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Manchester Focus: What are the downsides of the industry in the city?

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.

Wayne Silver, Director of New Business, One Marketing Communications
I don’t think the downsides in Manchester are any greater than other cities. I think the industry suffers because it doesn’t enjoy the same level of professional status as, say, architects or accountants. The IPA and other bodies are working hard to address this and One, like many other agencies, are completely committed to the CPD and training programmes on offer. When you consider that main product we sell is time, like many other professional sectors, it is really important that we demonstrate how valuable, how specialised and how expert each hour is that we sell. Clients should feel that they are getting something from their agencies which they can’t deliver themselves. After all, no-one wants to hear a client utter those fateful words “I’ve written the copy myself!”

Fergus McCallum, CEO, TBWA\Manchester
Manchester deservedly has a great digital and creative reputation. I've never considered there to be downsides and in fact Manchester has an enviable heritage of swagger and invention which we should celebrate more.

Nick Rhind, Managing Director, CTI Digital
Northern Quarter is where it’s at, there’s no doubt about that. The only downside I’ve been seeing is the pull of larger agencies getting people to move further out of the city. MediaCity, for example will economically bring lots but I’m wary of how this will affect the local community where things are very social and open. I see MediaCity as a place that has everything there (they built it that way) so why go to Manchester. It’s already happening when you see the fact that agencies are moving there with satellite offices just to have a presence. Ideally, agencies should stay in the area but there are incentives to move out which is a shame when investment could be better made in the local area. I’m sure this will get me flak, but I do feel unless the transport gets much better then it will.

Paul Heaton, Creative Director, Reform Creative
The talent in Manchester is exceptional so really the downside comes from businesses that don’t make available the correct amount of budget to match expectations.

Karl Barker, MD, Cube3
Digital marketing is still a new industry for everyone. Name one digital agency in Manchester with more than 200 employees? (Not those traditional agencies that have been rebadged!) We have yet to see the industry settle down. This biggest downside is agencies feeding bulls*it to clients that social media & SEO are the answers to everybody's prayers. There is no doubt that they are hugely effective communication channels, but please let's put it into perspective.

Steve Peters, Code Computerlove
I still think it’s hard to attract the best senior talent to the region. The pull of cities like New York and London have taken some really great talent from the region over the last few years.
The inherent problem for the region is that a lot of big brands operate from London (and some brands only want to work with agencies within the M25). I feel that this mentality is shifting – brands now want agencies to be able to make sense of this increasingly fractured marketing landscape for them, and are finding advice from a far wider pool of specialists.
We are starting to get enquiries from Europe, especially around our work with mobile web development where we have created some unique products and services.
I think it is all about being excellent at what you do, and making sure your company positioning and PR communicates this with real clarity.

Mike Moran, MD, MojoFuel
I think given the fact that Manchester has a fantastic gateway to the world through the airport it would be good to see some stronger ties with foreign lands and emerging markets. Shared digital creativity being spread beyond the confines of the region. Strong collaboration!

Garry Byrne, MD, Reading Room Manchester
Historically, we don't carry the reputation of the established London competition, but I don't think it's true anymore - The North West and Manchester in particular is increasingly being recognised as the hotbed for digital talent. I think the main downside is that collectively, the industry in Manchester aren't believing and thus tapping into the fact that they are ready and able to compete at a national scale, and thus tend to look inwards for business development.

Julian Gratton, Managing Director & Creative Director, Red C
We’ll always be fighting the lure of London, and that’s something we just have to accept. This just means though - to quote a famous strap line - that ‘we try harder’.

Phil Marshall, Owner, Shoot The Moon
Never one to look at anything on the downside – it’s contagious...

Reuben Webb, Creative Director, IAS B2B
If there’s a downside it’s the darkside. There is a destructive minority that lacks generosity of spirit and looks to stick the boot in to fellow marketers wherever they see an opportunity. Rob Morrice has to put up with some shocking vitriol from anonymous forum cowards when all he wants is to take the Manchester scene forward. But it’s not just Rob; these miserable toads will have a go at anything. The IAStival is a good example. Most people are really positive that we’re doing a music festival. Then some dark-hearted anorak comes on the How-do forum and has a go at the logo! We got our most junior designer to do the logo because we like to involve everyone, and we’re all delighted with it. Then somebody with a grudge against God knows what, chooses to ignore the stuff about Turin Brakes playing at the first ever music festival by an agency and has a go at why he thinks the logo isn’t good enough. WTF? Manchester needs to root out these idiots and stand together when opportunities arise to promote the region.

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