Not for profit…

“It’s good to put something back” so the saying goes, but what do agencies get out of working for free? Don’t we do enough free work when we pitch? Some more creative musings from Ingenious here…

Like most decent creative folk, here at Ingenious, we have a heart. We have a history of (and take great pride in) working with various charitable causes, mainly through the donation of our time and expertise.

Over the years we’ve worked with a number of charitable causes both in Manchester (where we were first established) and Macclesfield (where we’ve been since 2009). Some have been ‘one off’ projects, such as our work for MAG, the Manchester based Landmines charity (this also, pricelessly, saw our MD abseil down Battersea Power Station) and some have subsequently become ‘real’ clients, such as BASIC, the brain injury centre in Salford. Most recently, we’ve worked extensively with Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival to lead on creative execution both on and offline. Indeed, as we type, we are currently working on concepts for the 2013 festival.

2012 Barnaby Festival brochure and website

Battersea Abseil poster for MAG

Why do we it? Well, apart from the warm glow of satisfaction knowing you’ve helped someone, occasionally we benefit from a little bit of raised awareness and also an enhanced portfolio. It also brings us into contact with some lovely people and in the case of Barnaby, has helped us become far more integrated into the local business community.

We’re not unique in doing this, we know. Many other agencies do the same, which is what makes it so nice to see that, even in these challenging economic times, the creative industry is continuing to ‘do its bit’. It’s not entirely selfless, we know, but still, it helps bring a warm glow to our hearts. Which seeing as the snow refuses to disappear completely is particularly useful in itself!

Seen any nice examples of what we’re talking about? Let us know!


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The Pitch List

How on earth do client companies create a pitch list? We’ve had a few positive and negative experiences of the pitch process recently. Given our MD’s experience of both sides of the fence, here are his thoughts…

The Numbers Game
How many agencies make a pitch? I suppose it depends on the type and size of the project. For agencies, we’ve all put our heart and soul into a pitch and then not been successful. For the client, sitting through presentation after presentation is hardly a good use of time, so how do we make things better for both client and agency?

Answer? Be selective. Personally, I like to see pitch lists compiled (at least in part) based on credentials. A good Marketing professional with a clear brief and an afternoon’s research should be able to identify three agencies that are well capable of delivering what they are looking for. Alternatively, why not consider some form of initial ‘expression of interest?’ This generally involves a credentials submission along with some recent / appropriate work examples.

Adhering to the above helps to limit the amount of (unpaid) work the agency has to undertake, and also makes the client look harder at the agencies they approach in the first place.

Pitch Fee? Or Pitch Free?
Ah, this is always a hot topic. The great and the good of the industry might tell you ‘we don’t free pitch’. Good for them. But I bet they did at some point. Should we ever find ourselves in that rarified atmosphere, we’ll let you know. But for now, we’ll live in the real world and acknowledge that free pitching is an occupational hazard. As far as paid pitches go, they do exist although in our experience, in the main they are little more than a gesture of goodwill and barely cover costs. It’s great that some clients make the effort though. How common are they? Well, we’ve undertaken two paid pitches in six years of Ingenious, so make of that what you will.

Your agency, your responsibility
If I can defend the client side here, there’s no point agencies whining about the unfairness of the pitch process if they’re not prepared to look before they leap. There’s a huge temptation to go for every opportunity that comes your way, secure in the belief that your creative brilliance will see you through. The reality, of course, is somewhat different.

Just as agencies implore clients to be selective, the same is true in reverse. We have gone through stages, particularly in the early days, when we’ve pitched at every time of asking. Experience, workload and understanding of your strengths eventually teach you to be a little more circumspect before reaching for the layout pad.

