The Now & The Next Session One: In conversation with Three Agency Leaders

The Now & The Next Session One: In conversation with Three Agency Leaders

ROAST • 30/04/2020

Ollie Bishop (CEO & Founder of TIPi Group), Kevin Brown (Co-Founder of Electric Glue) and Gareth Mercer (Founding Partner at Pablo) were joined by ex-Oystercatchers Peter Cowie to discuss the agency impact during COVID 19.

As Marketing budgets are being impacted across the globe, the three agency leaders explained how they are navigating their businesses through this challenging period, focussing on how agility and collaboration have been a key part of steadying the ship.


Peter Cowie: We are all living in grim times, but, starting off by looking at the positives, what are the best things that we are seeing coming out of this period?


Kevin Brown: Firstly, I think we’re all happy to be at home and have more time to spend with our loved ones.

From a media perspective, media consumption at an all-time high, and costs has fallen massively, so the opportunity is huge for brands and we’re seeing good marketeers capitalise on that.

In terms of collaboration, I’m also seeing digital communication channels being used to get things done really quickly, and we’re seeing projects move through ideation, production and delivery at an unprecedented speed.


Gareth Mercer: Echoing that, I think speed has to be one of the key positives. We’re seeing small, agile teams make things happen really quickly.

Also there’s a strong sense of community that has emerged, with agencies from different backgrounds pulling together in an encouraging way.

Distance is making us value the relationships with those we work with even more, and most importantly – the lockdown has given us time to do creative thinking, out of which we’re seeing loads of exciting ideas emerge.

We recently wrote a paper called ‘What’s Changed and What Hasn’t’, and I think the key thing we found was that brands are now really trying to make a difference and find their place in society, which is really encouraging.


Ollie Bishop: For me, on a personal level, spending more time with the family has been fantastic, as has getting to know the neighbours.

At TIPi Group what I’ve been most impressed with is the strength of our culture, we’ve been pulling together whilst physically separated, the team’s efficiency and work ethic has remained strong  and we’re finding ways of having fun together as a group.

Also, I’ve been spending a lot of time face-to-face with clients over zoom, which has been brilliant, and I don’t think I’ll go back to primarily making phone calls.

We’ve also seen loads of great innovation going on, for us this has been taking place particularly in our Voice agency Rabbit & Pork, who’ve been reacting to the situation by building automated voice solutions to take the pressure of stretched call centres.


PC: What challenges have you and your clients faced?


KB: It varies from client to client. Some saw their market disappear overnight, others have shown growth. What’s challenging is the uncertainty; the pain is getting harder for clients as the uncertainty continues.

The first thing we’ve been doing is helping brands unglue from existing commitment, then we are trying to take advantage of the moment as much as we can, then we are working on long term planning.


OB: The nature of the epidemic is the biggest challenge, because its not like a normal recession. The swift movement of the government to support businesses was crucial, allowing us to furlough staff.

We are seeing some upturns but it’s too early to say really. Some clients are doing fine, but some have gone from 100-0. And you can’t even talk to some Marketing directors because they’ve been furloughed unfortunately. The best thing that’s come out of it has been the creativity and innovation that’s been springing up around us.


PC: So what are some of the best ideas you’ve seen recently?


KB: I’ve liked the simplest responses, like Heinz changing the traditional red to blue on the ITV weather spot to show support for the NHS. We’ve seen a lot of brands using the same type of tone, language and music. The question is how do you differentiate?

A lot of the messaging coming out is quite informational, but you need to connect through people’s hearts not their heads.

What John Hegarty always says is that a great idea can solve any problem. This is a time to spend thinking about strong ideas, those that have the conviction to invest in ideas at this time will show growth over the months to come.


GM: Personally, I love what Uber are doing at the moment, but what’s exciting me the most is what’s going on on the production side. Despite all the restrictions in place the production side of the industry are still making incredible work. Some of the techniques they’re using are really mind-blowing.


PC: Tell us about this running initiative you’ve all been working on?


GM: It started out as a stay at home campaign, then we found out that the government were considering revoking the right to exercise, so we pivoted specifically towards encouraging people to keep their distance when running. We knew running was important for people’s mental and physical health and we wanted to try to protect it and encourage people to do it safely.

Once we had the creative, TIPi Group and Electric Glue both did a fantastic job getting the message in front of millions of people.


PC: Ollie, your team got behind it with their new social offering, how did that happen?


OB: It was the perfect type of content to be amplifying using organic social, so we ran with it and saw spectacular results. We were able to be nimble and move fast and managed to get big names like Sally Gunnell and Harry Redknapp to share it, reaching over 2 million people in just a couple of days.


PC: Personally, I’ve loved seeing you three work closer together, how do you see this partnership moving forward?


OB: I agree, these are exciting times and there are great things to come. One of the best things to come out of this situation is that people aren’t just thinking about their own businesses anymore, they’re looking at how they can help one another.


KB:  We’ve certainly got a lot closer. We’re three independent agencies working in very different ares, but our commonality is that we’re all really excited by doing great work, and for that reason I think you’ll be seeing a lot more from us in the future.


The Now and The Next: Session 2 will be held on Wednesday 6th May at 10:00am and will be focusing on the Travel sector.


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