Well, we’re nearly at the end of the year so what better way to look back over the year than our own wrapped report.
2023 has been a ride and we’re finishing it on a high. We just won 3 golds and a silver at the UK Search Awards… including the one we really, really wanted, Start-up Agency of the year.
We’ve been lucky enough to win and write a lot of award entries over the past few years, it’s hard, time-consuming, and generally not the most glamorous side of the job. Add in the ambiguous word counts and the dark art of pleasing every judge on the panel, it’s a stab in the dark to know where to start when writing them.
But we’re proud of ours. So here it is, the slightly edited (we do have NDAs y’know) award entry doubled up as our #wrapped report.
Bottled Imagination: An overview
Not heard of us before? That’s cool. Every entry form asks for an overview of the agency. Here’s what we scribbled down…
We’re a creative digital PR & content agency. We work with clients to produce digital PR campaigns and reactive PR that build links, drive traffic, gain traction on social and most importantly move the needle in organic search. We do this for the likes of Fenwick, Victorian Plumbing and Protein Works (and many more!).
We’re now a team of 8 (Including our 3 founders) PRs, strategists, creatives and client operations. Soon to be 9 now!
We launched with £1k in the bank and we managed to turnover *redacted* from September 22 -23. We started with no clients, no leads, just a plan of our services and the want to do good work that we were proud of, with people who shared a similar vision.
In our first year as an agency, we’d be lying if we said the first goal wasn’t to just survive. We also set some fairly ambitious targets:
- Instead of taking investment, try and build our own investment in cash by achieving a 30%+ profitability rate in year 1. This would allow us to build a 6-month runway and give security to ourselves and our staff whilst fully owning the business still
- Hire our first 3-4 employees and achieve a 100% staff retention
- Launch at least one multi-channel campaign that was in a completely different format & style to the majority of Digital PR campaigns.
- Win one award that relates to our offering (Creativity, innovation etc)
- To create a culture that nurtures and encourages creativity and curiosity
- Cement ourselves as a competitor of bigger agencies in the industry (Measured on winning pitches vs them and retaining clients) in the UK
We are so proud of the work we have done this year. It’s precisely the kind of work that we wanted to do when we set up the agency. So without further ado.
The Fake Footballer
For Gambling Awareness Week, we created a completely fake footballer called Jordan Reece. We hired a model, we bought a kit, and we did a photo shoot. Then via influencers, we promoted his 10/1 chances of making the England World Cup squad. 5,000 people clicked through to bet before being informed he was a completely made-up footballer for a gambling awareness campaign around properly researching bets.
We then went out to the national press with the stats and story achieving multiple follow links in The Sun and gambling-related press.
The real footballer
We interviewed Michael Owen. One question we asked him was how much he’d value himself in today’s transfer market. One question that divided 2 sets of fans and achieved 60+ links and a whole lot of discussion on social media.
Our client dappGambl wanted to move towards a more scalable earned link acquisition model. NFTs are a much-talked-about part of the industry. We did a study that revealed 95% of NFTs were now worthless (There was still a thriving 5% which we highlighted.)
This campaign not only dominated the finance/crypto press but it transcended into mainstream media and dominated social discussions for a full week. In fact, it is still receiving coverage 2 months later.
- Over 1000 links including Rolling Stone, The Guardian and Bloomberg
- Social reach of half a billion
- Featured in Morning Brew and Milk Road, industry-leading industry newsletters
- Over 23,000 sessions to the site
Protein Works & The 3pm slump
We found out that 3:06pm is when Brits get ‘the slump’ at work and lose all their energy and productivity. A data-backed campaign that achieved a ton of links including Women’s Health, Yahoo and T3.
THINGS WE’RE PROUD OF
- Most of our work is in long-term partnerships. We want to work with our clients for the foreseeable future. 75% are in long-term retainers, meaning we can forecast and resource our work ahead of time. Winning long-term retainers as a startup was not easy.
- A new business win rate over the past 6 months of 80%. Winning four, 6-way pitches against far more established agencies than ourselves, without compromising on price to do so.
We wanted to be on the top of our game when it came to client satisfaction. It is our utmost priority. So we ask them, and regularly. Here’s how we scored recently:
- An average score of 4 out of 5 on the quality of our PR work.
- Average score of 4.5/5 on how likely the client would be to recommend us as an agency
Award wins and lists
Our Fake Footballer campaign won a clean sweep of awards in the UK digital PR and UK content awards. Picking up Best Stunt, Best Use of Creativity, Most Innovative Campaign and Best B2C Campaign.
- We appeared on PR week’s top new agencies to watch in 2023
- Prolific North’s independent agencies to watch list
- Co-founder Katy is featured on this year’s 30 under 30 PR week list
The team & culture
As of December ‘23 we are up to 5 team members (8 including founders), with another shortly joining. All of our staff receive a bespoke PDP based on their role and skill sets.
We have an ‘imagination incentive’ for our staff where we give them a budget to test business ideas of their own.
We always encourage creativity within our idea-gen.
All 3 founders spoke about creativity at the September Brighton SEO and we’ve also spoken at Learn Inbound this year. Katy in particular spoke on the main stage at Brighton. Add in James heading to Barcelona for the International Search Summit we always try and put ourselves out there.
The challenges faced and how these were overcome
Every agency has challenges, especially in this economic climate.
How do we survive the first 3 months without being public?
We managed to secure retainers without a company website or marketing materials meaning we turned over a profit in month one. Alleviating the immediate financial stress. We did this via referrals and past connections. We also managed to attract talent and hire during this period… even without a website! (Shout out to Luci for trusting an ambiguous job ad)
How do we get results with a small team?
Our clients’ sectors from both a journalist and a search POV were incredibly competitive. We created a process that put ideation at the heart, with the aim to get strategy and ideas right so the execution is more effective. You can see from our work examples this has started to pay off and we’ve built up 5-6 case studies of work. Pushing one of our core values of ‘Do good work’ and ‘Use your imagination’ means we were able to simplify our team’s focus on delivery, whilst we worried about attracting and retaining the clients.
In June last year we put £1,000 into the bank account, spent half of this on trains and a meal with our first client on day one and prayed they would pay on time. We’ve managed to create a profitable business with happy clients and staff with that £1,000.
We don’t deserve points for just setting up an agency, but it was a risk for us to leave our past jobs and our past agency to launch Bottled Imagination. To be able to turnover *some cash* from September to September (A year since we publicly launched) in a struggling economy, grow a talented team of 8, win and retain our clients is something we are proud of, and we aren’t very good at patting ourselves on the back.
We’ve pushed to be different. We launched with a spoof Netflix-style trailer, we created an e-commerce site and every piece of work we do we’re asking ourselves has this been done before?
As a team of 3 founders, we’ve never run an agency before, we surpassed all of our initial expectations and goals for our first year. Here’s to the next and many more.