Look at the client. Look at the brief. Ask yourself this. Are we making the numbers up? Can we win this? If the answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively, then go for it. Unsure? Why not request a pre-pitch meeting with the potential client to understand a bit more about them? If you don’t think it’s for you, then have the confidence to say so, and explain why. You never know, it might actually do you more good in the long run…


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Finding that special someone…

Agencies employ many different ways of seeking out new clients. But what works best? Ingenious MD Paul Hartley shares some insight into the world of new business development…

Since the beginnings of the agency we’ve been pretty self sufficient in terms of finding clients. Which is just as well, seeing as we started out with none! By that I mean that, unlike some startups, there were no clients ‘taken with us’ from elsewhere, or pre-arranged business to start work on. Honest? Yup. Stupid? Probably…

You’re the one that I want…
At the beginning we worked extremely hard on research and profiling potential clients. We had a good feel for the type and size of business we thought we could attract, and we also highlighted certain sectors that we thought would fit with our approach. Once we’d built a database, we sent out a simple self-promotion mailer accompanied by tailored covering letters. Some of the initial respondents are, we’re delighted to say, still clients today.

For some specific ‘targets’ we created bespoke mailings – one in particular that stands out was a photo album we sent to the Marketing Director of a prestigious sports car marque, which resulted in a congratulatory phone call from them and some really interesting work as well. We also sent something very similar to a certain Manchester Football Club which again resulted in a meeting and subsequent pitch opportunity.

Take it slow
We’ve always been very patient when building relationships. It’s important to not become a pain to the person you’re trying to get work off! Having been ‘client-side’, I’ve had experience of agencies that don’t know how to take no for an answer. Nothing winds people up more.

Regular, well considered communication is key. In our early days, before Twitter was invented (God that makes us sound old!) we produced quarterly mailers, followed up by emails and or calls as appropriate. Today we still employ the good old-fashioned print piece, but of course we can supplement that with social media activity.

Again, at Ingenious we’ve always looked to the long term and as such, we most definitely favour the ‘softly softly’ approach. To back this up, take the example of two of our busiest clients. One took approximately two years from first mailing to giving us our first brief, and the other called us out of the blue one Friday afternoon inviting us to pitch, following around 18 months of gentle persuasion.

Work at it
Research. Then research some more. Try and devote some time each week to database development / potential client contact. Just a few ‘remember us’ emails / mailers each week can keep momentum up and put you at the top of the in-tray. Or the bin, if you’re unlucky. Which leads us on to…

Grow a thick skin
Nobody likes a knock back. But we’ve had plenty and will no doubt continue to get them. Learn to understand why, back off and if necessary, move on to someone else. There’s no point banging your head against a brick wall, and it’ll only annoy the target. “It’s not you, it’s me…” anyone?

Nothing lasts forever…
Sorry to end on a negative, but always bear in mind that it’s rare, if impossible, to keep a client forever. Business relationships, like any other, change and evolve and sometimes people move on. Loosing your first client is a real watershed moment, and it genuinely does hurt, but once you’ve been through it the importance of continually keeping the new business machine moving comes into sharper focus. The other side of the coin is learning how to keep a working relationship fresh and new. But that’s another story…


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Brief Encounter

Is there any such thing as a bad brief? Or is it just a mutual lack of understanding between client and agency? Here are our thoughts…

Recently we’ve had a flurry of new briefs into the agency and it’s been interesting to look at the different approaches from the various businesses involved and the varying quality of their briefs. Working with new clients always perks up the team, and it’s made us think a little bit more about what we need to see in a good brief.

So, if you’re a client company, here are our top tips to creating a brief that is more likely to help your agency deliver what you’re asking for…

1. Background
Don’t be afraid to overdo the scene setting. Agencies will take the bits they need and skip what they don’t. Better to include too much detail than not enough.

2. Benchmark
Outline key competitors / comparators, be they brands, products, or whatever. Clearly outline the USP’s and / or key features of the project so they can be extracted and used as part of the creative strategy.

3. Tone of Voice / Positioning
If this project were a supermarket, or a car, or a watch, which would it be? This helps enormously in knowing where to ‘pitch’ the look and feel of the work.

4. Target Audience
If you don’t know who you want to target, how can the agency produce work that appeals to them?

5. Format / Design Cues
Taking the time to produce examples of work you like (or don’t) can save valuable time and effort for the agency and avoid heading down any blind alleys. However, be careful not to be too prescriptive. Us creative can get very moody about that sort of thing!

