Local knowledge: Stuff Advertising, e3, Saintnicks, McCann Bristol, Harte-Hanks, Mubaloo, Aardman Animations and others discuss Bristol and Bath scene

Overview: Agencies discuss the Bristol and Bath scene

Does being based in Bristol and Bath present any significant challenges to an agency? We caught up with some of the area’s top creatives to get their thoughts.

What have been the biggest changes recently?Neil Collard, MD, e3: The depth of talent has strengthened considerably in the last few years. Because of the number of graduates from Bristol’s two universities, we have always benefited from a large pool of talented young graduates. The difference recently is the marketing knowledge and the ambition they bring. Additionally, there are a growing number of people who are leaving London to come to Bristol to take the next step in the career, living somewhere that offers a different quality of lifeJonnie Galvin-Wright, MD, Stuff Advertising and marketing sector head at Bristol Media: The increased demand for digital marketing has created a bit of powerhouse environment here in terms of skills and talent. Bristol was ahead of the game in the 90s when digital marketing was starting and this has meant we have been able to stay slightly ahead of the curve. But digital agencies, advertising and design agencies are converging. Strategy will become ever more important as applications become commodities and agencies will need to invest in planning skills. New niche digital agencies will continue to spring up on the back of technology advance.Steve Davies, creative director, Saintnicks: There has been a lot of consolidation in the region of late and some very visible, emergent new talent. Organisations such as Creative Skillset, the Local Enterprise Partnership and Higher Education have really got their act together, helping to develop candidates and support businesses in the creative sector. With the growth of the Enterprise Zone and an existing digital centre of excellence in Bristol, new technology businesses and real channel neutral agencies have been in the ascendancy. A lot of the established agencies of old have been caught sleeping. But that’s a good thing as it forces innovation and change; I can think of half a dozen agencies that were not in existence five years ago, who are now seen as being very strong players in the city.What are the main trends in Bristol & Bath?Andy Reid, MD, McCann Bristol and IPA city head for Bristol: As the economy gets back on track, Bristol is in a strong position for the resurgence of financial services clients, which will have a massive knock on effect for its agencies. With so many agencies working in channel silos, I hope to see a trend back to creativity. Let’s not spend 80 per cent of our time on targeting only to miss the emotional triggers of the purchase.James Trezona, MD, Harte-Hanks: There’s great hi-tech and digital innovation in Bristol – and the sort of people driving those companies want to place the UK at the heart of the digital world economy in a sustainable way. While the weather’s not the same, there are parallels with places like California, or Austin – places the modern generation of tech innovators flock to who aren’t interested in ‘industrial’ mentalities and short term thinking – where respect for the environment is a belief not a fad and, away from the boilerhouse, creativity thrives.What’s the mood like in the region?Louis Jones, co-founder, Sun and Moon Studios: There seems to be a quiet confidence in the air, the general mood is fairly positive if not a little cautious but almost everyone appears to be keeping busy. I think the last four to five years have been extremely tough for some in the region but things seem to be picking up. We have managed to diversify and steadily grow – with this year on course to be our best yet. There’s also a lot of excitement about new technologies and new avenues for animation such as a crossover into creating interactive content.Mark Mason, CEO, Mubaloo: Optimistic. We’ve weathered the storm and signs are looking up. If you compare the market pre-2007 to now, mobile has exploded which opened up new opportunities in the same way the Internet did in the late 90s. There’s also a lot of shared learning with events like Vision Bristol, Bristol and Bath Marketing Network and Mobile Monday.Where are we likely to see most growth?Jonnie Galvin-Wright, MD at Stuff and marketing sector head at Bristol Media: Digital will of course continue in all its many forms including mobile and apps but behind this strategic planning, together with media planning and buying, will grow as clients look to agencies to solve better and not just provide.Steve Davies, creative director, Saintnicks: Growth will come from greater collaboration and new start-ups. There are many incentives in place to support this and a great amount of ongoing interest in the area. Second offices are being set up by London agencies and the talent pool has grown significantly; employment opportunities are strong. The region is well recognised for its quality of life, but new transport infrastructure makes London an easy commute. Government investment is giving agencies the confidence to grow and invest and we are finding a number of London agencies looking for partnership.Mark Mason, CEO, Mubaloo: Mobile. Cloud. Data. No matter which area people work in, these three elements will impact their jobs in one way or another. They’re all interconnected so whoever can use them in the smartest way will extract the biggest piece of the pie in the future. We have the creativity and the technical talent to be leaders in the South West.Are there any significant barriers to growth?Andy Reid, MD, McCann Bristol and IPA city head for Bristol: Talent – we need to attract the best talent into the region. A major downside of the recession is a vacuum of talent in certain areas. The talent pool has been squeezed at some levels, caused by agencies not being able to justify investing in as many graduates. IPA agencies are now starting to work together to attract people into the region. We will therefore see more competition among regions to get the best staff, as they fight it out to get the best quality candidates.Heather Wright, executive producer, Aardman Animations: With the animation and advertising industries being so globalised, the challenge is often about keeping people working in the UK when we are competing with studios in South America or the far east who have much lower overheads. The challenge is a virtuous circle about having the talent to attract the work and the work to attract the talent and we are always reaching out to Europe and the US for good people.Is it difficult to tempt clients away from London?Simon Brace, new business and board account director, The Real Adventure: If Bristol agencies offer a fantastic product, comparable if not better than the top London agencies, location is largely irrelevant. We’re not interested in working with clients who are wooed by lunches in Soho; we want to work with clients who recognise substance over style. Get your substance right and the right clients will come.Heather Wright, executive producer, Aardman Animations: In terms of the day-to-day business, being in Bristol has less impact than you’d think as most or our clients are used to working on conference calls and over the internet most of the time although we do still highly value face to face meetings and make sure we travel when it feels appropriate.Paul Appleby, director of VID and chairman of Bristol Media: Our companies work with national and global clients – they are born global by working digitally. We’re working with our business networks to ensure our creative talent is visible and known to local brands. Working with a London agency is the default for many UK businesses, but it’s not always the smartest move.There’s a growing sense of common purpose in the Bristol and Bath area and we aim to tap into the strength of our networks to make the connections that ensure a good judgement rather than a snap decision. It will make the creativity of the region sustainable.Spencer Buck, creative director, Taxi Studio: Any client worth their salt would not give a rat’s ass where any agency is located. Geographic location stopped being a deciding factor in agency choice somewhere in the mid-90s. Agency selection should only ever be about three things: creative ability, chemistry, and access to proper cider.

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