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Advertising the advertising agency: Black Sheep take on the challenge with new site

26 June 2023

The Black Sheep Advertising team knew it was time for a refresh.

The agency’s website, launched about a decade ago, was struggling to load video. Its team had evolved considerably, and there was new work and information that needed to be communicated.

But, the prospect of overhauling their own image came with – as it does for every agency – a knotty tangle of complexities. Alongside the challenge of finding time to dedicate to the refresh amongst client work, there was the ever-present issue of the industry’s opacity.

“I think our industry is a really interesting one from a perspective of marketing yourself,” says Tom Ootes, Black Sheep’s Director of Client Services.

“You don't get to see a lot of what others are doing, because a lot of what we promote is what we've done for other people…you know, it will be very rare that I'll ever see another agency's pitch deck or credentials document.

“We can only see a really curated, really cultivated, shallow idea of what people are saying to the market. And there's a whole load of stuff happening behind the scenes – human interaction and long-term relationships – that are almost more important than the brand itself.”

To overcome this, the Black Sheep team invested in a research process – speaking with around 25 clients or prospective clients about what they’re looking for in an agency’s website.

Tom says this early-stage research not only guided the site refresh, but doubles as an example of best-practice process the team can use to help future clients understand the importance of investing in strategy.

“We spoke to a whole lot of our current clients and a whole lot of prospective clients about what they look for in an agency and what they look for in an agency website,” Tom says. “How they use it, what information they want to see, the order of that, how they compare sites – all those kinds of things.

“People assume as an advertising agency that you can do a job. So, they want to see your work really quickly. They also want to know who the people are, because ultimately that's what we provide – people.”

Black Sheep Website update 6

A case study on Black Sheep's SA Your Way campaign for the Department of Premier and Cabinet features on the agency's refreshed website.

The agency’s new site, which launched earlier this year, integrates this new structure with an updated aesthetic that underlines Black Sheep’s long-held central brand tenet of differentiation.

It also communicates a sense of the philosophy that underpins the agency’s work.

“It's always been about differentiation, but one of the things we wanted to bring in was a philosophy where we work towards… what we’re calling human-centered marketing,” Tom says.

“These days – and it’s certainly not new, but I think we're becoming more aware of it maybe – people are being a bit more discerning and need to find connection and relevance with a brand that goes deeper than a product and a price.

“So, we think about brands as trying to build a club that people want to be involved in, and you join a club based on similar values and ideals and human characteristics that you see in yourself.”

Black Sheep Website update 4

Examples of work - including the lauded Selfish Prick campaign for SAPOL - feature prominently on the site

Although it’s only been live a few months, Tom says the site and all the strategic work behind it is paying off, with positive feedback flowing in from clients.

It’s an outcome that gives the team confidence that research and listening might be a key to unlocking the eternal problem of agencies advertising themselves.

“It's so important for us to have spoken to the market, to talk to our clients and potential clients,” says Tom. “If it works for them or resonates with them, it kind of doesn't matter what everyone else is doing.”