[18 dec 2023]

Was 2023 The Wildest Year Ever For ACM?


Remember the start of the year? Neither do we.

No two ways about it: 2023 was the biggest in ACM history. Partly due to us not being the same agency we were 12 months ago. Not by a loooong shot.

We built the supercharged new website. We rewrote the tone of voice bible. We created the company hype reel from scratch. We pledged allegiance to the new mission statement. And we reinvented our logo. Not even our internal document headers and office posters could escape the full beige-binning rebrand. If we had company notepads and coffee mugs, they’d be neon-ified with our new banner colours, too.  Could be cool, actually. We’ll look into it.

The ACM you knew in January 2023 is not the ACM you’re looking at in December 2023. That’s a fact, Jack. But the work we’ve created over the last 12 months is as “shout all about it” as ever. Even more so, we’d say, with new clients, new team members, and this new identity all stoking the creative turbo engine that makes our work and team culture so distinctly and unmistakably… us. 

So while we scrabble around the internet for customisable office mugs and recycled paper notepads to ACMify the heck out of, take a spin through part two our team’s fave moments and achievements from 2023 (the first half we released back in May to save this newsletter word count getting extremely Tolstoyed).

And sure, we get that this is the fiftieth “Best Of” list you’ll read this month. But how many others have referred to Shaquille O’Neal’s feet and sexy German dungeon clubs? 

Owning The Client-Kid Juggle

As chosen by Nat Ellman-Brown, Managing Director

I had no idea what I was coming back to after maternity leave (round two), but very quickly I learned I had landed in the busiest year in ACM history.

Life is always fast-paced here, but 2023 has been particularly jam-packed. I’ve onboarded stacks of amazing new clients, but also recontracted almost all of our old clients too, often with bigger scopes that turn to more of our many agency services. Getting a signature that says we want to go bigger and better next year is always satisfying.

When I do the school or nursery pick-up, I’m always hearing from parents that are struggling to balance their work-child life. ACM’s approach is geared up to support parents like me – flexible hours, remote working, compassion, and an understanding of what it means to have a sick child at home. It makes it all so doable. That everyone I work with knows my kids’ names says a lot about our team. That, and the fact that nobody bats an eyelid when one of them appears on a team call in the background or on my lap.

Best part of the process: Getting back into it and working with passionate people. I got a sense of me and my own passions back – something that often gets put on hold during maternity leave.

Tiny detail you may have missed: I always blur my background on calls – it’s the perfect way to hide the chaos of kids.

One thing I learned: My multitasking skills are still intact.

Stirring Up FOMO At ISPO

As chosen by Hannah Foster, Account Manager

We’ve been to enough ISPOs to know that what everyone really wants is somewhere to decompress after a hard day of bouncing around the booths. And so, the YETI Pleasure Party was born.

Our favourite American bearproof cooler client told us they wanted to turn up at the famous outdoor trade event, but in a non-traditional way. Which is our way of doing things. We took over a very German nightclub near the venue and turned it from a posh palace to a quality dirtbag hangout, with Oakley and Pleasure Magazin as our partners and our go-to DE agency collaborators helping us pack it out with media, consumers, brand folk and more. We had a really good mix of people at the event, not just the traditional beardy types that hit the trade show. Seeing a sea of 400 YETI hats bouncing on the dancefloor was more than worth working through to 4:30am for. 

Best part of the process: Setting up and decorating the venue was super fun, and meeting the new YETI team in person was ace. 

Tiny detail you may have missed: Disguising a very questionable/explicit artwork that was on the wall of the club.

One thing I learned: Your beer tab won’t last as long as you think it will in Germany.

Bagging A Bunch Of Big Billboards

As chosen by Chris Sayer, Senior Creative & Copy Editor

“Working session Thursday with this lad sounds ominous.”

Db’s CMO, Jon Weaver, knew exactly what he was getting his team into when he enlisted me to help with a huge cross-continental OOH campaign for their Ramverk Pro luggage earlier this year.

