I hate ‘things’

All these might have a place in your strategy but if you ask for a ‘thing’, I am going to ask ‘why?’. We can’t add value if we don’t understand the context.

Barnaby Ellis
2 MIN|June 11, 2021

I hate ‘things’. Or more accurately, I hate being asked for ‘things’. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

We frequently get asked if we can create a whitepaper, a video, an infographic, a podcast, a blog post, etc. And I always wonder “why?”

I’m not questioning whether we’re the right agency to create these kinds of impactful, effective marketing materials. We do this sort of work all the time for clients like Dell, Arrow, Microsoft, Google, etc.

And it’s not the formats per se. All these might have a place in your strategy but if you ask for a ‘thing’, I am going to ask ‘why?’.

Raison d’être

Our whole business is built on the belief that we can’t solve a problem we don’t understand. It’s the reason we’re called Fifty Five and Five. It might be that the things you want are exactly what are needed but we need to take a step back first and consider what you are trying to achieve.

Whether you’re a new client (especially if you are a new client) or we’re working with a new brief or department of someone we’ve worked with for years – we always start with the why:

Why are we doing this? How does it help you achieve your business objectives?

Digital marketing has become insanely commoditised over the last 10 years. Everyone, regardless of their marketing experience, is only a few clicks away from all the tools they need: email and CRM services, DIY website builders, podcast broadcasting, blogging platforms, even automated brand identity tools.

And machine learning and automation might make ‘things’ even easier to create and launch. But as these tools get smarter, they will only truly add value to your plans if applied in the right way.


This is not an agency land grab – “give it all to us and we’ll be your marketing arm and (slightly cliched) ‘extension’ to your team”.

We’re not afraid to tell you if we’re not right for a particular assignment. Whether that’s because you have the tools and skills in-house or an existing partner that already does what you need. But we won’t know if we don’t ask.

So, if you come to us with a request for an animation, yes, of course. We’d love to help. But I’ll want to know why, specifically, do you want an animation? How does this fit into the broader strategy? Who is the audience? And what are we ultimately trying to achieve?

We’ll ask these questions before we start quoting, storyboarding and scripting. You might have all the answers. An animation might be perfect. And you may already have all the right tools in place to help create, test, broadcast, measure, the work.

But it should always start with the question, ‘why?’.

We can’t add value if we don’t understand the context


As well as ‘things’, I also hate:

  • The term ‘eBook’ (what is that? an electronic book? a PDF?)
  • Replacing the printer paper only to see someone else’s job queued up (argh!)
  • Peas (I know I’m in the minority here)

For balance, there are some things I love:

  • Clients who are passionate about their businesses
  • Anybody with an open mind who is willing to challenge the status quo
  • People with the patience to listen to my questions (sorry, but sometimes I don’t know what I don’t know!)

If this sounds like you, then drop me a line. I’d love to hear about you and your business. I’ll come with the questions.