10 questions with... Phil Jones, founder of Podge

Phil Jones

The media and marketing sector is ultimately about people. In this weekly series, The Drum speaks to professionals across the sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us.

This week's 10 Questions are posed to Podge founder Phil Jones.

What was your first ever job?

I served a five-year apprenticeship as a monotype keyboard and caster operator at Manchester based Direct Printing Limite. At the time their biggest contract was with Manchester United in the days of Best, Law & Charlton. I typeset the programmes in hot metal.

Why did you get into advertising?

Throughout the 1970s in London I worked with those in the ad agency world when they all required 24 hour overnight service from their type suppliers. They expected beautiful kerning, spacing, proofreading etc and they would work during the days and send the work to people like me to be done overnight.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that I actually became part of agency world when we sold our own typography business, APT, to a financial services ad agency in Grosvenor Square on a three-year earn out between 1987 and 1990.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the creative sector since working within it?

I love the people in and around the creative sector. They range from brilliant creatives to super smart strategists and great writers with little pockets of talented individuals sprinkled around. Being able to tap into it and encourage them to do great work has always been key to my personal enjoyment.

In my own case the interesting challenges were always around integrating people with different skill sets who often had little understanding of each other’s issues. When we merged Real Time Studio with Evans Hunt Scott to become Ehsrealtime (and then Ehs Brann) back in 2000, integrating digital skills throughout the business was one of the key challenges in the early days. One of the most surprising things is how vulnerable many brilliant people are. They all need an arm around the shoulder.

What campaign or work have you most enjoyed being a part of?

Back in the days when I had a proper job and people called me “boss” I would say that some of the highlights were the launch of the new Mini on and offline, the first ever website for Canon UK & Europe and then later for the Premier League and Sport England. I'd also list the identities for UK Sport, UK Athletics, the British Tourist Authority and 10 years of doing everything online for Diesel. Exciting, fun times and lots of firsts.

What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?

Mistakes are made every day – certainly every week – and it goes with the territory when everything is rushed. I think just knowing when to hold your hands up and say "mea culpa" quickly rather than trying to pass the blame around. As a boss it is important that the staff see you as you really are rather than the image you think you should portray.

Best book you have ever read?

I love reading spy stuff and thrillers, nothing too high brow. Robert Wilson and Charles Cumming recent good finds.

Ogilvy or Bernbach?

Ogilvy.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

Job? Probably not the right word for what I do. With Podge Events I love bringing talented people together in the worlds of digital, sport, design and music. The excitement comes from being able to work with some of the best agencies in the country bringing each event to life without the meter running.

This year is the 24th year of Podge. And on the day seeing 200+ people in a room all having fun makes all the hard work worthwhile. Outside of Podge I love working with agencies as a mentor to the owners. I can’t really call it work as I would probably do it for nothing anyway if they asked me. This is probably the most fun I have had throughout my working life.

Who is your favourite person to work with and why?

My daughter Clare and wife Babs – they work with me on Podge events – and my son PJ does all the behind the scenes clever stuff on the CMS. Having Clare on my payroll full time has been incredible. She turns up at the office (our home), brings her cockapoo Arlo, her three-month-old baby Kimberley and (when he is not at nursery) her three-year-old Frank.

Amid the chaos we somehow organise the world of Podge. And amid the chaos the occasional beautiful smiles from the baby or screeches of laughter from Frank make me realise what is most important in life.

If you could ban one buzzword or piece of jargon what would it be?

Brexit.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

My dad (Big Phil) was a scaffolder and we grew up with his work ethic. He never had a day off sick and worked most weekends, and I think growing up in a house where there is a strong work ethic sets your course for life. His quiet advice was always along the lines of “stop moaning and just get on with it”. So I did.

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