In conclusion, there’s no magic formula, although the above points work for us more often than not. There’s a school of thought that suggests a formal brief becomes less important the longer agency and client collaborate, but we disagree. As with any relationship, it’s easy to become complacent, so constantly working together to formalise a brief is a good way of getting the best out of both parties, defining expectations and prolonging the working relationship between agency and client.

So, clients and agencies alike, lets remember what made things so special in the first place, and keep that magic happening…


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From Skye to Shoreditch – a week in the life of Ingenious Creative

It’s been quite some time (it feels) since we put a blog post up here, so it’s fitting that there’s been much going on at Ingenious since the last one. As with many agency blogs, there’s a limited amount we can tell you about what we’ve been working on, partly due to embargoed content, partly due to client confidentiality, and in the case of recent pitches we’ve yet to hear the result of, mainly down to the desire to not temp fate or prematurely count our poultry.

But we’re busy, ok?!

We’ve been working with our friends at Cheadle Hulme School for almost a year now. The past twelve months has been all about setting out our vision for their brand, learning about this most wonderful of Schools and generally getting the foundations for what we hope will be a long standing working relationship, firmly in place.

At the beginning of the year, however, we stepped things up a gear and began the journey of taking the brand to the next level. We are fortunate indeed that in CHS we have a client that embraces this change and indeed positively pushes us to deliver it, so latterly we’ve been working in some really interesting photo and video shoots in both the North West and London, capturing the thoughts of students both past and present. This forms the backbone of our new campaign for CHS. Some behind the scenes images of which you can see here, but for the reasons outlined at the beginning of this blog, you can’t see everything just yet. Sorry…

Video shoot

Getting the details...






Stills shoot

Stills shoot

Stills shoot










So, why Skye to Shoreditch? Well, recently our glorious leader headed off to the beautiful Isle of Skye for his best friend’s 40th birthday. Being quite the sad man these days he took his mountain bike, as you can see from the images here. However, with a busy week approaching, he resisted the temptation of whisky and so forth, and embarked on a marathon journey south, taking in the isle of mull on the way, arriving in Shoreditch for a photo shoot, on time at least, if not bright eyed or particularly bushy tailed.

(In the interests of clarity it must be pointed out that he made this journey not on the aforementioned bike, but in a rather comfortable 4×4, so it wasn’t exactly an Olympian standard of strength and endurance on display, but still…)

That sinking feeling...

Beautiful Sky(e)line...







Our Shoreditch residence...

Our route to the studio...

Nevertheless, in between times the intrepid Ingenious boys managed to fit in a bike ride from Macc to Manchester and back, and as they did managed to wave off the Mersey ferry cruise off on its journey from Salford.

Cheerio, laaa...

Pitstop at MediaCity

Pitstop at MediaCity







Last month we finished our work on an installation at Imperial War Museum. Entitled ‘Build The Truce’, the display looks at people living and working in the aftermath of conflict. They share their perspectives on how we move away from, or towards, peace. Regions such as Iraq, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, El Salvador and Kosovo are all featured.

Prior to opening...

To learn more about Build The Truce you can visit the Imperial War Museum website here or the BTT blog here.

And finally, we’ve recently produced two lovely little brochures which showcase our work for both our ‘blue chip’ and ‘SME’ clients, so of you’d like a copy of either (or both) you can email us here…

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That was our week, that was #19

It’s been a little while since we last updated our blog, a frankly shambolic effort that we couldn’t allow to continue further. So, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the author is sat on the floor of an exhibition space in South London, here’s a little rundown of what we’ve been up to, in and out of the studio, over the past few weeks. The eagle eyed amongst you may notice something of a blue stream running through this post. Can’t imagine why…

From a work point of view, it’s been pretty busy. We’re thrilled with the feedback we’ve had to all the Barnaby Festival work,almost all of which has now broken cover, including the event brochure and the website, designed by us and built by the indefatigable Andrew McCully. Top work Andrew! (unlucky with the Premier League though. But more of that later…)

Barnaby work...