Jon’s comment appeared on a LinkedIn post about my infamous 99 Problems marketing copy takedown, and opened the gates for me to bring some of my most unconventional and ballsy references to our creative collab. Many of them have been stashed in my pocket for a long while, but Db’s cool and punchy tone of voice gave me the perfect arena to stretch their legs in. References including this super knowing/excellent slogan from Seattle grunge label Sub Pop (that I like so much I own in long-sleeve t-shirt form) and a whole bank of other beauties that I’ll save for that creative sesh you should probably book us in for in 2024.

Best part of the process: Being sucked down a 1980s Volvo advertising campaigns wormhole. So confident, cutting, and cool.

Tiny detail you may have missed: How much an extreme close-up of a Ramverk Pro looks like a Star Wars Death Star.

One thing I learned: Scandinavian countries have very strong opinions of one another.

Earning Dual Ascent Some Decent Results

As chosen by Charlotte TSP, Senior Account Executive

The second there was a whisper of ACM taking care of core press comms for Red Bull’s Dual Ascent, I knew I wanted to be involved. One of the planet’s biggest household brands bringing 24 of the world’s best climbers together to take on a 220m dam? It’s a project that ACM was born to work on.

Despite immersing myself in the lead-up to the event, nothing truly prepared me for just how impressive the Verzasca dam venue was in real life. I hosted two of climbing’s best core media (climbing.com and The Pill Outdoor Journal) and they gawped, gasped, and grimaced at this bizarre and brilliant climbing spectacle just as much as I did.

We racked up an impressive 54 million unique monthly views on our earned coverage of the event, and I had a wicked time doing it.

Best part of the process: In the dying minutes of the finals, Jernej Kruder shouting to his sister Julija that if they won he’d shave off his impressive moustache. Current mo’ status: gone.

Tiny detail you may have missed: I counted eight ACM brands being repped by athletes and spectators at the top of the dam. 

One thing I learned: The Red Bull team and climbing legend Cedar Wright know how to let loose – they cut some serious shapes at the Dual Ascent afterparty.

Experiencing A Famous ACM Away Day

As chosen by Eleanor Mayle, Account Executive

Even before I joined ACM, I’d heard about the legendary team Away Days – trips that took the team mountain biking, backcountry skiing, open-water swimming, skateboarding and more. So, obviously, I was seriously looking forward to my first one. Not only would we be doing something really fun, but I’d get to meet the majority of the team IRL.

As I expected, an ACM Away Day isn’t your average team meeting. In Bristol, we merged environmental learning (thanks to Protect Our Winters UK for a great carbon literacy training session) with outdoor activities (canoeing down the river Avon) and plenty of free time to talk about something other than work (over a couple of pints at Left Handed Giant brewery). All of that, crammed into 24 hours, with an unreal team, easily makes it my favourite moment of 2023. 

Best part of the process: Ditching the traditional post-work Thursday drinks of jobs gone by for very ACM post-canoe Tuesday pints. 

Tiny detail you may have missed: The collective ‘whaaat?!” when we learned how much carbon goes into making 1kg of cheddar cheese. 

One thing I learned: Working remote doesn’t have to mean working with strangers.

Welcoming Finisterre Back Into The Fold 

As chosen by Jojo White, Co-Founder

When our first chapter with pioneering British outdoor brand, Finisterre, came to an end, I folded my Bowmont knitwear up and told myself it was for the best – all good things must come to an end.

But not long ago, I began to wonder if we might rekindle the flame: my admiration for the brand had continued to grow; I’d watched in awe as founder Tom Kay delivered his keynote at the OIA conference last year; and I felt that they and ACM had evolved in tandem.

Then I met their super smart powerhouse CMO, Brownen, and thought, “Damn, I want to work with this woman!”.

And the rest is history.

ACM x Finisterre: The Sequel has begun, and we couldn’t be more chuffed.

Best part of the process: Team collaboration and creativity. It’s what creates winning pitches.

