Twist or Stick: People-Made's Brook Calverley and Doug Hewett on making a dent

They might not have paid much heed to career advisors at school, but that hasn’t stopped People-Made co-founders Brook Calverley and Doug Hewett offering up their own sage advice for others looking to make their way in the industry. Trust your gut and make a few dents in the world, they tell us in The Drum and Twist Recruitment’s latest instalment of Twist or Stick.

A fast food restaurant manager and a trainer designer may have been what the school careers advisor had in mind for Brook Calverley and Doug Hewett, but the People-Made co-founders had other ideas.

Brought together at Engage Group, “talking and plotting” between the two became reality in 2013 in the form of People-Made, a “different” kind of brand consultancy which Hewett reveals was “borne out of frustration”.

“We couldn’t really see anyone else out there focussing on this brand engagement piece and that was the challenge we had,” he explains.

“It’s defined by a big idea we had early on and that is ‘the brand is what the brand does’. Brand consultancies, great as they were, were doing the job of defining the packaging and working out what a brand stood for but weren’t able to go and make that brand meaningful. What we offered to do was focus on that brand culture, take the brand idea and brand values and make them real within an organisation,” adds Calverley.

In reminiscing about the early days of People-Made, Hewett recalls the first client to sign on the dotted line with the agency – Converse – as the biggest and best.

“Starting up is such a risk and is loaded with tense moments, but you just want to absolutely knock that first brief out of the park,” he laughs.

“We had no idea what kinds of brands we’d be lucky enough to work with and for the very first one to be Converse, a brand we both loved, was cool and really set the tone for the work we did afterwards,” says Calverley.

Two years down the line People-Made now boasts Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and L’Oreal amongst its extensive client list, with the duo continually impressed by the mood of the industry and, according to Hewett, how “naturally things seem to be happening”.

One thing Calverley has noticed recently is the diversification of the industry, he says. “Before, it used to be the brand agencies, ad agencies, comms agencies, the amplified experience guys and what you have now is a lot of agencies with a distinctive point of view.

“Lots of agencies are crossing over into different things and there’s people like us, shops that are creating a new space that wasn’t occupied by anyone that long ago. It might be slightly bewildering for the client and harder to navigate but as a creative it’s very inspiring.”

“The days of having everything under one roof, the full service agency, those days are gone,” adds Hewett. “Now you have fantastic individuals and fantastic smaller agencies that can work in collaboration and the more we can work together the stronger everyone will be.”

Despite noticing a lot of positive changes within the agency scene the “inherent wastefulness” that plagues the industry upsets Calverley the most, as agencies’ time and energy is wasted on pitches that never come into fruition.

“If I could wave a wand and change one thing it would be to narrow the number of agencies clients could go to for pitch work. Limit it to two or three, make sure the brief is really clear and whatevervalue out of those agencies is used and doesn’t get wasted.”

Though the early career advice afforded to Calverley was “lousy” at best, Hewett had an altogether different experience during the early days of his career, although he jokes that not being told he was cut out for fast food management also helped.

“I had a mentor, I won’t embarrass him by name, but I remember asking for advice when I was between jobs and he said ‘make a few dents in the world’. I’ve always thought of that when I’ve been in the position to be a bit challenging or not. I hear that voice and give it a go.”

And as People-Made continues to make its dent, Hewett’s advice to young creatives starting off on their journey is simply to “trust your gut”.

“It takes a long time to get confident in your career but the main thing is to trust your judgement,” he says.

“You have to trust your gut feeling and it’s hard to hear that sometimes... other stuff comes in, other people sway you. It sounds cheesy but when you stick to what you believe in, you can’t go far wrong.”

This feature was first published in The Drum's 18 March issue, which is available now from The Drum Store.