Getting Brainy with Tina Comrie, CEO & Founder of The Attention Agency

In this month’s Getting Brainy, Greg Wood chatted to Tina Comrie, CEO & Founder of NZ-based company, The Attention Agency. They discuss how The Attention Agency helps its clients win the battle for consumers, plus the challenges that come with establishing your own business.

Tell us about The Attention Agency. What do you do and how do you do it?

The Attention Agency is an independent, full-service digital marketing agency with a laser focus on helping ambitious Kiwi businesses win where the battle for customers is really happening – online. 

We provide strategic advisory services for digital, content, and social marketing, plus we provide services to execute successfully on those strategies – content production, digital advertising, social media management, lead generation, and conversion optimisation. Our clients are all Kiwi-owned and operated businesses, of which about half are high-tech business-to-business service providers, and the other half direct to consumer e-commerce and hospitality. We operate on a long-term relationships basis and we are deeply committed to a high level of service – quality over quantity.

What were some unexpected challenges of setting up your own agency that you’ve had to combat?

I call it “keeping all my plates spinning”! It’s such a delicate balancing act – delivering exceptional results for clients, driving sustainable growth for our business, building a meaningful and fun team culture, and managing a huge number of relationships. The list goes on and on. 

All of those areas have been challenging at times, but probably the most unexpected challenge was falling really ill myself and realising that as the key person in our business, too many things relied on me. I had to spread the risk and develop other leaders within our team to ensure I am not the single “fail point”. That was a very hard lesson to learn, but as a result, my team really stepped up and we’re far more future-proof than we would have been had I not fallen ill.

What kinds of sectors and industries does The Attention Agency specialise in?

About half of our client roster are tech and software-related B2B businesses. The other half are lifestyle, e-commerce, and hospitality. It’s a great balance – it means that we can apply expertise and tactical knowledge from B2C over into our B2B approach and vice versa.

It has been hugely successful; for example, having our B2B clients using short-form video (something B2C brands have already been doing well for ages) gets so much more cut-through in typically “dry” marketing environments.

What do you think were the biggest changes within digital advertising over the past year?

The changes around cookies, privacy, and attribution are the main changes, but have been flagged for such a long time that we knew they were coming and have adapted to work within this new environment.

How can agencies work more effectively with clients during such a rapidly-changing time?

Bring expert insight to the table, always. We have the benefit of seeing what’s working across such a wide variety of campaigns and brands that we can take a step back and see the client’s challenges and opportunities in a way that perhaps they aren’t able to. 

Spotting and communicating those opportunities in a proactive and agile way is how we can be most effective for our clients. Agencies shouldn’t just sit back, take direction from clients and only ever work reactively.

Which channels should advertisers be looking at to find new audiences?

TikTok can no longer be passed over as a “youngsters” platform. We’re having success finding new audiences there for everything from mortgages to restaurants to tech! YouTube continues to surprise us as an effective brand-building channel.

In such a fast-paced environment, how do you (and your team) stay creative?

Coffee! Whiteboard sessions with our whole team including our non-creatives. Star-jumps! I know it sounds ridiculous, but when we’re really facing a creative block, we’ll have the whole team stand up and do 10 star jumps then yell out ideas directly after. Something about movement frees the body and mind up to flow easier…

Can you recommend your favourite podcast?

I listen to loads of different pods, but can’t say I have one solid favourite. I enjoy Sam Harris’ Making Sense, Jimi Hunt’s Inside Out, and Think Again hosted by Jason Gots & co.

What about your favourite newsletter?

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, does an epic weekly newsletter that is to the point, value-packed, and always gets me thinking.

What’s an advertising/ marketing campaign that really stands out to you?

The latest Adidas campaign around their sports bras. You can tell it’s driven by a solid insight (that often the best part of a woman’s workout is taking her bra off afterward!). Simple, effective, and bold. 

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