20 things we learned from 20 years of Goodstuff

20 things we learned from 20 years of Goodstuff
Stephens (left) and Hayes at the start of their Goodstuff journey

As we start plotting the next 20 years of all things Goodstuff Communications, being asked to reflect and shortlist the highlights and learnings from the last 20 years is an absolute privilege.

But when asked to also include “the silly things we’ve done along the way”… well, the long list is almost infinite and shortlisting is, indeed, very difficult.

But here we go — we’ve rattled through the grey matter, tried to stop short of clichés and attempted to align on a selection of the serious, the silly, the enlightening and the downright embarrassing.

1. We have the collective power to do good in the world and change society for the better. Advertising and media can shape how our nation thinks and behaves, and the more we use media for good, the better.

2. Stress-test your logo and design assets as widely as possible. Otherwise, four years later, what you see as a smiley face in the middle of your logo might be seen by others as something more phallic. And you can’t unsee that.

3. Invention works. We set out in 2004 to be the world’s most inventive media agency. Recent analytical work studying the impact of 30 clients over a period of up to 10 years versus the market of 1,700 tracked brands reveals that the work we do for our clients delivers better brand health than those at similar stage in their life cycle.

4. There are bad pitch ideas. Closing a new-business pitch to a frozen-food retailer by pulling out a mannequin’s right arm from under the desk and offering it as a sign of our commitment is not a clever idea.

5. Kudos to Colin and Nick. Colin Gottlieb is an excellent negotiator. Just as Nick Manning is an excellent mediator.

6. Stick to your beliefs. In a commoditised and often-opaque volume-based industry, sticking to invention and creativity has been hard at times and conforming to win more business would have been too easy. But sticking to what you believe and what you are good at works.

7. Be courteous to media owners. They are integral partners to media agencies and, too often, we hear of people within agencies treating them without respect and taking them for granted.

8. Putting people first pays off. Having a team of people who have your back, believe in your mission and contribute to agency culture pays back in income and brilliant work.

Company pic
The Goodstuff team


9. New business is a love-hate affair. Twenty years later, that’s not changed. Oh, and if the process goes silent, it’s never, ever a good sign. And never try to circumnavigate a pitch process. It really doesn’t help your case.

10. The leaders of the independent media agency community are the unsung heroes of our industry. Rarely clambering for the limelight, these leaders have been quietly building brilliant businesses and looking after their clients and employees for decades. Here’s to The Land of the Independents.

11. Some can be better than all. If you’re thinking of launching a new agency, remember it’s better to have a proportion of a successful business than everything of a failing one.

12. Say it with pride. If you’re selling your business, and care about how people will receive the news, rehearse your announcement speech before you start the process. Which names can you stand up with integrity and pride and announce “Our agency has now been acquired by <insert name here>”? Find the names that work and stick to the plan.

13. Avoid Natalie. If an intermediary offers you the opportunity to pitch against an agency run by a CEO called Natalie, think twice before saying yes.

14. Do the “right thing”. You’ll probably earn less, but you’ll sleep better.

15. Bobby’s here. After 20 years of industry speculation, we now have enough data to officially confirm that [chief investment officer] Bobby Din is occasionally in the office.

16. Think before you do. Or more specifically: think about how likely an agency rebrand is before getting inked.

Ben Tattoo Image

17. Commit to staff surveys. Not just the completion, but the fully transparent sharing of findings, listening and changing.

18. Use “agency of the year” as your sole KPI. The criteria represents a well-rounded agency, and if clients think you’re the best, that should be good enough.

19. Our Media Showcase is a labour of love. If you want six months of untold stress and sleepless nights, try putting on The Media Showcase in Leicester Square for 300 people. That does stress like nothing else.

20. Finally, nothing is better than seeing our inventive work help grow our clients’ businesses. It’s why we exist. And having groundbreaking work coming out of our agency for 20 years and still leading the pack today is the best feeling in the world.

Andrew and Ben square shot

Andrew Stephens (right) and Ben Hayes are co-founders of Goodstuff Communications

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