Continuing with the work theme, we’ve been working hard on a couple of exhibition projects for long standing client, Imperial War Museums. We’re particularly thrilled with the fact we’ve been working at IWM London on ‘Build The Truce’, which opens next week.

Here’s a couple of ‘work in progress’ shots, which, seeing as it still is a work in progress and, at the time of writing, IWM’s graphics contractors are due on site in about 20 minutes, it’s as close as you can get to the finished thing. Which is very BLUE. Unless you come down here and have a look, of course. And we strongly suggest you do.

Building The Truce

Building The Truce 02

Over and above this, we’re looking forward to progressing some significant new projects for the two schools in our lives, namely Cheadle Hulme and Manchester Business, plus a really nice piece of branding for a performing arts company. So it’s all go!

Away from the office, our glorious leader’s quest to break every bone in his body on a mountain bike continues. A recent spill did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm, and every Monday morning brings new tales of his and Graham’s exploits down hills and on assorted journeys.

One Manchester ride a couple of weeks back seemingly took him through Tatton Park (and part of a plane, bizarrely) past most of our clients, and into Media City, as you can see from the pictures. Continuing the blue theme, what did he happen to see on the BBC’s large screen? Yup, you guessed…

This (Media) City is Ours...

Media City by bike. And Instagram...

As some of you may know, the biking is all for a good cause, namely raising money for the NSPCC on a ride from Manchester to Liverpool on June 3rd. Visit Paul’s just giving page by clicking here…

In other news, here’s a few random images captured on our travels, including a particularly intriguing bus shelter ad for a beer with a BLUE related name…

Typography on a bench, Salford Quays

We saw it standing alone...

Imperial War Museum, May 2012

So, finally, why the blue references? Well, those of you untouched by the beautiful game may be unaware that our leader’s beloved Manchester City recently won a little cup known as the Barclays Premier League. Now, for some football teams winning things is perhaps expected, or even demanded, every season, but City fans are a little different. The last time a similar triumph was claimed by City was so long ago, he wasn’t even born. (Yes, THAT long ago) so to see it happen, and on his son’s birthday as well, was something special. He was over the (blue) moon, you might say.

He must have been, because he’s scarcely stopped going on about it since…

Happy Birthday Son!


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That was our week, that was #18

So as we head into the Easter break, what’s been happening here at Ingenious? Well, we’ve moved offices to the top floor of the lovely Jordangate House! We needed a bit more space anyway, so now we’ve finally got the top floor finished, it made sense to get settled in. Best of all, we’ve got a lovely view over the hills. Plus we’re on the same floor as the kitchen, so it’s win-win. There’s a few pics of the move below. Oh, and the negotiations over the installation of a pool table are ongoing…

When we’ve not been moving in, we’ve been working hard on a number of interesting and creatively rewarding pitches. One in particular has had the glorious leader hand rendering type, amid mutterings of “takes me back, this…” Bless him. Ongoing work has also seen us busy, plus we’ve finally got some Barnaby Festival stuff out there, so it’s been good to see the fruits of everyone’s labours start to be seen around the town.

Just like the old days...

Barnaby 'save the date' cards @ Treacle Market

We’ve also been pressing on with new work for heritage car parts business Leacy Classics. We got some great new stuff through to shoot last week, including these retro oil cans, perfect for sitting next to your cloth cap and string backed driving gloves. (they give you a bit more ‘purchase’, according to Alan Partridge) Away from oily rags, we’ve been busy working on a branding project for a performing arts company, printed literature for Manchester Jewish Museum and a really nice project for the Development Office at Cheadle Hulme School.

Back to the future...

