Cannes Lions

Boss It


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Case Film






Sage (the Grandaddy of the accountancy software category) was pushing forty and struggling to hold onto market leadership. Despite its awareness and dominance, Sage captured a disproportionally low share of new prospects into the market.

The UK’s first accountancy software brand had been pulled into a three-horse race – losing ground to cloud-native competition with bigger, more aggressive media budgets and sharper sales comms. The likes of Xero and Quickbooks were shouting louder and drowning Sage’s voice out.

With a smaller Marketing budget, Sage needed to reassert market leadership against its newer, leaner, and sharper rivals.

Research illustrated that our small business audience wanted something built for their needs, but Sage was seen as old-fashioned and expensive.

We needed to drive reappraisal.


Introducing Boss it.

Sage gives business owners the power to boss it in everything they do. Smashing invoices, winning at tax returns, nailing payroll. When you’re with Sage, bossing it isn’t just an attitude or a feeling, it’s a way of life.

Boss it isn’t about tightening your grip, it’s that feeling when you’re in the zone, when you’re hitting the sweet spot, when you’re in control of your own destiny.

Boss it recognises that small business bosses do business in a new way, celebrating the many ways people have stepped up to boss it on their own terms – from a guy running an accountancy practice to a furloughed actress bossing it on Etsy.

Boss it became our brand’s body language throughout the full funnel of marketing activity, emphasising how our software made SMEs masters of their own destiny


Category research indicated that the bulk of our competition talked to small businesses in a very narrow ‘moment of need’’. Essentially, they used broadcast comms to target a very specific audience with sales activation messaging when that business really, really needed their software.

No business focused on priming all SMEs ahead of when they might be in market. That felt like a real opportunity.

Talking to SMEs, we quickly realised that by talking to them on their own terms, before any distress purchase, we could cut through. This meant steering away from category-generic terms like ‘growth’, and, instead, talking to businesses about their motivations for being SMEs in the first place.

Psychological literature (thank you, Dan Pink) underlined people’s motivation for control. We each want to master our own destiny, and nowhere is this more true than SMEs, whether or not they need accountancy software.

We focused on control.


Control of every campaign and experience touchpoint

We had to make sure our ’Boss it’ feeling of control came through at every brand and response touchpoint - from the 30 second TV, to the 15 second product stings, radio ads, site content, DR ads and landing pages.

We needed to tread a fine line between appealing to Sage’s key industry segments but also achieving creative that was engaging and unexpected, able to convert broader prospects. So we bossed it with our Fishmonger, Architect, Gym owner, Mechanic and Plumber.

Being able to play a part in Britain’s changing business landscape had always been part of our plan, but we were gifted an unexpected opportunity when a bored family in lockdown recreated our ad! UGC is hard enough for Coca-Cola, but almost unheard of in B2B.

Over the 18+ months the campaign was live we delivered a memorable, repeatable, and emotional idea.


Despite limited spend, our Boss it campaign punched well above its weight.

Our activity meant when people saw the activity, our desired attributes (Honesty, Expertise, Market Leading, Dynamic to name but a few) far outstripped the competition.

Our TikTok uplift was more impressive; given an expected 7m impressions, we smashed it with 8.2bn! (30% brand uplift)

We had 1.3m challenge videos created, achieving over 3m views, leading to 2m direct traffic visits to our Sage Advice business site.

The Sage branded video generated 29m views, 600m impressions, and 200k profile engagements. We were first place in TikTok brand lift study (a 30% uplift).

We went from 3rd to 1st in consideration and first choice preference amongst SMEs, culminating in a 193% YoY sales increase.

Sage’s biggest trading day ever was on Cyber Monday 2020 - beaten a year later on Black Friday 2021 after the campaign had bedded in.