Learning from 2014 Small Agency Award Winners


Ad Age recently announced the winners of their Small Agency awards, and we thought it would be a great time to take a look at the winners to see what they are doing right in the advertising industry. Here at Lab42, we always try to stay in the know, and while we like to be trendsetters ourselves, it never hurts to follow suit when good ideas and practices are presented. There were 2 companies – Muhtayzik Hoffer and Proof Advertising – that won the gold and silver awards, respectively. Let’s take a look at a few of the learnings from these agencies.

Agencies are no longer simply production shops – they need to also be brand ambassadors and offer insights to the clients.
As we all know, agency work is significantly based on relationships between the agency and the brand. If the brand trusts the agency to understand their consumers, and the agency can execute on these insights, not only will the campaigns be more successful, but the agency/brand relationship will flourish as well.

Work with your clients to test out and execute new advertising and marketing practices.
Muhtayzik Hoffer was able to use having Netflix as a client to practice and execute rapid content creation that could be used across social media channels. Keeping your options open to new strategies might allow you to strike it big with your next client.

Allow your relationship with the brand to evolve.
Similarly to testing out new marketing and advertising practices, you should also not be constrained by the products that your client is currently offering. By collaborating closely with your client on their advertising campaigns, your agency might locate a niche that your client is not serving that will allow you to uncover a blind spot where a new product extension could be highly successful.

One of my favorite, most striking quotes from President of Proof Advertising, Bryan Christian, is that “instead of just an ad agency, we’d rather be seen as creative business people who solve business challenges.” This quote, and by winning the Silver Award, goes to show you that agencies need to evolve their business practices to really understand the client and offer up business solutions instead of just great creative.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of the agency/brand relationship? What is your agency currently doing to help support your clients outside of simply producing and executing campaigns?

The Latest on Millennials and Transportation: Auto Preferences, Must-have Features, and More

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Many recent studies point out that Millennials are driving less than previous generations. With the decline in automobile ownership among this generation, we wanted to dig deeper to provide the latest insights on Millennials and transportation to illustrate what really matters most to them when it comes to shopping for and purchasing a vehicle.

Among current Millennial car owners, the majority (82%) purchased their current vehicle. Thirteen percent received their vehicle as a gift, and five percent are leasing. Just over half of purchasers (54%) bought a used vehicle, while 46 percent bought a new car.

Breaking it down even further, Millennials were split down the middle with 51 percent financing their car and 49 percent paying with a single payment.

One of the biggest takeaways from our research indicated that despite Millennials’ tech-savvy nature (and their shift toward online shopping), the vast majority still purchase vehicles from dealerships and intend to keep doing so. Among those purchasing new cars (as opposed to used), 96 percent purchased or leased from a dealership. Just 3 percent purchased from a website; the remaining one percent said other. Even among those purchasing used cars, 44 percent went to a dealership, and 28 percent purchased from a family member or friend. Just 4 percent bought their car from a website like AutoTrader or Cars.com.

What’s more, Millennials plan to keep relying on dealerships over websites for future purchases. Seventy-seven percent said they plan to buy or lease from a dealership when they make their next vehicle purchase, while just five percent plan to buy online from an auto website (i.e., AutoTrader).

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The study also revealed key differences between older Millennials (ages 25-34) and younger Millennials (ages 18-24). Overall, Millennials are enthusiastic about green alternatives, with 75% interested in purchasing or leasing a hybrid car and 66% interested in a plug-in electric car.

A complete topline report is available for download on the Lab42 website.


This survey was conducted among 500 American adult Millennials between the ages 18 and 34 from March 28-30, 2014. Initially, survey participants were asked about what types of vehicles they own including cars, SUVs and motorcycles/bikes. Eighty-seven percent of Millennials owned a passenger vehicle and were asked follow-up questions to understand more about their purchase decisions, car maintenance behavior, monthly spending, technology preferences and future car purchasing plans. Data for those with a passenger vehicle was analyzed by gender identity, age, relationship status, and status of the car at time of purchase (new versus used).

A Closer Look at Millennials and Technology: New Tech, Social Media Usage and More

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With ever-changing technology, we feel it’s important to keep a pulse on Millennials. Our latest study revealed the latest on Millennials and technology, from their habits and preferences to their thoughts on today’s most innovative companies.

Among the most insightful findings, we discovered that Millennial men and women have different opinions on companies they consider to be the most innovative. Among male Millennials, Google was their top choice, with 35 percent saying it is currently the most innovative company. Looking ahead, that positive perception only increased: 38 percent of male Millennials predict Google to be the most innovative company five years from now. However, among female Millennials, Apple was the top choice for most innovative today (39%). It’s worth noting, however, that their perception of Apple as most innovative decreased when looking to the future. Twenty-six percent of female Millennial predicted Apple to be the most innovative company in five years, followed very closely by Google at 25%.

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Millennials were also asked to choose a technology innovation that was most interesting to them from a list nine innovations. The 3D printer topped the list, with 22 percent of Millennials choosing it as their favorite, barely edging out a self-driving car (21%). Google Glass came in third with 15 percent selecting it as most interesting, just ahead of 3D holographic videos (14%). Smart watches were in the middle of the pack (7%), while electric bike came in last with just 3 percent finding it to be the most interesting.

