Investing in the time of crisis: Why we rebranded in the middle of a pandemic

COVID-19 has upended businesses across the globe. The marketing and advertising industry is no exception.  

While expenditure cuts characterized the times and were necessary to preserve cash, this crisis proved the resilience and creativity that makes our industry special. Accountability has a track record of forging ahead with planned investments despite a crisis. When you have a solid vision and a data-driven plan to execute your strategy, it’s hard to mess things up.

Innovation during a recession

In 2008, the beginning of the financial crisis in the U.S. sent a ripple throughout the world. While it might seem counterintuitive to invest in your business and launch a new product in the midst of an imminent recession, I decided to launch Accountability.

Our goal has not changed since. I founded the company to empower agency CFOs and their teams with tools that enable them to contribute strategically to the agency’s growth and profitability. I can speak from experience that most agency finance teams are consumed with the day-to-day tasks required to close the books each month and “keep the scoreboard up to date.” Accountability was designed to make these tasks easier, but just as important, to enable the finance team to collaborate with account management, production, and media teams.   

A brand reset during COVID 

Twelve years, 200 agencies, and 30 countries later, Accountability is still a product-led organization. While we continue to grow through word-of-mouth, it was important for our brand identity to reflect our vision and support our business objectives, hence we proceeded with our rebrand plans despite the pandemic.

Brand identity goes beyond a new logo and color palette. Sure, our visual identity is a tangible representation of the Accountability brand and helps with enforcing consistency across our marketing assets and sales collateral, but more importantly, the Accountability brand represents our values and our promise to customers. 

This brand reset was a multi-phase project that we budgeted in three parts:  

  • A comprehensive brand audit and competitive analysis was an essential input to solidifying our positioning and messaging 
  • A visual identity system that is now reflected in different applications, including our product and a redesigned website 
  • Recurring marketing budget to amplify our brand  

We used the Accountability platform to manage the financials for this brand reset to ensure that we stay on-budget, and the project team tracked the detailed tasks in Trello to keep the project on-time. The integration between Accountability and Trello kept the rest of the leadership team and me abreast of the project’s health.  

A key lesson I learned throughout this journey is that a rebrand does not have an end date. While brand guidelines exist to ensure consistency across all of our materials, we need to ensure that our customer’s experience with Accountability consistently delivers on our brand promise. You’ll see this manifested through our product and our team.

Customer Stories

A creative company COO describes how an integrated financial management platform fuels its business planning

The Customer

Emotive is an independent creative company making ideas that live within advertising, entertainment and design. Part ad agency, part production company, part content distributor, Emotive is deliberately (un)structured to respond to clients’ business issues or opportunities effectively, rather than default to ‘traditional comms’ as the answer. 

Ben Keep, Chief Operating Officer of Emotive, is responsible for financial management, operations, and legal. In this exclusive “Accountability Customer Spotlight” series, he shares how he evolved his agency into a connected operation. 

The Challenge

Disparate systems, disparate data

We were using three different systems across finance, time, and job costing, some of which were manual-based and labour-intensive.  

  • Our most important requirement is integrating all data points – to have one single source of truth. To get a clear picture of a job’s financial performance was not simply the click of a button – it should be. 
  • With disparate systems, the team could not view the information they wanted on a timely and accurate basis for themselves.
  • Double handling of data 
  • Too much reliance on the finance team to issue Estimates instead of being managed by the broader team

Expectations from a new system

My holy grail was a system that encompassed timesheets, expense claims, job costing and financial management in the one system that was accessible beyond the finance team. Secondly, it needed to be a cloud-based solution to provide remote access and ensure data backup and integrity.  

The Solution

An integrated financial management platform

I searched the market far and wide for what I thought was the best system. We came close to implementing another system, but we halted it just before going live because there were too many compromises to make. We went back to the drawing board – then we found Accountability.

With Accountability, we operate with one single source of truth. Our weekly meeting is driven by the insights we get from the platform. 

Flexible and intuitive 

Accountability is designed specifically for agencies, so the flexibility the system provides is second to none. From WIP management to deferring and accruing revenue, it is by far the most robust system I’ve seen on the market. 

Ease of navigation was a big one for me. Before committing to Accountability, I trialed a demo version and successfully completed all of the basic accounting requirements without any training or introduction to the system. Very intuitive.  

Seamless implementation with expert advice

My two biggest concerns were: 

  1. Ensuring the system was set up as I wanted, i.e., it was important for my implementation partner to understand my needs to configure the platform accordingly.
  2. Buy-in from the broader team.

The significant advantage of Accountability is that both David and Michael have been CFOs in agency land. They understood not only the accounting requirements but the commercial and agency nuances as well. In previous system implementations, I’ve worked with consultants who are not from a finance background.

The Accountability team understood and enhanced business processes with a wealth of knowledge. 

True partnership

The system requires very little support, but on occasions when support is needed, the responses have been timely and ensure no interruption to the business. The most significant benefit is that we have access to the person who managed the implementation and is familiar with our structure and workflow. Our partnership with Accountability started from the moment we kicked-off onboarding and they continue to be an extension of our agency. 

The Outcome

We’ve seen notable improvements in multiple areas: 

  • Management of project budgets – visibility is clear and in the one system. 
  • Timesheet management – it’s an easy system to use and as such, no longer an issue for staff to complete
  • Management of small jobs often can be overlooked, but the system ensures we’re able to estimate and track jobs significantly better than we could with the use of our disparate systems. 

From day to day to more strategic outlooks, our whole business planning is powered by Accountability.

Customer Stories

Remote work imposed by COVID-19 restrictions improved data entry for a multi-national design agency

The global pandemic has forever changed the way we work. It challenged legacy processes and accelerated automation initiatives across industries. The advertising and marketing vertical was not exempt from the financial and social impact of this unprecedented event. We are witness to agencies adapting to this change.  

Spotlight on Cowan

Cowan is an international brand innovation, strategy and packaging design agency specializing in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) packaging, with established offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Vietnam, and London.  

We spoke with Samantha Gill, Cowan’s Finance Manager, who has worked in agency finance for over 25 years. For Samantha, having a financial management platform that serves as the backbone of her agency’s financial operations is fundamental.

Accountability:  You’ve been in agency finance for a long time. What has been your biggest challenge? 

Samantha:  Training and getting the staff on board to maintain accurate and timely information. Enforcing best practices and having a good platform is critical to achieving this. 

Accountability:  What do you expect from a financial management platform? 

Samantha:  We’re a global company with localized needs in each market, so we need our main group platform to be multi-entity and multi-currency. We have always had a distributed team with offices across seven markets, but with all of us working remotely due to COVID, having a cloud-based platform accessible from anywhere is vital. We also need it to be intuitive and reliable. 

Accountability:  What process changes have you implemented that have made a dramatic impact on your agency?

Samantha:  We are all working remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions and we actually improved our data entry. Using the Expense claim and Supplier invoice routines in Accountability converted Cowan into a paperless office that we only dreamt about previously. It’s great for our environment and allows for easy information retrieval and sharing. 

Accountability:  How can we support you during this time? 

Samantha: We receive exceptional support from Accountability, going above and beyond with quick responses, even to low priority queries. We can speak directly to a member of the team or submit low priority requests from within the platform. Accountability has also undertaken bespoke development for Cowan. The team worked closely with us to produce reporting required for daily forecasting, CRM and financial statements directly from the system, allowing our teams across the globe to generate daily reporting instantly. The system is valuable to all members of the staff, not just the finance teams.