Digital Bedrock: Brighton Focus
Brighton has earned a reputation as a centre for digital and creative excellence. The Drum discovers that this has been forged by investment from the city’s agencies and a strong collaborative outlook.
Then 2007 witnessed SEO giant iCrossing acquire Spannerworks to form iCrossing UK and Linden Labs chose Brighton as its new headquarters. Such moves have given Brighton a high profile and firmly established the city as a beacon for all things digital.
Helping to maintain that success is Wired Sussex, a membership-based organisation independently established in 2006 to support the growing number of digital companies in the county. It has more than 1,100 member companies, between 60 and 70 percent of which are based in Brighton. Not bad for a town with a population of just 250,000.
It’s a testament to the organisation’s significance that each and every company The Drum spoke to in the city mentioned the work it does for the industry, something chairman Phil Jones is understandably pleased with. “We tend not to blow our own trumpet and hope our members do that for us,” he says.
He believes the success of Wired Sussex is due in part to it not being a government-funded organisation, with objectives set by people outside of the market.
“We don’t have to adhere to any legislation or agenda set by the government. We were established and funded by a group of founding partners so we’re able to tailor our objectives to the needs of the market.”
Those objectives are to work with digital media companies, helping them to develop and grow. A simple enough goal and one it achieves with the help of the founding (and, more importantly, funding) companies.
“What’s significant is that the money our founding partners put in was not an investment. They’ll get no financial reward. They put the money in because they saw the value in the organisation and continue to do so.
“This is what sets Brighton apart from other cities. There is genuine collaboration and open discussions among agencies in the region. When pitching for business, for example, we overcome our intrinsic size disadvantage against bigger competitors by forming partnerships.
“There’s a strong ecosystem in Brighton. It has a large community of freelancers and small start-up businesses and they often get called upon by the bigger agencies to deliver a variety of projects. This has strengthened the scene and ensured its long success.
“The same could be said for the universities. We have world class universities in Sussex, which have the highest rate in the country for people staying local after graduation. They have recognised the need to be more involved in the sector and have a number of initiatives set up to develop talent, so they’re ready for employment.”
While it competes against London-based competitors on a regular basis, Brighton’s proximity to the capital shouldn’t be ignored. It takes less than an hour “on a good day” to get from the centre of Brighton to the centre of London. It also can’t hurt that clients get to visit Brighton to meet their agencies, swapping a stuffy Soho boardroom for the seaside surroundings.
Here we profile some of the companies helping to establish Brighton as a creative hub, making sure it continues to have its place on the digital map.
Led by John Worth, who founded the agency more than a decade ago, this digital communications agency works with the likes of Lucozade Sport, Channel 4 Learning, The Guardian, NHS, Brighton Festival, the Government. The firm has recently been working for GlaxoSmithKline, launching a UK website for Breathe Right as one of only three agencies on the firm’s global digital roster.
Although Bliink is a relatively small team, with four full-time staff, its client base belies a much more established outfit. Managed by Dan Mellor, the firm offers a host of services – including design, film and video production, and animation – to the likes of National Geographic, Channel 4, EMI, Olympus, Working Title and Proctor & Gamble. The agency recently completed idents for the FX Channel.
Launching in 1996, Red’s reputation - at least to begin with – was carved in the music industry and even to this day, there are still signs of that expertise. Two of its clients – EMI and Sony BMG – are about as big as they come in the industry. From designing Fat Boy Slim, McFly and Girls Aloud album covers and campaigns to fashion-related work for the likes of Tanner Krolle, the agency has an exciting back catalogue. At present, however, the agency’s reputation is being enhanced by its ongoing activity for Sony Playstation.
Killer Creative describes itself as “The London Agency by the sea”, which admittedly highlights the significance of being associated with the capital, but also how its picturesque location is a key pull for clients wanting to hop across to Brighton to visit their agency. The agency’s services include advertising, design and publishing and it boasts of clients such as First Choice Holidays, Club 18-30, News Magazines, Sussex Enterprise, Neilson Active Holidays, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Unique Brighton and Endemol Television.
Launched in 1998 by David Pounds, the former managing director of UK-based TVF, Electric Sky is made up of three companies, all well-established in their own field. Electric Sky Sales is the group’s distribution company, Electric Sky Productions is the production company and Brighton TV is the facilities house. In 2007 Electric Sky produced over 62 hours of programming for broadcasters in the UK and US, including The Castration Cure and Fat Doctor. Recent commissions included Animal Planet International and Smithsonian Networks.
Formed as Spannerworks in 1997 by Arjo Ghosh, the company rose to fame as one of the UK’s first search engine optimisation businesses. Over the years it evolved, widening its offering to include other digital marketing services – such as social media and tracking – and in 2007 was acquired by US giant iCrossing. The firm is now part of a worldwide office network of 15, employing more than 620 people. Recent developments have seen Mel Alcock, former senior vice president of Disney’s Jetix Europe, promoted to chief client officer for the UK.
McFaul’s reputation goes beyond its Sussex roots and its little surprise the firm has taken the decision to open a second office in Bristol in the coming months. McFaul specialise in graphic design, illustration, motion graphics, and brand identity, but has recently produced TV commercials for the likes of Specsavers, store refits with both Carhartt and Nike Air Jordan, over 400 metres of continuous vinyl graphic (not to mention seven bus wraps) re-styling Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, and multimedia campaigns for Toshiba.
Formed in 2003, Kanoti has a reputation beyond its years. A number of the companies we spoke to during the research identified the digital media agency, which works across three key areas – animation, interactive design and online learning & entertainment – as one of the best in the market and it would appear clients feel the same way. Clients working with the firm include Barnardos, the BBC, Channel 4, E4, Lovemonk Records, MTV, Nintendo, Orange, and Universal Pictures.
Covering design, advertising, marketing and online services since 1992, Mosaic is one of Brighton’s most well-established businesses. The agency has been responsible for above and below-the-line campaigns for some of the UK’s best-loved magazines, including Zoo Weekly, FHM and Empire, as well as advertising for Club 18-30, Yokohama, and Driving Days. It’s most recent work has included a design project for London Business School, brand development activity for Bill’s Produce Store and brochure design for Palmersport.
Founded in 1985, interactive media agency Cogapp’s early work focused largely around museum clients, however the company now works with clients including Manchester United, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the British Museum, the BBC, HSBC, the Natural Environment Research Council, the National Portrait Gallery, the Home Office and many smaller organisations. In 2004, Cogapp started work on its most ambitious project, the incubation of an interactive communications start-up, funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, called ICONS.