When it comes to Millennials’ social media usage, the top three social media networks they currently log into at least once a week are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. When asked which ones they plan to be using in five years, Facebook showed an 18% drop in usage, Twitter showed a 27% drop, and Instagram showed a drop of 12%. LinkedIn was the only network that showed an increase (10%).

As attached to technology as Millennials are, they appear to be stingy with sharing technology with the next generation. Sixty-two percent believe a child should be at least 14 years old before receiving their first smartphone. Over a quarter (28%) said 11-13 years old, while ten percent said 10 years old or younger.

A complete topline report is available for download on the Lab42 website.


This survey was conducted among 500 American adult Millennials between the ages 18 and 34 from March 28-30, 2014. Survey participants were asked about how they classify themselves when it comes to new technology: Early Adopter (34%), Fast Follower (33%), Mainstream (25%), and Late Adopter (8%). The survey then examined the views, attitudes, and preferences of Millennials regarding innovative technology and social media. Data was analyzed by gender identity, age, relationship status, and self-classification.

A Closer Look at: Millennials and Housing Preferences

Everyone is trying to decode Millennials today and find out what makes them tick. At Lab42, we understand that purchasing behavior has always been a primary focus, but to better understand Millennials, we feel it is important to dig even deeper into the demographics and psychographics to uncover what drives their behaviors. For that reason, we continue to conduct ongoing studies targeted toward this generation on topics that are wide-reaching and impactful, and most recently, we conducted a study on housing preferences and behaviors.

Specifically, when it comes to Millennials and housing, we wanted to determine their current level of satisfaction, the motivation behind their decision to rent or own, and their intentions for the future.

What we found is that despite the most recent economic recession, Millennials are highly satisfied with their current living arrangements across the board – from home owners to renters to those living in a place for free (i.e. with parents or friends). According to our study, 95 percent of Millennial homeowners report being satisfied with their decision to buy a house, with 73 percent saying they are very satisfied. Though homeowners report the highest levels of satisfaction, 82 percent of renters reported similar satisfaction, along with 72 percent of those who do not pay rent.

Satisfaction Millennials and Housing

Despite renters’ current satisfaction, 44 percent of renters plan to buy before 2018, while 25 percent plan to buy in 2018 or later. Younger Millennials, ages 18-24, are twice as likely to be among those planning to purchase in 2018 or later.

Overall, Millennials find their housing payments to be affordable, likely contributing to their level of satisfaction. Eighty-nine percent said they are either ‘very affordable’ or ‘affordable’, with homeowners slightly more likely (94%) than renters (84%) to find their payments affordable. A gender difference was also apparent, with men more likely than women to think their payments are affordable (93% vs. 84%).

The study also revealed differences in rationale behind Millennials’ decisions to rent or purchase a home. Among renters, the most popular reasons to rent were that it was more affordable (52%) and offers flexibility in where they can live (39%). Among Millennial homeowners, the number one reason for owning is that it lets them live in an area they want to live (42%), followed closely by it being more affordable (36%) and making more financial sense than renting (35%).  A higher percentage of women than men cited “it makes more financial sense” as a top reason (42% vs. 26%), while more men said that the duration of their stay in the area was one of their top three reasons for owning (26% vs. 15%).

Top Reasons Millennials and Housing

For even more on Millennials and housing, download the topline report here.


The Lab42 survey was fielded among 500 Millennials in the United States, ages 18-34, from March 28-31, 2014. Respondents identified their living arrangements, comprising the following breakdown: Owners (44%), Renters (39%), Live in a place I do not pay rent (14%), and Live in a residence hall or dormitory (3%).

You Don’t Need Spin to Tell a Story

Many of our clients in the PR and marketing space come to us looking to get media attention and bolster their clients’ visibility.

To better serve our own clients, we do our best to stay in the loop on current industry trends. To that end, I recently read an enlightening perspective on how the PR and marketing industry is changing in the new book, Spin Sucks, by Gini Dietrich (inspired by the blog of the same name).

Spin Sucks

At Lab42, we agree that spin sucks, which is why we encourage our clients to use data and insights in their pitches, both for media and new business. Not only does data validate your client’s story–it also gives reporters fresh content to work with.

The book is full of actionable best practices for the changing landscape and includes several examples to illustrate those practices. Here are my top three takeaways from Spin Sucks. I chose these with PR firms (and their clients) in mind, but these practices really apply to all businesses:

1. Your brand is how customers feel about you. Your client’s brand is how they want to be perceived by their customers, whether it’s through messaging, social media presence, or a website. But if you aren’t cognizant of how your client’s customers really feel, things can go awry quickly, which leads us to…

2. Understand what your customers think about you. When was the last time you spoke to your client’s actual customers about why they buy from them and why they choose them over a competitor? You or your client may think you know these things, but we guarantee you’ll gain new insight into your clients’ customers by asking them directly.

3. Be pro-active about what you can control. When it comes to media relations, you can’t really control the situation. But what you can control is how much research you put into a pitch and if that pitch supports and validates your client’s message.

If you’re looking for a little more info, check out the book preview below or buy the book here!