Tiny detail you may have missed: My wetsuit game. It’s gone up a level this winter – I’ll be trying out Finisterre’s new rental scheme. It’s the first programme globally to make Yulex® wetsuits accessible to more sea goers.

One thing I learned: Intuition is your friend.

Getting Coverage In A Carwash

As chosen by Stu Duggal, Account Manager

The press event to end all press events. Equal parts wacky and logical, this was the kind of activation you dream of having a brand trust you with. 

Not only was our Wash & Go the perfect demonstration of GORE-TEX’s product performance, but it also got a whole bunch of new, top tier journalists interested in the science behind it – a key part of the event’s success. We weren’t just hosting the core journos that are already fully aware of the brand and just fancy a nice free lunch. We were genuinely introducing it to new people and getting them stoked… from inside a carwash.

Managing the general production of this one was 99% head scratcher, 1% straight forward, and that’s the kind of ratio we love at ACM. 

Best part of the process: Convincing a great roster of media attendees to take part in such a rogue activation, and them bloody loving it. What a strange world we live in.

Tiny detail you may have missed: The waterproof phone cases we sourced so guests could capture and post their own content as they tested their GORE-TEX get-up – a major player in the social buzz we created for the event. And all for the grand sum of £14.99 (6pcs).

One thing I learned: Recce the location. Recce it again. And maybe even again to be sure – measurements and dimensions seem to change overnight. Also, always get a fog machine.

Sending Our Clients To Surprising Places

As chosen by Amy Maloney, Freelance PR Specialist

Our 2023 press coverage books are stuffed after 12 months of huge media wins, but it’s the weirder and more unexpected features that have really stood out to me this year. 

The image of an old-school Financial Times reader hanging out with a scallywag snowboard crew is quite funny ain’t it, which is why the world-famous salmon pink paper featuring The Snowboard Asylum in print and online is a proper win. I remember the travel editor doing a great gift guide last year, so I hit him up to see if he was doing it again and voila! I managed to sneak a cheeky Jones splitboard into what was originally meant to be a ski-heavy line-up. 

There was a load more, too. I got our rugged YETI friends into the proper posh Kensington & Chelsea Review within a Barbie-themed product page (lol); found a home for our Scandinavian hipster luggage pals Db in women’s beauty and fashion favourite Red Magazine; placed the hardcore £7000 Shackleton Women’s Polar Challenge into premium mag Country & Townhouse; and convinced huge business trade title Forbes to feature five – FIVE – of our clients in their massive adventure product guide, too. Hoo-bloody-rah.

Best part of the process: Whenever the final coverage lands. I still get a buzz from it.

Tiny detail you may have missed: My emails are always led by visuals. Never send a pitch without at least one good image. 

One thing I learned: Be patient. It’s gonna happen. But a little bit of nagging never hurts.  

Making SEO Sexy (sorta) 

As chosen by Hannah Tangi Elliot, Freelance Digital Account Director

So I get the unsexy one – keyword research. YouTube is the second largest search engine (TikTok is giving it a run for its money) so it’s critical that content is approached from a tactical search-first perspective if you want it seen. See? Not sexy. But super important.

Getting stuck into my SEO speciality for adidas TERREX this summer was all about making the algorithm love the United by Summits YouTube series. It was such a cool project – I love that TERREX was finding and prioritising real human stories from all over the world. Giving a platform to the (not-so) average Joes and Janes doing great things in the outdoors is something we can really get behind. 

Our process is simple but effective – I go in on researching keywords and their potential performances, then work closely with our copywriter to find a balance between search-friendly and engaging captions. But it doesn’t end there: we even suggest copy and design for thumbnails based on our designer’s nailed-on bible of guidelines. Yeah, okay, SEO can be sorta sexy, I guess.

Best part of the process: Getting to watch some epic videos before anyone else.

Tiny detail you would have missed: Ever-changing timelines. It’s amazing how many freak weather patterns can push back a publishing date. 

One thing I learned: Find the right balance between easy wins and heavy-hitting keywords is, er, key.

