Every Underdog will have their day…

By Caroline Ayling

There’s a national day for everything these days. 15th December, is
National Day of the Underdog. When your agency positioning is all about backing the underdog, well, we’ve got to jump onboard…

So what is an underdog?

The term originated from shipbuilding, where the underdog would saw planks of wood from below, getting covered in sawdust, whilst the ‘overdog’ remained above and relatively clean. 

The dictionary definition says an underdog is:   

  • A person with less power, money than the rest of society 
  • In competition, the person or team considered least likely to win or not expected to win  
  • Someone in a position of adversity – facing a very difficult or unfavorable situation. 

The underdog has become the star of many-a Hollywood movie, from Forest Gump to Rocky Balboa, Erin Brockovich to William Wallace. Popular culture shows that we love to support an underdog, just look at Susan Boyle and Paul Potts in Britain’s Got Talent to sporting teams rising to the top – remember the Miracle in Medinah or Leicester City’s 2015-16 Premier League season.  

Humankind has always loved an underdog, because it’s much harder to relate to perfection, and is why the underdog has featured throughout history as the un-sung hero.   

What has all that got to do with a media agency mindset?

When we talk about the underdog at JAA, we don’t mean it in a defeatist way. For us, an underdog is inspiring and uplifting, an underdog:  

  • Overcomes and overachieves despite having less power and less money  
  • Is underestimated by the competition  
  • Faces adversity head on  
  • Unleashes potential, often potential they weren’t aware they had  
  • Can do more with less

We see this all the time in our clients

Many of our clients often have less power and less money than their competitors. Say a wearable tech brand taking on Apple in the market and out-performing across multiple product categories. Or a traditional British shoemaker taking on the high street brands and adapting to changing online shopping behaviours. Our job is to allow and enable brands to unleash their potential, help them evolve into the next best version of themselves.  

We’ve done this for scale-ups that take their first steps into advertising with us – either testing paid social or trialing regional TV. Like the pet food supplement that we took from zero to a £30m brand in 5 years before the venture capitalists cashed out. We were pleased to see the brand move on to its next growth stage; not with us but we’d done what we do best – incubating the brand and unleashing their potential.   

We’re proud to work with many third sector clients who are all facing a difficult period with the cost-of-living crisis and economic uncertainty. Traditional giving audiences are feeling the pinch.  During adverse times you cannot afford to be the ostrich that puts its head in the sand. We’re constantly innovating and trying new things. From the UK’s first braille newspaper front cover to using mobile data to guide OOH and radio targeting.  

Finally, we do more with less. Our channel-neutral approach means we deliver the right media mix for each client and each brief. There are no off-the-peg buying solutions which locks the client into inefficient media. We are not restricted by guarantees to media owners so can flexibly allocate funds for optimal efficiency and adjust plans based on latest performance data.  

The underdog rings true for us as an agency.

John Ayling created JAA in 1978; rebelling from the full-service creative agency establishment; to countering the commodification of big network media buying and standing for independence and transparency in media. Despite having less power and money than the networks he set out to create something that proudly still stands today. And he did it all in the middle of a global economic crisis and the emergence of the three-day week. If that’s not facing adversity head on, we don’t know what is. 

For us it is not the size of your budget. It’s the scale of your ambition.  

We believe every underdog will have their day. If you want to seize yours. Come talk to us at JAA.