#AOTYAwards spills: The Teeth bares its indomitable spirit

Winning the bronze award for Boutique agency of the year for MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Agency of the Year is creative agency The Teeth. Founded in 2015, the agency boasts of a team made up of members from a multitude of backgrounds with a wealth of expertise that bridges disciplines and industries. This includes integrated advertising, branding and design, sonic branding, shopper marketing, website development and social media management.

In this pandemic-hit year, the agency had to be extremely flexible in handling client's pivoting priorities. It has seen dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour throughout the year and has learnt to translate these shifts into new business opportunities. These agile efforts have not gone to waste, and the agency has since gotten approached by companies looking for smaller, faster-moving agencies that can help them better navigate the unpredictable environment. The Teeth's tenacity this year has also resulted in it being shortlisted as finalists for the categories for Experiential marketing agency of the year and Independent agency of the year. In an exclusive interview, Ben Agnew, managing partner of The Teeth, shares how the agency is preparing for the year ahead here.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What are some of the expectations your clients now have for your brand?

Agnew: The main reason clients come to us is that we’ve always been agile and business-focused. Yet, this year more than ever, they’re expecting us to be extremely flexible in handling their pivoting priorities, and to keep a close eye on what’s happening in a way of trends and consumer shifts in behaviour. The ever-changing COVID-19 environment meant that we had to think on our feet all year long. We’ve focused on these emerging client needs and also ensured that everyone in the team embraced a positive and open mindset to deliver on the new challenges.

How has your marketing/your clients’ marketing plans shifted this year?

Agnew: When COVID-19 hit early in the year all marketing plans were disrupted and many campaigns cancelled altogether. The months that followed were particularly tough, learning to deal with extraordinary uncertainties imposed overnight and attempting to anticipate what could have happened next.

Over the last few months, as everyone has come to terms with COVID-19 and the fact that it was here to stay, there’s now less of a need for scenario planning but rather a fresh approach to campaigns— upweighting digital as the priority focus and building our plans around new consumer behaviours and needs.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Agnew: During the pandemic we’ve seen a number of fast-raising trends within the industry and I do believe that many of these will remain, as restrictions ease and we enter a post-pandemic world.

As mentioned above, speed and flexibility will continue to be key. We are seeing dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour and also in how businesses are adapting accordingly fast. As an agency we are translating these unprecedented shifts into new business opportunities. We are now being approached by companies looking for smaller, faster-moving agencies that can help them better navigate the unpredictable environment.

On the consumer front, we see people increasingly happier about staying in rather than going out. They’re now more likely to chill with close friends in local neighbourhoods than go into town, for example. And the convenience of online shopping paired with efficient delivery will become more relevant.

As an agency we’re monitoring these behavioural and cultural shifts so our people can create at speed and within the most relevant context. So much has changed in the last year that a campaign that was developed in 2019 would have a lot of trouble remaining culturally relevant if launched fresh in 2020’s chaotic environment.  

And of course, digital channels will continue to thrive so we will keep focusing on producing digital-first campaigns well into the future —continually enhancing our core expertise and looking for specialist partners that can help complement our digital offering.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Agnew: I think the best marketing these days is from brands that are looking at their ideas through a cultural lens: being bold and brave enough to make news versus ads. They’re finding "news hooks" and in doing so, successfully convincing others to tell their stories for them.

My favourite campaign earlier this year would be Burger King’s “Mouldy Whopper” for being brave enough to challenge category norms with an idea so counterintuitive but culturally spot on to communicate the ‘beauty’ of no artificial preservatives.

In more recent months I loved Apple’s “The Whole Working from Home Thing” as another example of a brand not afraid of promoting its products through a highly-relatable and raw story that echoes real life experiences and feelings, not the perfect world of advertising.

How are you planning for 2021?

Agnew: That sounds like a trick question as, at this point, it’s hard enough to predict how the market will evolve next month —let alone next year.

But we have not given up on our ambitions and we’ve learnt a great deal about how to thrive in a constant state of flux. When the going gets tough, our clients are craving for (and rewarding) our nimble approach. We’re fighting every day side by side and for every door that closes another opens. We’re not dwelling on what could have been but on what could become. And moving fast to get it.

This year we’ve doubled our digital and planning capabilities, and strive to remain creative in all aspects of our business. The challenges we faced accelerated many of our plans and sharpened our focus so we’re entering the new year better prepared than we were last January.

If one thing is sure, now the only way is up.

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