressive it is incurable.

Facing this diagnosis with awe-inspiring bravery and selflessness, Becky is determined to fight on. In emulation of Becky’s courage and resilience Alice has taken up a mighty challenge in a bid to raise money for Becky’s chosen charity, The Dorset County Hospital Charity.

Alice has set herself the goal of running every day in 2019, come rain or shine, with a target distance of 500 miles. Completing this Herculean task, alongside duties as a single mum of three and Agency MD, will be a truly impressive feat and one worthy of sponsorship. So many of us have felt the cruel touch of Cancer in our lives or witnessed it in the lives of our friends and family – not surprising given the fact there are more than 360,000 new reported cases in the UK every year.

If you would like to offer your support you can donate by visiting Alice’s JustGiving page below and follow her progress via Facebook. Alice has Attinger Jack cheering her on, along with her many other supporters and we hope many of you will also show your support for this exceptionally deserving cause.

We know you can do it Alice!

Alice’s Just Giving Page:

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

Learn more about The Dorset County Hospital Charity visit here – http://www.dchft.nhs.uk/charity/Pages/home.aspx

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…….

With 2018 drawing to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on another year in the life of AJ and the direct response world. It’s been an interesting one, filled with many challenges and an exciting one too. We’ve clients stepping outside their comfort zone, testing many new ideas and we’ve welcomed a raft of new clients on board too, bringing new areas of expertise into the business. And we’re delighted to welcome back three clients who have returned after testing the waters elsewhere.

We’ve said sad farewells to a couple of members of the team but we’re also delighted to have been joined by fabulous, fresh talent bringing their knowledge and expertise – along with a lot of energy!- into the fold.

There are so many people we have worked with over the last 12 months who have helped us to run our business, and to be part of it, and we’d like to say thank you.

 

 

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

 

The one-stop shop of advertising

The rise of supermarkets heralded the beginning of one-stop shopping.  The benefits of being able to buy food all in one hit were immediately obvious. The same is true for agencies.

Marketing budgets are rarely infinite.  How, where and when they are spent for maximum return are daily choices facing our marketing colleagues.  As we discussed in Media Buying: in-house or agency, deciding to employ outside specialists can bring tangible benefits.  The type of agency can also influence the nature of those benefits.  Full service agencies provide a range of expertise under one roof, including media, creative and digital, rather than offering one without the other(s).

Employing experts within each of the agency’s teams, the saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is not true of full service agencies such as AJ.  To find out more about the skills of our artworkers, take a look at Good things do not always take time, Creative workshops: if it’s broke, fix it and Free isn’t futile.  Examples of our media buying capabilities are found in Making press advertising work, What’s your favourite position? and What’s hot in the heat?

A major disadvantage of using separate agencies is the lack of accountability.  As a full-service agency, AJ is fully accountable for everything it does.  No smoke and mirrors here.  Being located in one office, also means we coordinate creative and media much more easily; efficient communication particularly important in late space buying.

To find out more about how AJ could work for you, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or lesley@aja.co.uk

Taking a bold approach

The summer dresses are out in force in our office this week as we enjoy the latest burst of hot weather.  Fans of bold, colourful prints, the female members of the AJ team are thrilled we’ve just been appointed by women’s clothing brand, Mistral.

Offering British-designed casual clothing, Mistral uses prints, colours and styles inspired by the surroundings of the Wiltshire countryside in which their head office is based.

Mistral is in a growth phase, keen to attract new customers, with an eye on their competitors.  White Stuff shoppers, disappointed with the company’s latest styles and lack of prints, are a particular focus.

Mistral’s superb summer range has attracted amazing feedback from customers and they’re ready to shout about it.  AJ has been tasked with drawing in direct sales to their website and driving customers to the almost 20 Mistral stores across the country.  To do this, we’re planning a combination of press, direct mail and inserts.

In true AJ style, we’ll be testing, refining and optimising their media schedule, and can’t wait to begin……

Time to spruce up the garden

According to author, Margaret Atwood, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  At this time of year, we’re busy preparing our gardens for the summer ahead.  To stay up with the play on the latest trends in garden design, AJ team member, Jack Gillett, visited this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chelsea Flower Show offers inspiration and ideas on creating a look for your garden or outdoor space, however big or small, rural or urban.  Like a fashion show, what’s on display may seem unattainable to the average gardener, but it’s the concepts being displayed which trigger a thought or form the start of a plan.

                      

With unparalleled knowledge and experience in the home improvements market, AJ’s client portfolio includes manufacturers of top quality conservatories, verandas, awnings and garden furniture, such as David Salisbury, Eden Verandas and Out & Out.   How these can blend with a garden is an ever-present element of the world-famous Show.  The BBC/RHS People’s Choice Award winner, the Morgan Stanley Garden, featured a stunning oak and limestone loggia surrounded by formal and informal planting.  It illustrated perfectly the opportunity for synergy between a manmade structure and the natural world.

With this year’s design trends at Chelsea also including water, textured walls, angular paving, copper elements and wall niches, there’s plenty to complement and enhance every garden and outdoor space.

To find out more about our work in the garden and home improvements market, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or lesley@aja.co.uk