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A is for Ambition

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A is for Ambition

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Saying something like “We are defined by our ambition” is one thing. But quantifying it? That’s another thing altogether. How do you prove something like that?

Growth. That’s the metric for ambition. You prove it with growth.

Last month, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and the ambition that drove us from a one-person consultancy to an agency of 25, working out of offices in Edmonton and Toronto.

And today, I’m very pleased to announce that Canadian Business and Maclean’s has ranked FKA No. 150 on the 30th annual Growth 500, the definitive ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies. We made the list based on an impressive five-year revenue growth of 571%.

I’ve often said that the best client-agency relationships are founded on a like-minded approach to business. And I believe our growth is the natural outcome of working with our clients, a very successful and ambitious group of Canadian companies. Like us, many of them are headquartered here in Edmonton—a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of our city.

Wow… No. 150 on the Growth 500. What else is there to say? I’m incredibly proud of our team for numbering among Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies and I sincerely congratulate all of the businesses who made the list.

 

When I was asked to think about my own professional development, I went all the way back to the beginning to evaluate my career thus far. It forced me to question the relationship between a marketing communications agency and their clients. And most importantly, the need to seek professional help.

Categorizing myself as a thinker not a doer, I have always had difficulty seeing things through to the finish line. I did fairly well in art school despite never completely finishing a project. My upbringing was a cautious one. It was drilled into me early on to focus on “what ifs” and potential pitfalls. It can be paralyzing. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, some are focused on the FREE bagels, and I was focusing on the long line ups.

Yesterday, I woke up stuck. I didn’t want to go to work because I had come up with an idea that I no longer believed in, because I thought it was impossible to execute. I also had no really good reason for thinking that. And I certainly can’t blame my mother. I was paralyzed by the fear of letting everyone down and for getting everyone excited about an idea that wouldn’t see the light of day.

But then something magical happened, when I collected myself and went to work. I spoke to a vendor regarding the possibility of this idea, and two important things happened. One, they got very excited. And two, they not only offered multiple solutions on how to make it come to life, but ways to make it better.

When I thought about it a little harder, I realized all of the best projects that have ever happened in my career were a result of some colleague, client or vendor saying, “I don’t know if this can be done, but we’re going to figure it out.” Scary shit, but exhilarating.

Our ideas are exponentially better when we surround ourselves with smarter people. People that are driven to make things better. The right combination of thinkers and doers creates the chemistry that can make us great.

So back to my professional development.

I need to surround myself with smart, caring people who love solving business problems with savvy marketing ideas. That’s what FKA is. The marketing landscape is changing right in front of us and there is no map. So oftentimes it’s important to run ahead and fall off the edge.

I want to learn more from everyone. What matters to them, and together how we can collectively make things great.

I realize now that collaboration is more critical than at any other time in my career. We need all of us. Including outside help. Our clients, vendors and partners are critical to all of our success. And as a vendor partner to our clients, we hopefully provide that outside perspective they need to feel better about what they’re doing and where they want to go. Clients will always find a way to be scared. Then we can be the ones who reassure them by saying, “We don’t know if it can be done, but we’ll figure it out.”

I woke up scared again today, but we’ll figure it out.

Welp, someone in our industry has potentially said something outrageous, and we at FKA are very here for it.

Last week, the CEO and CCO of Havas Creative North America, Paul Marobella and Jason Peterson, adorned their finest streetwear and perched in front of a large green-screen for the first of a series of agency-wide video updates. In it, they implore their creative teams to shift their paradigm from that of creative to creator. As Peterson, a man who almost definitely owns a Supreme Brick, brusquely puts it: Havas’ competition is “…kids with iPhones and millions of YouTube followers.” He also happens to call the agencies of Leo Burnett, BBDO and FCB “shitty.” Poop emojis and a farting effect are added for good measure, obviously.

Check out their video here.

As you can imagine, this hot take has stirred the proverbial pot, springing forward a range of thoughts and opinions. Do they have a point, Tim and Eric-esque production aside? Did they cross the line? Is the video just really…lame?

For FKA’s erudite musings on the video, listen to the first snippet from our upcoming podcast below! (No, that’s not a joke. We’re making a podcast.)

 

FKA X

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FKA X

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After reflecting on my last decade in business, I’ve come to a few conclusions. When starting a business, there is a tendency to define it by what it is not. It’s not going to be typical. It’s not going to be like everyone else. It’s nothing like the places you may have worked before. It’s going to be different. But the irony is that in focusing on what we are not, we all end up the same. Because it is hard to be unique. It is hard to be true.

It took me most of our 10 years in business to date to actually define what started as Starburst and has since become FKA.

Two years ago, we started the branding process that would culminate in our new name and identity. The first step in the process? An internal branding exercise in which we asked everyone individually to choose three attributes that defined our agency, culturally and collectively. The results were telling.

Number 3. Fun. Why not! Fun is good!
Number 2. Knowledgeable. Phew! That one was a bit of a relief. At least we know what we’re doing.
And number 1. Ambitious.

Wow.

I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder in my life than I was the moment I realized my team decided that we were defined by ambition more than anything else. Yeah, I have kids, I’m proud of them, all the time, every day, obviously…but this was a high watermark.

