JT Guest Blog
With our Co-founder Lawrence Hansford having worked with Justin Thorne for nearly 15 years across multiple businesses and brands, we thought it worthwhile to get them in a room to discuss what it’s like to run an agency, how brand plays a role in a company’s success and what the future looks like for his agency, Algorhythm.
What is Algorhythm? And how did you come to set-up your own business?
AlgoRhythm is a digital agency that specialises in paid search, SEO and paid social. We tend to focus on ecommerce, b2b tech, legal, Fintech and social impact verticals. I set-up the business by accident – I don’t mean I tripped over the corner of my bed and founded an agency! By that I mean I was fired by a terrible agency one summer, had a four-month runway before I couldn’t pay the rent, so thought I would use the incredible people in my network to start my own agency – and try and avoid everything I had experienced culturally at my previous gig. I was also very fortunate to have worked for a brilliant agency called Lab, and they were kind enough to support my early years of consulting and they are pretty much responsible for the excellent network I have today. I also have a brilliant and supportive wife, who encouraged me and paid our rent whilst I waited for brutal 45 day term clients to pay their first invoices. Fun times but here I am about to enter our sixth year!
How was your transition from brand marketing to digital performance marketing and what drove this change?
It’s funny to think that there was a time before digital marketing – now of course there is no real difference, you can’t do marketing without digital being in the mix. When I started out, 25 years ago, I was doing print, radio and TV ads but I was fascinated by this thing called The Internet, and just seemed to gravitate towards it. I was working in banks marketing mortgages, personal loans and investment funds when the bank switched from green screen terminals to Windows NT. I just had a feeling the world was going to change and had always been interested in computers, gaming and websites. I was very lucky with the timing of the explosion of the Internet, and when I was at Lloyds, I built their first online fund valuation tool in partnership with iii.co.uk and within a year I was ecommerce and direct sales manager and I’ve never looked back. The last 15 years I have been mostly tech and agency side and love it.
How important is creativity for your business?
It’s critical. The only way we can move the dial on things like CTRs and CPAs and other key metrics in digital, is by being creative with assets, copy and landing pages. It’s 50% art and 50% science.
When you came up with your business proposition, how much did you look to focus your energy on your messaging and brand? And did you deem this important to get to market?
It was so important and we put a lot of effort into distilling how we wanted to position ourselves in the very crowded digital agency market. We all do the same stuff in terms of output and optimisation and we all say we are different. Anyone who has had multiple agencies pitching will see the same discovery, build and implementation process in some shape or form, we’re all ‘award-winning’ digital agencies and we all say our people are our biggest differentiator and of course we are all right. But what makes us different if processes are so similar from agency to agency?
Has your brand background helped your digital agency in any way? If yes or no, please explain.
Yes absolutely. A lot of what we do is balancing what actually works in the channels, with brand messaging – we can totally relate to a brand guardian being precious about copy but we’re pretty good as pushing the boundaries and creating the friction the channels need to grab a user’s attention even when it’s very noisy out there. I’ve been the brand guy, with my brand guidelines and regulators approving ad copy (great fun!) and frankly, someone searching for a solution in Google couldn’t care less about marketing hyperbole and is probably tired of brands telling them why they are great rather than showing them.
So you are the ‘Digital Agency Rebels’ – what drove the thinking behind this?
I’d spent a decade telling clients when a campaign or strategy was bullshit, and being honest about what works despite what the agency is trying to sell a client. It made me popular with clients and a nightmare for some colleagues. I have almost zero political capability or the patience for it – that and I am an absolute Star Wars geek and pop culture in general – just check out the office, it’s full of movie collectibles. A good mate coined the phrase and we played with ‘Rebels with a Cause’ which another mate coined – but the force was too strong in Digital Agency Rebels so we leaned into it. Our pillars are transparency, authenticity and performance. And I look like I just fell out of a roadies’ van most of the time!
How much of a role does brand play in the future success of Algorhythm?
It’s our guiding star – clients know if we’re for them just by looking at our website and for us, everything we do has to support those pillars. I know it may slow down our growth but I’m cool with that as long as we are delivering value.
How did you find the process working with Bunker on your brand and website?
Amazing! We kind of knew where we wanted to get to and had our strapline but the process of really getting into how we work and getting our personality across was so fundamental to our finished brand and when we saw it, we all went, YES that’s us! So many branding agencies underestimate ‘the thinking’ and focus on the output but it’s critical to getting the brand right. For me, the combination of proposition canvas and your brand dials methodology is the real genius – it’s genuinely the best process I have ever seen in a creative agency and removes the subjective likes and dislikes and dreaded HiPPO – highest paid person’s opinion. It’s also why you rarely miss the brief, as everything is pulling in the same direction.
So where next for Algorhythm, what does the next 12 months look like for the business?
We’re growing, in terms of the team and clients and we want to continue to help brands in the verticals where we know we can make a difference. I’d like to support our key service areas with some more specialists, win some more awards for our clients, make some room to actually market the agency as we never really have and keep having fun!
Find out more about our branding process
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