Lastly, whilst on our travels, we’ve been getting all “instagrammy” it’s becoming a bit of an addiction (to be fair, there’s worse ones to have!) and here are a few of our favourites…

Town Square, Macclesfield

Imperial War Museum, London

University of Manchester

Charles Street, Manchester

It’s another busy week post Easter, but despite this the glorious leader’s off to Devon with his family in a 1967 ‘splitty’ (a Volkswagen camper van to the rest of us!) so expect the Ingenious twitter to be commandeered with images of a ‘surf’s up’ nature. Or not, as the weather may well dictate…

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That was our week, that was #17

Just a quick one from us this time as it’s been fairly hectic here. As we type the glorious leader’s on his way back from London where he’s been meeting with the wonderful Imperial War Museum, plus researching a number of locations to help us with a forthcoming project. Hush hush at the moment, but we’ll tell you more as soon as we can. Oh, the secrecy…Continuing the museum theme, our friends at Manchester Jewish Museum have been really pleased with the children’s ‘dressing up corner’ we designed for them recently, to coincide with the festival of Purim. As soon as we get some pics, we’ll put them up…

In addition to the IWM project, the studio is crackling away under a heavy but interesting workload, most notably new projects for the ever-interesting Cheadle Hulme School and also a pair of brochures we’re presenting to a new client next week. Perfect time for our colour printer to start being difficult. Not. That, plus a few other ‘admin’ issues will be tackled over the weekend, giving us a decent start to the week. In terms of recently completed work, it’s print all the way, with a couple of Manchester Business School brochures and this nice little piece for CHS, which outlines the future long term strategy of the School.

Forward thinking...

We have also recently completed the CHS former pupils yearbook, known as The Old Waconian (Waconian being the name for pupils of the school – see previous blog entries for a history lesson!)

WAC - Warehousmen & Clerks, dontchaknow...

The ongoing refurb of Jordangate House continues in conjunction with our neighbours, Axis Accounting. We’ve been working together over the last two years to bring our home up to scratch, and the next phase is about to commence. We’re going to be splitting the floorspace equally, and we’ll be moving to the top floor (always thought we’d get to the top one day!) to give us amongst other things, more space, a better view and importantly, closer proximity to the kitchen! All this means that the legend that is ‘Derek the Decorator’ will soon be back in, and to match the new interior, we’re getting the front of the building refurbed and painted, to match the back that was done last year. The front is slightly more problematic in that we need to get scaffolding erected, but it’ll be worth it when it’s finished, as the saying goes. Whilst we’re up there, we’re also going to be putting a flag on our tragically unadorned flagpole. Watch this space!

Soon to be painted!

Lastly, and to celebrate our glorious leader’s discovery of this new thing called instagram (he’s only just found out the Titanic has sunk!) here’s one of his latest masterpieces, of a bright yet moody Macclesfield. Hidden talents, you see…

Market Place, Macclesfield. March 2012

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That was our week, that was #16

First things first. There’s been another birthday here at Ingenious this week, namely Louise who celebrated her big day by promptly booking the day off. No cakes, no treats, nothing. Cheers then…In fairness moving house probably had something to do with it, but even so, poor show really ;-) Still, Lou’s birthday was as good as excuse as any for a bit of design based retail therapy. Cue a nice box of pantone related items appearing…

Mugs, pads and pencils. All stuff we like...

Speaking of age, (well we kind of were) last night our glorious leader went off to Manchester Photographic to relive his youth, and listen to a talk by Kevin Cummins and Peter Hook, and see Kevin’s exhibition of Joy Division photographs. Once again, retail was involved, with a wonderful book making an appearance in the studio this morning, signed no less. He also got his “we’re not really here” signed, as of course Paul and Mr Cummins share a love of Man City.

Great band, great club, great photographer. Manchester, so much to answer for...

Back on the work front, we’ve had a few great meetings recently, all leading to new work for Ingenious. We’re going to be working on branding projects for a Community Arts organisation and also a Commercial Property developer, and also some wonderful new pieces of design, both digital and print, for Cheadle Hulme School. Since being appointed by CHS in mid 2011, we’ve spent the first six months of our relationship refining and implementing our brand refresh and rolling out some wonderful pieces of work, some of which you can see below. The focus for the next six months is to move things forward, both strategically and creatively. We’re fortunate indeed that we’ve a client that trusts us and allows us to be custodians of such a renowned brand, and it’s a challenge we continue to relish.

