Unsung Heroes

By The Drum, Administrator

November 9, 2006 | 8 min read

For many, self-publicity is a second thought in the hustle and bustle of agency life. When it comes to column inches, clients come first, and some of the smaller players in the market rarely have the time, let alone the in-house resources, to parade their triumphs in the press.

That’s why The Drum has set out on a mission. It’s a mission to unearth and present to you those agencies that have developed noticeable hunches from keeping their heads down in recent years and whose achievements have gone unnoticed and unacknowledged.

In the first in the series we head to the North West to unmask some of the Unsung Heroes of the marketing world.

Head First

In 1999, Carl Pugh, Dom Conlon and Stephen Hey left video game giant Infogrames/Atari to launch Head First, an advertising and design agency specialising in the sector in which they had made their reputations.

In the years that have followed, Head First has worked with some of the biggest video game entertainment names, from Sega and Nintendo to Disney and Buena Vista Interactive.

The agency’s work has been seen all over the world and has spearheaded many campaigns for major video game franchises. Most recently the company celebrated two consecutive number one hits in the games charts with THQ’s Saints Row and Company of Heroes.

Head First’s work in games has led to the development of specialist in-house services such as CG images. The company has found that these highly polished images offer great flexibility for agencies of all sizes when it comes to the final realisation of their ideas.

Its current client list includes the likes of 2K games, THQ, Buena Vista Entertainment, Sega and Nintendo.

Cube3 Marketing

As another agency founded in 1999, Cube3 Marketing now purports to be the largest integrated creative agency in Bolton.

Providing an extensive range of services, which includes brand management, product design, print, advertising and web design, the agency has amassed a wide array of impressive clients.

Cube3 works with the councils in Bolton, Oldham and Bury, as well as the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Marie Curie Cancer Care. Most recently, the agency developed the www.visitBolton.com website.

Its work with Mercedes-Benz in the region has seen the agency provide creative for marketing initiatives including CRM campaigns and event management.

Cube3 also has a long standing relationship with Cash Generator, the largest buy and sell chain in the UK, to provide the print and fulfilment requirements, along with in-store POS and advertising for over 80 high street outlets nationwide.


Vcommunications was launched at the end of 1998 by designer Frank Staiger, at a time when the dotcom bubble had burst and other tech companies were talking about their exit strategies.

With his background in design and typography, Staiger developed a business that offered consultancy services for a wide range of clients, often acting as a straight-talking link between his programming squads and design directors, who often have different objectives.

Now the agency has a 50/50 mix of direct and consultancy clients in its portfolio. The company also provides custom build content management systems, CSS and HTML services.

Direct clients for the agency include BBC Worldwide, The Big Life Group, Greater Manchester Music Action Zone, George House Trust, XTRAX, World Class Service and Jonathan Oakes Photography.

Meanwhile clients employing vcommunications for consultancy services include Walsh Simmons, Trevor Johnson and Via Design, Creative Concern and CIDS.

Si Scott Design

Si Scott studied Graphics at Buckinghamshire Chilterns Uni and is now a full time artist, working by hand with pen and ink to create unique pieces.

The combination of his love of drawing and typography is the basis of most of his work but more recently commissions from Angelika Buettner Photography have seen Scott apply his illustration style to other projects.

In the last year alone, Scott went full time as an artist and has produced work for a wide selection of commercial clients including BBC, Orange, BBH, Casio, New Balance, New York Times and Channel 4.

He also exhibits regularly and has a solo exhibition coming in early 2007 and the 100% Design Japan exhibition (in Tokyo) with The Designers Block in Oct/Nov of this year. He has also featured in Eye, grafik, Contagious, Computer Arts and 1000 Type Treatments in the past six months.

Scott’s ambition is to work on private commissions and bring his original work to as many people as possible.

C21 Considered

Manchester-based C21

Considered is an advertising and marketing agency that has been quietly offering innovative design and communications services to a wide range of SMEs and blue chip companies across the country.

The agency is part of the C21 group, established in 1998 by managing director Christina Clarke and colleagues from her previous agency.

At its inception, the company had, for the most part, a business-to-business focus. However, over the last five years the client base has diversified and the agency now specialises in branding, corporate identity, research and conceptual design for the higher education, construction and healthcare sectors.

Clients include: FC United, Manchester Metropolitan University, Georgia-Pacific, University of Salford, Bardsley Construction, Tyco Healthcare, Lancaster University and CODA. The agency has also completed projects on behalf of The Co-operative Bank, Astra Zeneca, HBOS and FIFA.

Defy Communications

Defy Communications is a full service agency with a dedicated team of PR, marketing, creative, design and new media specialists working with a diverse range of clients.

From furniture retailers and conservatory specialists to high street banks and local government, Defy Communications is responsible for regional, national and international marketing and public relations campaigns, specifically tailored direct mail, broadcast media, website design, and e-marketing.

Three members of the team have been guest speakers and lecturers at three of the North West’s most popular universities: Edge Hill, Lancaster University and UCLAN, while company director Lionel Bunting has also contributed to the editorial of a book focused on enterprise and employability aimed at undergraduates and recent graduate students.

Access Advertising

This Manchester-based advertising agency was launched by a quartet of former BDH directors in 1999. However, Access’ first major win came in 2001, when it won the coveted Commonwealth Games account. The agency produced colourful designs and distinctive branding for the Games, which led to a succession of lucrative new business wins.

The agency now counts Visit Chester & Cheshire, Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, Liverpool Capital of Culture, The Mersey Partnership, Manchester City Council Events Marketing and the Steam Packet Company in the Isle of Man as among its clients.

With strong offerings in the direct marketing field, Access is particularly proud of its longstanding relationship with Neville Johnson Offices, the manufacturer of bespoke, handcrafted furniture.

D2 Digital By Design

Manchester-based d2 Digital By Design was originally set up as a graphic design company by Graham Mallinson in 1994. It has since grown to a 14-strong team consisting of diverse and talented programmers, designers, writers and project management staff.

Its expertise has branched into areas such as websites, print and consultancy, working mainly within the education and health-related sector. In addition, d2 has conducted business for organisations such as the BBC and Channel 4.

Its other clients include Manchester City Council, Shared Learning in Action, a number of Primary Care Trusts in the North West, Onyx, Intuitive Media and Turf Land.

Other North West Unsung Heroes include:

Twentytwo, Manchester


Fire Creative, Manchester


Four23, Manchester


G-Man, Manchester


Hello Creative, Manchester


Industrious Design, Manchester


Kilogramme, Manchester


Leanda Ryan, Manchester


One Point Six, Manchester


Smoothe, Manchester


Studio Distract Marketing, Manchester


Studio Undercover, Manchester


Zumm Creative, Manchester



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