Getting A Selfie With Shaquille O’Neal(’s Massive Shoe)

As chosen by Andrew Josty, Account Executive

A reference for all those 1990s Cartoon Network kids – remember Dexter’s Laboratory? That’s what it feels like inside GORE-TEX’s teched-out development studio. You’ve got machines pulling and twisting materials, very clever people tinkering with new products, and a line of shoes mechanically flapping, flopping, and splashing into puddles all day long. It’s a heaven for outerwear nerds like me.

I was out there in Munich hosting a crew of journalists from titles like T3 and Women’s Health, giving them an up-close education on the brand’s new ePE membrane. In less than three days we crammed in a tour through the rain room (everyone’s favourite), fabric lab, and footwear testing stations, before heading over the border to Austria to put GORE-TEX jackets to the test on a via ferrata route, where our pit zips really came into their own. It was a big one, but we did also manage to squeeze some important poolside R&R post-climb. 

Best part of the process: Not only corralling my own media guests at the airport, but those of all the other European agencies that flew in for the experience, too. 

Tiny detail you may have missed: Shaq’s ferry-sized boot. It’s on display in the lab for everyone to get a selfie with.

One thing I learned: Your GORE-TEX jacket is waterproof even without a DWR layer.

Fanning Out At The Freeride Academy

As chosen by Lucy Hewson, Senior Account Manager

Heading out to St. Anton to host press at Arc’teryx’s second Freeride Academy was a dream. I took media from In The Snow, Fall-Line, and Ski & Board to get stuck into freeride clinics and interview some of Arc’teryx’s greatest athletes. I particularly loved eavesdropping in on chats with ski legends like Silvia Moser, and then channelling their energy on fresh Austrian powder – all in the name of work?! I can’t wait for February to do it all again. True to form, it’ll be even bigger and even better in 2024.

Best part of the process: Chatting with the Arc’teryx athlete team. 

Tiny detail you may have missed: I often used the promise of cold beer and hot chocolate to get our skiers back to basecamp. It works 100% of the time.

One thing I learned: Frittatensuppe (sliced pancake soup) is much nicer than you’re imagining.

Learning To Co-Exist With British Seagulls

As chosen by Daniele Chiarantini, Senior Creative

There were a handful of firsts for me on our summer Away Day in Brighton. It was the first time I got to visit the famous seaside city; the first time I rode (and somehow broke) an electric mountain bike; and the first time I had a proper open water swimming lesson that helped me improve my “stile libero” [editor’s translation: freestyle swimming].

The hills over Brighton really reminded me of Tuscany – nobody ever told me it was so gorgeous out there. But of course, the best part was hanging out with my colleagues again, and meeting our copy editor’s six-month-old second in command, Big Seb. 

Best part of the process: The near-death experience while bombing down a chalky gravel track on an eBike.

Tiny detail you would have missed: My face at the team dinner when I tried the best baba ganoush I’ve ever eaten.

One thing I learned: Eat your seaside sandwiches inside – UK seagulls are outrageous.

Finding Our Groove With H&M Move

As chosen by Charley Greening, Senior Account Director

764 million. That’s the total publication-wide audience, across 121 pieces of coverage, that we’ve achieved for one of our newest clients, H&M Move, in the short time we’ve been working with them. I couldn’t be more proud.

We’ve earned some huge campaign results, recruited influencers from around the world, and produced a livestream from a lakeside cabin in Stockholm that raked in global attendees from titles like Men’s Health and British Vogue. And yes, I’ll admit it: I was probably one of the biggest sceptics of H&M Move’s outdoor gear at first. And many you still might be. But thisthis, and especially this piece of coverage should help persuade you otherwise. 

Best part of the process: Working with one of the most brilliant teams in the business. The H&M Move in-house family are as fun and kind as they are excellent at marketing.

Tiny detail you may have missed: The Madonna/Britney mics we used for our product launch livestream in Stockholm.

One thing I learned: The drawstring on the back of every H&M Move hood pulls into an ‘M’ shape for ‘Move’. Who knew.

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