A selection of CHS print work

As ever, we’ve got a diverse spread of ongoing work, but two projects in particular stand out. Both museum installations, but of very different types and for clients old and new – Imperial War Museum North and Manchester Jewish Museum.

The IWM project is all about creating a brand and environment in which a specially commissioned piece of film will be displayed. The MJM piece aims to engage with children and teach them all about different items of Jewish religious clothing. As we type, the MJM install will have begun, so we’ll be able to show some shots of that next time, whereas the IWM project is in the very early stages, and will see us work on it throughout 2012 at both IWM North and IWM London. So lots to get on with!

Closer to home, but just as close to our hearts, we’ve been working hard with the good people from Macclesfield Barnaby Festival, and following a meeting last week have all but signed off on the look and feel of the 2012 event. Again, we’ll be putting visuals of this work up as soon as we’re able. The initial roll-out will be around the end of March, so you’ll be able to see a sneak preview here soon!

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That was our week, that was #15

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since our last TWOWTW, so plenty to squeeze in here. So, where to begin? Let’s start with people getting old…

The glorious leader had birthday earlier in the month, and is now teetering on the brink of middle age. It’s kind of appropriate (and funny) that his rediscovered passion for mountain biking neatly mirrors his age, as they both involve rapid descents from here on in. Well, not so rapid, in the case of the biking…all joking aside, happy birthday boss, and thanks to the rest of the Hartley’s for the MCFC inspired cakes.

The Fire Brigade advised against a candle for every year...

Moving on to more important matters, the studio has been really busy recently, working on some major publications for our two School clients (Cheadle Hulme and Manchester Business) plus a lovely brochure for the equally lovely Eclectic Hotels. A marathon signing off session last week saw those all safely off to print, so we’re looking forward to seeing them completed and delivered shortly. We’ve also made some really strong progress on our work with Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival, working up two creative routes – one evolutionary, one more revolutionary, so it’ll be interesting to see how far we can take things. Either way, we can’t wait to get the final work out in the Town over the coming weeks. Let us know what you think!

Sneak preview 1: Eclectic Hotels brochure

Sneak preview 2: Cheadle Hulme School magazine, "Vision"

A sea of proofs. Kevin Cummins' book isn't a job, it's just lovely to look at...

We’ve just finished off (at long last – sorry Mike!) a nice little website for prestige builder and all round good bloke, Mike Fairhurst. We did Mike’s corporate identity last year, so the website was the next stage. Whilst we’re always thrilled to work on large projects for big clients, we also love creating work for smaller businesses and actually help them grow. Here’s a quick screengrab (and link) to JM Fairhurst.

Finally it's live!

Forthcoming work is equally exciting, with a number of museum and exhibition projects on the horizon for clients both old and new. As those of you who know us and our work will understand, we really enjoy working in “the built environment”, particularly when there’s an immovable deadline – usually a preview evening or press launch – that means project management is as crucial as creative execution. It’s early days for these projects so we can’t say much at the moment, but as ever, the combination of great subject matter and a good clients who understand the creative process means it’s up to us to deliver. No pressure then!

We’re also proving very popular with our suppliers at the moment – we’ve had a number of referrals from various sources, which is very welcome and gives us encouragement that we’re doing our job properly if people are prepared to recommend us. Furthermore, we’re already seeing significant growth with existing clients, so we’re thrilled with how 2012 is shaping up, but mindful that it’s only February!

A recent trip to London saw us pop into the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill. It’s a real treasure trove of memories, and what the place perhaps lacks in interactivity or a cutting edge museum ‘experience’, it makes up for in sheer depth of content. Particularly interesting (apart from the many “I remember that!” moments) were the displays that charted the evolution of a brand through the ages. Well worth a visit if you’ve an hour to kill between meetings, as we had. Paul also found time to take a photo of a Scooby Doo wrapped Porsche on the Portobello Road, but that’s probably just the mid life crisis kicking in…

Childhood memories (if you're as old as Paul...)

Johnson's Baby Powder


Thank You Very Very Very Very Much....

"Yikes" indeed...

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