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About Drew McLellan

For almost 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies and then started his own (which he still owns and run) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops and more.

There’s a reason why most people do not own agencies

I know it’s a rare individual who can weather the rocky road that is agency ownership.  After spending more than a decade working with over 250 agencies a year (and doing it for my own agency for 25 years) I know it’s not easy.  The highs are glorious and nourishing.  But the lows — man, do they suck.  Whether it’s a tough streak of new business losses, a spiteful review on Glass Door, or an accounting error that impacts your taxes — it can be disheartening during those rough patches. One of the traits I admire most about agency owners is your tenacity. No matter how tough things are at the moment, you know that there’s a better day ahead and you are willing to power through to get here.  The reality is, like all businesses, there are cycles or seasons.  No agency is always on top.  No agency bats 1000.  But what stands out to me is how agency owners show up even when they are scared, hurt, or frustrated.  You refuse to be beaten back.  It’s a rare and potent combination of optimism, tenacity, and as my mom used to accuse me of often — sheer bullheadedness.  But it works. I will never forget the agency owner who stood in front of her peers at a network meeting and announced that they just been handed loss #12.  Her frustration was so palpable.  She finally exploded and said, “we just need a f’ing win.  I don’t care who it is or what it’s for.  But we need it.”  If you’ve owned your agency for more than three years, you know what she was going through.   Flash forward a year later.  Her agency was [...]

By |October 15th, 2021|

Agency Owners Should Leverage These Client Trends To Solidify Their Services

As the pandemic fades, many agency owners are breathing a sigh of relief. I understand the urge to take a break and slow down but now isn’t the time. The agencies that remain flexible and continue to invest in business development initiatives will capture the clients who are eager to rebound from 2020. In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com I discuss three client trends that emerged over the past year that I believe will affect agencies for the next 12 to 18 months

By |October 1st, 2021|

How to Use Emotional Theory to Create a Cultlike Brand Following

The content that leaves the strongest impact doesn’t detail a product’s every bell and whistle. Instead, it makes us feel something: happy, relieved, sad, angry, scared, etc. In this piece I recently contributed to SpinSucks.com I discuss how to use emotional theory to inspire a connection to your brand. 

By |September 24th, 2021|

When was the last time you sent flowers?

I read a statistic once about the frequency of floral deliveries in relation to the length of the relationship and as you might imagine, the longer the relationship had been around, the less often flowers got sent. It was an old article in Psychology Today and the point of the article was that in the mind of the sender, because he/she had been sending flowers for so long and because the relationship was stable — they viewed the flowers as less significant. Interestingly — from the recipient’s side of things, the exact opposite is true. The longer the relationship had been around and the less turbulent it was, the more the flowers meant because they were sent from the heart with no agenda other than to express the sender’s affection. The fact that they are frivolous and serve no functional purpose was part of the significance, from the receiver’s point of view. The article went on to talk about how during the courtship, gestures like sending flowers is almost expected. But once you’re an old married couple (I am paraphrasing) they’re more special because it’s not expected anymore. A few years ago, in one of our Agency Edge research projects, we identified that one of the triggers for a client to start being susceptible to another agency’s advances is because they feel like we don’t appreciate them anymore. We take the relationship for granted. When we were chasing after them — they got all of our time and attention. And we did it for free! But in many cases, they don’t feel our desire or love for them as much anymore. We don’t send flowers or write them love sonnets like we did in the [...]

By |September 10th, 2021|

What Broken Promises Do Inside Agencies

Right now, many agencies struggle with the same serious problem. This issue can drag down profitability, lower employee engagement, and harm the reputation of the offending company, and in many cases, the biggest offenders are agency leaders. Unfortunately for clients and teams, some agency leaders struggle to keep their promises. We might be busy — and we usually have valid excuses — but those excuses don’t change the facts. Every time we fail to deliver something on time or on budget, whether it’s for an internal client or an external one, we erode a bit of the trust in ourselves and in our business. And we set an example that can destroy an agency’s reputation, ability to grow, and profits. Mot agencies (and agency owners) deal with this issue at some point. I know I have — as have many of the other owners we’ve worked with over the years. You can change yourself and your agency’s culture, but to do so, you have to start taking accountability seriously. Saying it matters is lovely. Demonstrating it matters is when your team will actually take notice. If it’s time for you to revitalize accountability inside your agency, an article I wrote for Forbes may hold some tips worth considering. But it starts with recognizing that it’s not okay just because you’re the boss. In fact, it should be less okay because we’re the boss. This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |September 3rd, 2021|

What’s new at your agency?

Like it or not, our clients expect us to be ahead of the curve. They’re counting on us to keep learning and evolving our services to keep up with the constant motion that our industry (and culture) is experiencing. How are you and your agency doing that? An interesting way to assess if your agency is staying current is to evaluate your offerings. Ask yourself these questions: What product/package or service are we offering clients today that we didn’t offer a year ago? How have we refined/improved some of the products/packages and services that we did offer a year ago? Have we evaluated them to make sure they’re still on point? Where has our knowledge base increased in terms of audience, sales, technology, or marketing trends? If we got called to provide a speaker for a conference called “Where marketing is going” who would we send and what would they say? Who in our shop is learning something new and how are they transferring that knowledge to the rest of the team? What’s next in terms of my own learning (topic, method of learning, etc.) I’m hoping your answers pleased you. If you struggled to answer some of these questions or don’t like the answers, then maybe it’s time to examine your agency’s commitment to lifelong learning. How are you communicating to your team that you expect them to keep growing and learning? How are you supporting that effort, not just financially, but also in terms of setting the example, teaching what you know/learn, celebrating people’s growth, etc. One of the aspects of our business that I love the most is that we get to keep learning. We need to know so much about our [...]

By |August 27th, 2021|

Ready or Not, It’s Time to Create a Vaccine Policy for Your Agency

This is a topic you have to handle with care. People's views on vaccines can vary as well as their unique healthcare situations. In this piece I recently contributed to Mediapost.com I discuss how to create a vaccine policy for your agency and why it is important to be thoughtful about the parameters you put in place for your agency because employees and clients will likely have questions. 

By |August 20th, 2021|

Advertising’s Hybrid Future: Why Outsourcing Is Here to Stay

The pandemic wasn't the first time agency owners and advertising leaders "rented" talent. The 2008 recession forced many businesses to outsource advertising work. In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost.com I discuss how by leveraging the abilities of outsourced partners, agencies can cover skill gaps while making better use of full-time employees.

By |August 13th, 2021|

HR in a Post-Pandemic World: Where Are We Headed?

COVID-19 forced HR professionals to adapt to a new business landscape. Now that we're entering a post-pandemic world, HR must evolve again. In this piece I recently contributed to TalentCulture.com I discuss the new responsibilities of HR to revisit their cultures and policies, helping them understand the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and employee mental health.

By |August 6th, 2021|

When Was Your Last Public Speaking Opportunity? Here’s How to Brush Up on Your Skills.

They say that the only thing we fear more than public speaking is death -- but the process doesn't have to be that stress-inducing. In this piece I recently contributed to Entrepreneur.com I discuss how you can strategically approach  landing paid or free speaking engagements and bolstering your thought leadership. 

By |July 23rd, 2021|
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