Manchester is already regarded as one of the creative hot spots of the UK. But this reputation is growing – fast. And with the MediaCityUK development in Salford now almost fully operational, the creative kudos of the area is only set to grow. So, to find out more about what’s really going on in the city, The Drum put a series of pertinent questions to 20 different agencies that operate at the coal-face of Manchester’s creative industry.
In a series of feature pages, we look at the agencies' responses, to explore the varying industry perceptions of the city.
Paul Casey, Internet Marketing Manager, 11 Out Of 10
In my experience the talent in Manchester is at a very high standard for web developers, web designers and online marketers. There is a lot of experience out there amongst freelancers and we have even taken on a freelance developer after being very impressed with his work. We have also found a high standard of digital graduate students from Manchester Met and Salford University.
Phil Marshall, Owner, Shoot The Moon
The strong agencies will always attract talent, be that freelance or full time. Manchester definitely has a concentration of talent and probably more importantly a reputation for agencies that nurtures and develops it.
Julian Gratton, Managing Director & Creative Director, Red C
The current talent pool in Manchester I think is fantastic. And the freelancers available that we pull into Red C are not only talented; they are also full of enthusiasm and give a great deal of added value.
Simon Landi, Access Advertising
Definitely a problem with good quality ‘digitally-minded’ talent – from usability experts to social media strategists – the strength in depth is of great concern. The market is moving so fast, it’s leaving a huge swath of the industry behind (in people terms I mean.)
Nick Rhind, Managing Director, CTI Digital
There’s not enough talent. That’s what we’re finding, hence why freelancing is so healthy at the moment. With a large digital team of 40 now we have really become to struggle and are recruiting over 50 miles away and helping people to move to join us. In digital, when you get towards the top of your game you move up to director or you go freelancing and earn out that way. You’re right on the senior creative but we tend to find that as agencies are now changing priorities to a digital remit that the people looking for work have struggled to make the switch to a digital environment or have been replaced immediately to plug the hole.
Karl Barker, MD, Cube3
I am sorry to say this, but there seems to be a flood of designers and artworkers and a shortage of talent in the emerging areas of the industry. I think that there is a great opportunity for students and new graduates to really assess the marketing landscape, not for what it was, but for what it is now and will be in the future.
Fergus McCallum, CEO, TBWA\Manchester
I'd say the talent pool is better than we give ourselves credit for - equally the pool is wide when you consider the breadth of the creative community that exists in the city. The talent is there if you're willing to find it, give it a chance and take a risk - it's not always in the place you might expect to find it though.
Reuben Webb, Creative Director, IAS B2B
The pool of young talent is excellent in Manchester. Combine the fact that the new blood is born digital, with a more serious approach to education as the costs increase and we’re getting better equipped youngsters coming through. There are some excellent career freelancers in the North West who are effectively one-person agencies. But, rather sadly, you can equate the increase in freelancers to the senior creatives looking for work. Freelance can mean, ‘I was looking for a job but didn’t want anyone to know I was out of work.’ A lot of the senior crew have become casualties of a digital era and economic double whammy. I predict a surge in micro-breweries when the juggernaut of reality hits home for these guys.
Steve Peters, Code Computerlove
There is a very strong freelance base now and they are busy, but for me this is an indication that the availability of talent is currently outstripped by demand. Talent is the key word here. There is no shortage of CVs, but we find it very hard to meet people of the standard we are seeking.
I actually would point to senior creative talent as being THE area that there is particular shortage within, especially those with digital expertise. Those looking to relocate from London and beyond is where the talent seems to be coming from at this level.
Better news is the quality of emerging creative talent in the city. The arrival of Hyper Island's school in Manchester is significant – it will attract the some of the best potential talent to the city and undoubtedly influence the existing educational institutions here. It should raise the bar all around.
Mike Moran, MD, MojoFuel
There is a lot of choice out there, although some of the best guys we have on our books don't actually reside in Manchester, mainly due to the fact they've made lots of money and moved out to the country! They're still in the region though!
Gareth Wright, Director, The Little Black Book Agency
We are noticing that a lot of candidates with sought-after skill-sets are turning to freelance, where they can demand higher pay and a better work/life balance. This suits some clients, who remain cautious about investing in permanent staff, and so the freelance market is relatively buoyant. There are still large numbers of candidates (particularly creatives) who are out of work and having to take whatever bits of freelance they can get. We, as an agency, have had a surge of London relocators register with us over the past two months: ranging from media planners to creatives.
Wayne Silver, Director of New Business, One Marketing Communications
When times are tough, there will always be a bigger pool of keen and very talented freelancers. Not only from a creative point of view, but also within disciplines like PR and specialist digital coding. Some end up as reluctant freelancers but some welcome the opportunity to only have themselves to report to and at least can recognise their own wolves at the door. The rapid pace of technological development has helped to fuel the freelance sector as it is so much easier to manage the briefing process, hold video conferences and review work even if the freelancer is best placed working off-site. It helps an agency’s internal resource planning too if they don’t need to maintain spare desks and Macs in case freelance resource is needed.
Garry Byrne, MD, Reading Room Manchester
There's certainly a lot of talent out there at the moment - both freelance and on the market. There's also a nice mix of established, commercially experienced people and 'fresh blood' - graduates and self-taught youngsters with great ideas and new approaches to things. We're also now recruiting the first generation of people who have been brought up in the social / engagement era - it's a very exciting time to be recruiting and we're finding some wonderful people.
Paul Heaton, Creative Director, Reform Creative
The current talent pool in Manchester remains very high. Manchester has an excellent reputation within the creative industry throughout the UK and Europe and can maintain that reputation. I think there is a healthy pool of freelancers but I question whether the freelance work is healthy. This may account for the reason why some seniors are currently looking for work, but senior doesn’t always mean good, and those that are good don’t really look for work – the work looks for them.