Now, if you didn’t know already, it’s probably dawning on you how we settled on our new name. Fun. Knowledgeable. Ambitious. F. K. And above all, A.

Ambition. It defines us. We’re driven by it. Relentlessly so.

Ambition drives us to grow. 571% over the past five years. From one person (me) to twenty-seven. We are now among the largest agencies in the city.

Ambition drives us to seek out like-minded clients. Many of them retail but all of them successful businesses and organizations who demand results and share a philosophy which we internally refer to only semi-jokingly as “sell or die.”

Ambition drives us to learn more. To be better. To adapt to the accelerating pace of evolution in marketing and communications.

Ambition drives our processes. At FKA, we have banished “set it and forget it.” In every project, every campaign, every tactic, we seek out opportunities to learn from the results and make it better. Advertising is research. (Research that sells, too—what better kind, really.) Act. Analyze. Adapt. That is our mantra. Ambition means a bias for action. We prioritize doing and learning.

It is ambition that has brought us here, to this moment in time, this celebration.

And I want to say a few thank-yous. First, I want to thank all our clients. We are nothing without our clients and we are humbled that so many came out to celebrate with us last night. I also want to thank all our vendors, partners and contemporaries who joined us too.

Of course, I want to thank my team. Our team. The wonderfully diverse, incredibly talented and highly ambitious group of people that make FKA what it is. It’s a pleasure and an honour to work with every one of you. I especially want to thank Kim Odland and Robert Lennon, my business partners. Their investment and interest in this agency have been instrumental.

And finally, I want to thank my wife, Mieke. She has been a steadfast supporter (and frequent critic—always constructive, of course) of everything I do and I absolutely couldn’t do it without her.

Thank you all! See you in ten years. Or later this week, more likely—we have a lot of meetings!

 

A set of data is only as useful as the effective interpretation of that data. It’s like trying to locate your favourite restaurant based only on a photo of the Earth: sure, the point you’re looking for is there, but without context you’re just looking at a blob and guessing at your target. You can probably find the right country, but it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the precise restaurant you’re looking for.

Advertising — and extremely targeted advertising, at that — has never been so accessible and affordable. However, as digital advertising continues to increase in sophistication and a seemingly endless stream of new ad units and tactics continue to appear daily, entering the fray as a small to medium-size business can be intimidating.

It might seem like this is still something left to the “big guys” with million dollar marketing budgets and a team of data scientists — but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

With many online advertising tools available at your fingertips, you can run hyper-targeted and cost-effective campaigns regardless your business size (and marketing budget). And all this can be done using data you already own.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll tell you how to leverage your own data to:

  1. Reach and re-engage your existing customers as they browse the web
  2. Find new customers and build awareness for your brand
  3. Measure the efficacy of your existing online advertising

Reach and re-engage your existing customers

Studies have shown that it costs much less to retain an existing customer than to find a new one. In a lot of ways, that principle applies to online advertising as well. Customers who are already engaged with your brand are more likely to engage with you in the future.

Self-serve online advertising platforms such as Facebook Business Manager (which includes Instagram) and Google AdWords (which includes YouTube, among others) provide opportunities to use your data to target existing customers on the web.

Retargeting

The old standby is retargeting (called “remarketing” by Google). This advertising tactic allows you to “follow” visitors to your website as they browse the web. To get started, you need to place a tracking pixel on your website, so if you don’t have access to your website’s code you may need assistance from a web developer.

Retargeting, a heavily used (and abused) tactic, can be extremely effective when used properly. We’ve all had that experience where you visit a website once and are then bombarded with ads from that business for three months. Not fun.

But when used thoughtfully, retargeting can help a customer move along their purchase journey. For example, if you’re a home accessories retailer who is running a promotion on wall art, you can create an audience of users who visited the wall art section of your website twice or more, or added wall art to their shopping cart within the last 30 days but didn’t make a purchase. To make sure you’re not overdoing it, you can set a frequency cap to make sure no user sees your ads more than 10 times. So put together some ads, make sure you are sending users to a relevant landing page and bam, you have a retargeting campaign.

The possibilities with retargeting are nearly endless, limited only by your website data supply and willingness to experiment.

Email Targeting

A newer feature available on several advertising platforms uses lists containing emails of your customers or email subscribers to target those users with ads from your business.

The key data here is the email address. If you use this feature on Facebook, they scrub your list against their user database to view — in aggregate, for security and privacy reasons — the number of users whose email addresses match those in your list. Then you can show ads specifically to those users.

All you need is a CSV file; as long as you can trigger an export from your POS (or if applicable, the platform you use to send marketing emails), you can use this targeting.

This type of campaign is a great way to target existing customers with specific messaging (maybe a special VIP discount or a new product from a line they’ve purchased in the past). It’s also a great way to reach out to customers you want to re-engage — for example, if someone was on your marketing emails list but unsubscribed, you can target them with messaging to encourage them to re-subscribe.

What’s next

Potential new customers for your business are much closer than you might think—you just need to know how to reach them, and learning how to use your own data is a huge step toward a targeted and cost-effective digital marketing strategy.

In our next post, we’ll explore how you can use your existing data to find new customers and build awareness for your brand.