I joined the agency when there were 15 people. When I left, three and a half years later there were close to 120. In addition to the London office, there was one in Manchester and plans to open in Dublin. The challenge was repositioning the agency, radically improving the quality of the work, and making it more relevant to the needs of clients. Quick growth followed with new business wins, most notably Vodafone, HP Inc., Fujitsu, Santander, Shimano, PwC and Jabra; organic growth was achieved by extending new services to clients like Franke, and bringing in a media team. We also created and ran a dedicated content division.
Clearly defining gyro’s role as a creative B2B ‘powerhouse’ was important and achieved through creative thought-leadership, most notably press articles, keynotes at conferences, and by putting gyro on the awards map
The merger of the direct, digital and automotive advertising divisions of Wunderman had resulted in siloes where different processes and philosophies were clashing. This created uncertainty both internally and with clients. The first initiative I undertook, was to rearrange the office plan so the creative, strategy and tech teams were fully integrated. At the same time, I introduced regular, creative inspiration initiatives for the whole agency and a clearly articulated creative process – which included detailed checklists, to ensure quality control. Lastly, I led the rebrand of the whole agency globally, working with the design agency, Lambie Nairn to create and implement the identity and create a global Wunderman brand story.
After stabilising the existing business, we pitched and won new accounts, most notably, Microsoft (I personally ran the global Windows 8 phone launch); Nokia global; Pringles, EDF energy and the Land Rover Evoque launch. In addition, we grew business with award-winning work for Land Rover, P&G and Kern Precision Scales.
To help re-establish the creative credentials of the agency I worked with Cannes Lions, creating their first campaign focussing on its role as an educational event ‘Ignite your creativity’, rather than simply an awards show. I also gave a talk in Cannes ‘Where does Inspiration come from?’ which led to a high-profile project, END7, working with Richard Curtis, on the Make Poverty History initiative.
Wunderman UK was recognised at the major global award shows, and listed by Forrester for the first time.
The direct and digital agency, backed by M&C Saatchi took its name from its founders, Lisa Thomas and David Harris and grew to be one of the most successful commercial and creative start-ups. We created the brand, its distinct positioning, and the identity I designed, around my kitchen table. In seven years, it grew from just two people to over sixty, winning prestigious accounts including British Airways, MINI, NatWest, RBS, Direct Line and the government’s high-profile launch of the Child Trust Fund. I also worked on M&C Saatchi integrated accounts like TfL, Matalan and Climate Change, and on numerous new business pitches.
After two years we took over the management of the floundering eMCSaatchi and merged it into LIDA, running one seamless integrated creative department. This helped accelerate growth on the digital side of the agency and landed us a place on the COI roster, winning the RAF account.
Maximising business opportunities
Part of the growth strategy in the agencies I have led creatively has centred around being more ‘relevant’ than our competition. In 2017, at gyro:uk we launched a specialist, Sustainability division with Lord Barker. This involved C-Suite breakfasts with politicians, banks and large blue-chip companies and proved hugely popular as it enabled businesses to discuss initiatives at a very senior level. As we were able to help launch some of those ideas, it proved successful as a new business initiative.
We also worked with a number of emerging green technology companies helping them develop their brand strategies and communications and hosted many of them at an event London Climate Week to honour Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I worked with the CFO at Wunderman on an organic growth initiative. In down-time, proactive work was developed and regularly shared with our biggest (and most difficult) clients. Every idea was designed to solve one of their business challenges and ‘wow’ them with our creativity. It proved very successful in strengthening client relationships and growing business. In particular, our Land Rover client continually found the extra budget to fund several of these initiatives, many of which went on to win awards. Within a year this initiative was rolled out across the client base and was credited with a 47% upturn in organic growth – and a more collaborative and motivated agency.
It’s an initiative I’ve taken with me to every agency since.
Being known for something within the industry is key to being distinctive for both brands and agencies. Below are two initiatives I’m most proud of.
’m also a regular awards judge, sit on the IPA CPD Council, MAAG Creative Leaders team, and am on the IPA 44 Club steering group.
Cannes: ‘Where do ideas come from?’
An opportunity arose to give a keynote at Cannes Lions. Giving a talk to 800+ delegates is daunting. Even more so when you are filling in for someone who couldn’t make it, with only 8 weeks to prepare.
I’ve often wondered whether the wiring in my brain is what makes me think differently. So, I set out to discover what happens neurologically when we are creating. I asked a broad range of people who study the brain, including neurologists, specialists in autism and child cognitive therapy what happens when we have ideas. Then I asked a long list of famous creative people what they do to get ideas. The response was overwhelming. Salman Rushdie, Cornelia Parker, Philip Glass, along with filmmakers, artists, architects, and celebrity advertising creatives contributed as well as Baroness Greenfield and a host of neuro specialists. The findings were fascinating and made for an intriguing talk.
Afterwards, I was approached by Richard Curtis’s team who invited me to be part of the Make Poverty History Campaign; and P&G who asked me to give the talk to different sections of their business. Subsequently, a shortened transcript was featured in Directory Magazine and used as PR for the agency.
B2B Ignite: Mastering fear to ignite business creativity
Reaching B2B decision makers is hard due to the complex structure of influencers within organisations. To land gyro:uk’s specialist credentials with a wider audience I co-wrote a keynote delivered at the B2B Ignite conference about fear. It was based on the insight widely discussed in art education that fear can lead to a paralysis of indecision, and used learnings from creative teaching techniques and applied them to business leaders.
It was published in Campaign, a number of B2B publications and provided the basis for breakfast and workshop events. These led to successful new business leads.