AOR: Agency of Return

When agencies see or hear the term ‘AOR’, they typically drop everything and start to think about how they can position themselves to win. And when marketers are looking for an ‘AOR’, they’ve thought long and hard about the list of KPIs they’re looking to achieve, right?

But these days, it’s not so much about becoming the Agency of Record, but more the Agency of Return. Both marketers and agencies must start looking at how they either choose their agency, or position themselves to win the business, differently. Rediscover what value means to you.

boomerang (1)Think of it like a classic IRA, where it can issue 8% returns annually on your investment. Before you choose that IRA, you study its record of performance year-over-year, and ultimately make a decision on the one that you feel will bring the most value. And in our world, the term value can mean many things. It can be the actual sales increase you see as a result of your marketing efforts, the awareness and buzz created from a new campaign or package redesign, or even just delivering on a scope of work. It really all depends how you want to view it, and what’s most important to you.

From a marketers perspective, it’s more than likely going to be tied to sales. You want to show that the agency investment literally paid off. And from the agency side, the value comes from a satisfied client, and the positive reflection you hope they shine upon you in the trade. Thus, generating new opportunities from like-minded clients.

In the grand scheme of it all, we’re in it to find some sort of return or value. And while that is measured in outcomes, it all is tightly tied to the idea of a much grander hope. The hope of a reciprocating partnership that delivers positive results on both sides, and in return, is quite rewarding for everyone.

So think about how you choose your next agency, long and hard. And ask yourself, do they want to be my “Agency of Record” or my “Agency of Return”, and what type of return is of real value to you. That goes the same for us agencies.

Changing The Podcast Model

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If 2014 marked a peak for Podcast listenership (thanks in large part to the popularity of Serial), than 2015 is shaping up to be the year of redefining the podcast’s power. Midroll Media, the parent company behind the popular Earwolf podcasting network that hosts Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang, is looking to lead the charge with the release of HOWL.

HOWL is a new audio service and application that is aiming to be the “Netflix of podcasting.” And part of that means helping shift the monetization model for the industry as a whole. The service will house podcasts with huge popularity and extensive backlogs, and will put their old episodes behind a $4.99 per month paywall. Podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang (with over 370 episodes) and WTF with Marc Maron (which counts President Obama as a recent guest) will join HOWL and hopefully bring in listeners who can help fund new podcasts, podcasts with lesser known talent, or even special edition podcasts that might not be financially feasible otherwise.


Traditionally, content creators have been able to monetize their podcasts through advertising before and during their programs. Podcasts have been attracting a small but fiercely loyal audience since their inception in 2004. Midroll learned through an anonymous survey of advertisers that 91.5% believe advertising has offered them a good value on their money spent. Companies like Squarespace and Bonobos have become known for their long-term dedication to advertising on podcasts, and this only makes sense if it offers them a high enough ROI. HOWL will continue to air the commercials embedded in new podcasts, but will ideally help monetize podcasts that wouldn’t normally be able to attract advertising dollars.

What Sparks Our Fire: Reimagining the model for monetizing podcasts


Happy Prime Day


When Amazon launched 20 years ago, online retail shopping was revolutionized. Ten years later, Amazon introduced the Prime program, offering members free two-day shipping in exchange for a yearly fee. Today, as arguably the biggest player in the retail industry, Amazon celebrated it’s 20 year Anniversary by offering all-day deals for Prime members and dubbing the day ‘Prime Day’.

In preparation for Prime Day, Amazon announced some of the top deals it’d be offering, but allowed users to anticipate the rest. And starting at 12:00 AM PT (or, 3 AM on the East Coast), the deals opened up, with new ones popping up almost every 15 minutes.

Customer reaction all day has been mixed, with some calling today a failure. Twitter users– using #PrimeDay– have voiced their frustration at being locked out of deals, the lack of transparency around the flash sales, and even the completely weird things Amazon chose to put on sale in the first place (check out Mashable’s list here).

Despite all of the jokes at their expense, Amazon is aware of the long-term benefits of Prime Day. Before the deals began, Amazon promoted their 30-day trial accounts for new Prime users on their front page. Since deals were only open to Prime members, trial users were also able to take advantage of the deals. By giving trial users the opportunity to experience Prime during Prime Day (and thus offering them double the savings), Amazon has surely proven the value of the program to many new users who will convert to paying members after their trial ends.

What Sparks Our Fire: Celebrating a retail giant for it’s long-term thinking

A Missed Opportunity From A Millennial’s Perspective


I am a millennial.

I graduated from New York University in May 2014 with some hefty student loans. And, aside from my savings and checking accounts, these loans have been my entrée into the complicated world of financial institutions. While I won’t name the specific institutions I’ve worked with, I will say that almost every interaction I’ve had has been unpleasant. Calling, waiting on hold for hours, speaking to agents who have no ability to help me, transferring to new agents and explaining issues all over again, and very little email correspondence– I would characterize every step as the antithesis of what millennials expect from a reputable business. If this is our first interaction with a financial institution, is it any wonder why millennials want nothing to do with them?

This morning I came across a great article from TechCrunch, “Millennials Are Destroying Banks, And It’s The Banks’ Fault“, that poses a lot of interesting questions, and even more creative challenges to the financial institutions vying for millennial customers. With an estimated $30 trillion wealth transfer from baby boomers to millennials coming up, banks are realizing that, despite astronomical student loans and a new set of recession-influenced priorities, millennials will not be poor forever. But will they trust the traditional banks that their parents used for their own wealth? That much is unclear.

Why aren’t financial institutions catering to millennials in the same ways that seemingly every other industry is? This article rightly points out that, in most cases, the changes that millennials want are happily accepted amongst members of other generations. Simplicity, transparency, and efficient communication. I’m not the only millennial who has not experienced any of these attributes when dealing with my student loans, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s how the remainder of my financial experiences will be, until financial institutions learn how to engage with millennials.

Offering creative products and services that cater to my generation, as this article advises, is one of the ways that financial institutions can start to win over millennials. Using thoughtful and efficient communications is not a small component to overlook and at Canopy, I’m learning how to find the right way to engage millennials, instead of just talking to them. One thing is clear–the financial institutions that are not offering or marketing their financial products and services to tomorrow’s largest market demographic are missing a huge opportunity.

by: Jacqueline Goldberg, Canopy’s Resident Millennial

Envisioning A Whole New Reddit


With over 169 million unique monthly visitors and the infrastructure to self-segment, some might wonder why Reddit isn’t already a go-to destination for brands looking to advertise online. From the outside, Reddit’s platform provides an ideal way to uniquely interact with consumers through sub-reddits that populate the site and segment users based on interests, location, etc. However, Reddit’s nasty reputation has prevented it’s advertising business from growing at the same rate as sites like Facebook, Twitter, or even the more risqué Tumblr. Even though 6% of the US population visits Reddit, the site has always been known more for it’s embrace of the idea that anything goes in the name of free speech, including online harassment.

As of today, Reddit executives are looking to change that reputation by implementing a new anti-harassment policy. Users will be able to email Reddit employees about harassment, which will result in the harasser’s ban on the website. While some are skeptical about about the impact of a team of Reddit employees monitoring this activity, most users see this policy change as a step in the right direction. If Reddit is able to clean up it’s harassment issue, the impact on the community will be an improved user experience, and will entice brands in the process.

What Sparks Our Fire: A policy shift that may open opportunities for your brand