Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Strength and Clarity: Why Agencies Must Take a Chance on Bravery

Advertising Agency
London, UK
As part of an ongoing interview series, Five by Five’s UK head of producers Ellie Crew reflects on how strength and clarity can help agencies produce braver, punchier, and more effective work

Today, the communications landscape is more cluttered and competitive than it has ever been before. For brands, crafting a distinctive voice powerful enough to project through the noise is an existential challenge. 

Global independent creative and production agency, Five by Five, has developed a strategy to instill a strategy to guide clients and colleagues in being braver. Whilst there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there is a set of guiding principles that the agency applies to every facet of what it does. Namely, Five by Five identifies strength and clarity as the two keys to effective brand communication.

Over the course of this series of interviews, we’ll find out how Five by Five integrates the ‘strength and clarity’ philosophy into everything it does. Today, we speak to the company’s head of producers, Ellie Crew. 

Q> Hi Ellie, in the context of our industry, what does ‘strength’ mean to you? 

Ellie Crew> Hi, I’d define strength in two ways. Certainty in the way we communicate, and also bravery. When I say ‘bravery’, I’m talking about how far we’re willing to push things in terms of our clients and our projects. When brands come to us looking to drive a significant impact on their business, we know that they need to be seen, understood and remembered, that requires doing things differently and that in itself requires bravery.

Q> ‘Bravery’ is a word that has come up a few times when we speak to people from Five by Five. What makes it so important to you guys? 

Ellie> I think it will apply differently to different people in the business. From my perspective in production, it means being willing to go beyond what’s expected and sometimes delivering the seemingly impossible. Clients come to us because they want to be pushed further, so our job is to go beyond the limit and deliver a radical idea which really blows expectations away. 

Q> Can you give an example of an occasion where you’ve landed one of those brave ideas?

Ellie> Yeah, there’s one that jumps right to the top of my mind. It wasn’t the biggest-budget campaign, but it was one of the tightest turnarounds. Our client, B&Q, was running a ‘3 for 2’ offer and they told us they needed a TV campaign to go live within the next two weeks as they already had the spot booked. 

So given the tight time frame, I think our team could have been forgiven for going with simple, tried and tested stuff in that category. But we didn’t. One of our creatives came up with an idea that was totally music-focused, with products moving up and down to William Tell’s Overture, finishing with a clever twist on their ‘you can do it’ line. ‘You can do it when you 3 for 2 it!’ It was abstract, upbeat and it played with their brand codes. It was genius, even if I do say so myself, and the client loved it. So, less than two weeks later, we were all watching it on TV. 

Above: Five by Five’s campaign for British DIY retailer B&Q was turned around in less than two weeks.

If I’m being honest, I think most of our team probably thought that idea would never get the green light. But we knew the quality was there, and that’s why I believe it took bravery to champion it to the client. And, by the way, it also took bravery from the client. It ended up becoming one of the client’s top-performing ads ever, so the rewards are plain to see. 

Q> And does that kind of success make it easier for you guys to sell brave ideas in the future? Or is it always a bit of a gamble? 

Ellie> I think it’s still a gamble. Well, if it’s not, then it’s not really brave! The truth is that there are always so many variables - it could be the brief itself, internal pressures that the client has, you can never know. So, yes, you’re always going to need that bravery despite what you’ve done in the past. 

And, as a producer, one of the things you’re watching out for is how an idea evolves on its journey to being delivered. There’s always the potential for an initial idea to be diluted as it gets produced and developed, so it takes a certain kind of tenacity to ensure that things stay on-track. 

Q> And what about outside of Five by Five - is there an example of a piece of work from elsewhere in the industry that you believe represents strength and clarity? 

Ellie> One that comes to mind was a piece of work for the East London Liquor Company. They recently ran a campaign for their gin which was incredibly bold. It’s simple in terms of having the product prominent in the image, but they’ve run with a suite of different headlines. And the copy was really strong. 

Above: East London Liquor Company’s campaign from Ragged Edge stands out as unique within its category. You can see more imagery from the campaign here

The reason I’ve picked that campaign is because it cuts through so much of the standard stuff you see with alcohol brands. Their brand has a higher price tag, so it would have been easy for them to lean into the ‘premium’ angle and set themselves up as maybe slightly aloof and mysterious. But they went in the complete opposite direction with such a punchy and authentic campaign that really landed.

Q> And do you think, with the sheer amount of noise in media and entertainment today, it’s especially hard to achieve that cut-through? 

Ellie> Yes, and I think it makes authenticity more vital. Again, this is an area where strength and clarity can work wonders because they’re impossible to fake. If you don’t have authenticity you absolutely risk fading into the background and becoming part of that noise. 

Just thinking about the two examples we’ve discussed, they’re both incredibly direct but they retain a sense of personality that communicates what the brand is all about. So that’s what strength and clarity buys you - a clear line of messaging that people will remember. It’s precisely because of how cluttered the landscape is that these qualities are so important. 

Q> Finally, what are the risks you run into when you don’t ensure strength and clarity are built into your strategy? 

Ellie> If you don’t have clarity, you’ll become too complex to be understood. If you lack strength, you’ll become predictable and, ultimately, forgettable. So really, having one of the two is not enough. Your messaging will become muddled and eventually lost if you don’t combine them both. 

It may sound overly simplistic, but I truly believe that listening is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on having both. More than anything else, I push producers to make sure that they’re listening to the client because without listening and a clear objective,you’ll struggle to deliver on strength and clarity. Essentially if we can deliver on those then we are off to the best start. 

Work from Five by Five UK
Click & Collect
Tradies x Ex Pros
Screwfix Sprint
Don't Stop. Sprint.