Overhaul your brand without meeting your agency

Matt Waksman of LOVE or FEAR and Gareth Main of live-in care specialist brand Elder explain how they went from pitch to national brand campaign without meeting in person.

Gareth Main, Director of Growth and Marketing, Elder:

Caring for the elderly was already at crisis point before Coronavirus hit. Elder was formed five years ago to reinvent what it means to age. We knew that the era of negative, whitewashed, patronising advertising around care and growing old needed to end, and we needed the right partner who understood this, and had the creative vision to make it happen. By late March, it was clear we’d need someone who could do it with a small budget, in a pandemic, and without meeting us in-person.

No pressure. It provided challenges but appointing an agency remotely is something I will do again. Having recruited creative, content, and media agencies remotely in 2020, we know it works, and the early results speak for themselves: currently we’re 70% up year on year in qualified leads, with a 25% reduction in spend.

Two tips I can give for running the pitch:

1) Make the brief detailed, keep the response details brief

The Van Halen brown M&Ms story is similar to how we ran our process. We put everything we wanted from the response into the brief hidden in plain sight. Every single word was deliberate. Not least the ones that requested responses were kept to ten slides. With over 60 responses, we had 600 slides to go through - or at least we would have if every agency had respected the detail in the brief. 26% of agencies didn’t keep to that, and one stretched beyond 40 slides. Those agencies did not make the final shortlist.

2) Give agencies the chance to meet people individually before their pitch

Agencies don’t tend to meet everyone involved until they show up at your office for the pitch and even then, it’s in a big group situation. Letting agencies meet key people before their final response helped them understand what every stakeholder wanted. The best pitches chimed with the five key decision makers. It wasn’t a case of the most senior person having the say.

Instead, Love or Fear’s pitch hit the right notes with each of us because they’d taken the time to understand our individual needs. It boded well for the game-changing work we needed.


Matthew Waksman, CSO, Love or Fear:

The fact that both companies are new meant we didn’t have many “old ways” to hang onto, but there were three key learnings:

1) Zoom bomb

We’re big on psychology, hence our name. We have a Clinical Psychologist in house and our methodology is built on emotional needs - getting into people’s heads is our job. We asked: how would clients feel not meeting us in person? Anxious, probably. The only way to grow trust was by reaching out to a much wider group. After the pitch, we kicked off with 30 very open zoom stakeholder interviews. By the end we knew more people and information than we would have under normal circumstances.

2) Mine existing data

Getting out in the research field and seeing the whites of customers eyes is great. But that wasn’t possible for much of 2020. So we made use of what was there – a wealth of historic data that Elder’s insight team already had. Doing justice to existing data was incredibly valuable. It revealed timeless emotional needs which, with analysis from our psychologist, led to highly emotional work. To test creative, we combined quant with smaller, more intimate, and more manageable zoom focus groups.

3) Less show, more share

Big reveals don’t really work on zoom. But, without the travel-faff of in person meetings, it’s easier to get people to jump on a quick video call. So rather than going for memorable, ‘aren’t we clever’ meetings, we did more working sessions, more often. It resulted in rapid sign offs with fewer surprises, and more input, on both sides. Appointing partners at a distance is daunting, but you may find a remote process, with the right attitude, can bring you closer than you think.


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