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    Tagline busters: what do agencies’ mottos really mean?

    It’s a perennial agency problem: how to stand out from thousands of competitors who do a similar thing. But a good tagline just might sum up why you’re better. We asked seven leaders from The Drum Network: where do their taglines come from – and do they mean anything, really?

    Jim de Zoete, executive creative director, Across the Pond: ‘We make the complex, human’

    We don’t, however, ‘make the complex human.’ That would mean we make robotic humans, surely? Or would it? That comma has caused more debate, resulted in more lost work hours and created more division than any comma in history.

    When writing an agency line, first reactions are critical, and the audience is as much internal as it is external. I remember unveiling it to one of our creative directors and she said: “You know what, I don’t actually hate that.” Praise indeed. I knew it was a winner.

    Kier Humphreys, experience director, Hallam: ‘Performance with purpose’

    In the short version, a creative prodigy (hi) spends an hour writing 20 alternative lines that ‘look about on brand,’ presents them with gusto, and their agency peers marvel at the genius on show.

    In the long version, it’s built on extensive strategic thought and soul-searching. A tagline is like an association with Jacob Rees-Mogg: once it’s out there, you have to live with the consequences.

    Hallam focuses on performance. But we also like to sleep at night. We do that by knowing our brand partners aren’t cartels or death cults. Sure, every agency is riding the train to Purpose Town, but purpose for us is more than a word; it is ingrained in our business model. So, we deliver ‘performance’ with ‘purpose.’

    I like the tagline because it’s a check and balance. We can’t escape it. Just as Jacob Rees Mogg’s friends can’t say they exist in anything but a Dickensian reenactment, we can’t deny that purpose is everything to us. 

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    Sam Zindel, managing director, Propellernet: ‘What drives us is different’

    Having been through a re-framing of our agency brand recently, the process to reach our new tagline is front of mind.

    In no particular order of importance, each of the following played a key role in shaping our one-line statement:

    • Dolphins

    • An orchestra in a bamboo forest

    • Electric sports cars driven by a Care Bear

    • The Stone Roses’ debut album

    ... which naturally led to our new mantra. It has nothing whatsoever to do with our belief in stakeholder (over shareholder) capitalism and how we are committed to making progressive business decisions based on factors that include the environment, our people and our social impact alongside commercials.

    Tania Barr, vice-president of brand strategy, Jellyfish: ‘Your Platform to Perform’

    RIP ‘Never Knowingly Undersold.’ A 96-year-old commitment from a brand to its customers, elegantly summarized in three words.

    Jellyfish is a little more fresh-faced. We agonized long and hard about how best to tell our emerging brand story, including whether we were a ‘tagline’ kind of place. We’ve always been entrepreneurial; keener on the work than the wordsmithing. But in the absence of a story, we were letting others define us with out-of-date labels. 

    We’re big believers in the ‘platform world’: ecosystems of engagement, where brands can thrive with the right foundations. Our promise is rooted in Jellyfish’s unique set-up, making us a true partner on that journey.

    We wanted to reclaim performance, which has unfairly been tied to the hard conversion, as opposed to what chief marketers look for across their marketing (we’re pretty sure our Netflix Emmy win is ‘performing’).

    Our line is a promise to clients and to our talent; our groundbreaking progression model means every ‘Jelly’ can shape their career and performance, exactly how they choose. 

    It’s no Just Do It, but we believe it’ll stand the test of time.

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    Emma Bartholomew, advisory board member, Paradise: ‘The agency for entertaining brands’

    This was a totally organic choice for us, and still rolls off the tongue as part of our agency name and identity whenever we’re speaking to clients.

    Our first clients were predominantly in this industry; entertaining and entertainment have always been a huge part of our DNA. As the agency grew across creative, social, events and merchandising, Paradise started working with a broader roster of clients, but our brand message remained the same. Our clients want to entertain their audiences through their content, marketing and creative, and we’re the team to help them.

    We have to keep ourselves in check to make sure we really are entertaining both clients and their audiences, otherwise we’ve scored an own goal. But it gives a good kick if we ever veer towards anything remotely dull.

    Jake Dubbins, managing director, Media Bounty: ‘to be the leading independent ethical creative and media agency’

    Differentiating creative and media agencies is notoriously difficult. Focusing purely on ‘the work,’ creativity or (my pet hate) ‘putting the customer at the heart’ is pretty much what everyone does.

    We don’t really have a ‘tagline,’ but are very public about our mission: to be the leading independent ethical creative and media agency. This is more than a glib tagline. It goes to the heart of everything we do. Everyone in the agency knows this mission because we bang on about it constantly, and it shows up in our actions.

    We have just become a B-Corp; we are Campaign’s fourth best place to work; we give all our staff five days’ volunteering leave on top of their holiday; we founded the Conscious Advertising Network; my business partner Emma is a trustee of our charity partner, World Land Trust, which we donate thousands of pounds to every year; we facilitate protest, hold ethical debates, offset all our advertising shoots and our media buys; we founded ACT Climate Labs; and we advise the United Nations on climate change communications.

    We’re also about to embark on a project to map what the leading independent ethical creative and media agency will look like in three years’ time, involving the whole agency. We’re excited to see what the next stage of our journey looks like.

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    Paul Button, chief executive officer, iCrossing UK: ‘Change. Made Simple.’

    Like many digital agencies, we’ve faced the problem of finding a positioning that would stand out from the crowd and resonate with customers’ needs (and the experience we strive to give them). We combine digital transformation consultancy with the activation expertise of an agency; our work is rooted in helping organizations manage and deliver digital step change. Honing in on this offering led us to our new positioning.

    This reflects how we help organizations cut through digital complexity with a customer-centric approach, and our passion for helping our clients build a culture that embraces change, wants to learn, tries new things and breaks down legacy silos.

    Our positioning is the agency’s guiding principle, our North Star. It runs throughout the agency, from how we communicate with each other to the development of our people strategy, ‘Step Together, Step Up and Step Forward.’ This positioning is the result of understanding the needs and pain points of our audience. The feedback from our people, clients and partners has been exceptional.

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