10 Questions Marketing

10 questions with... Nick Farnhill, CEO of Publicis London & POKE


By Stephen Lepitak, -

April 16, 2018 | 5 min read

The media and marketing industry 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 Nick Farnhill, CEO Publicis London and Poke.

Nick Farnhill

Nick Farnhill, ceo of Publicis London

What was your first ever job?

Washing cars aged eight. It was a hard lesson in how not to set up a business. I made 10p from one customer and that was my Mum. Progressed 10 years later to a valet parking attendant for the five star Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth. It was like Ferris Bueller taking his best friend Cameron’s Dads’ Ferrari for a spin every time we had to park a car. Made more than 10p and loved it.

Why did you get into marketing?

Luck (perhaps). Had no intention to. The original idea was to run a hotel but wasn’t allowed to go to catering college so had to make alternative arrangements. I studied computer science and information tech with a year based in Holland. In 1994 at Nijmegen University I discovered the internet and was hooked. Returning to London, I met Si Waterfall, David ‘Gravy’ Streek and Gary Lockton and joined the fledgling Deepend team to design and build web sites. Our biggest clients were ad agencies and it went from there. We used to get a client’s entire web site on a 3.5inch floppy disk and still have room for a library of animated gifs.

Who is your favourite person to work with and why?

I’d say my co-founders Nik Roope and Tom Hostler. Almost 20 years in and still going!

What is your ideal work night out?

The now traditional SXSW Friday night dinner at The Roaring Fork, Austin. Always a great mix of excited festival friends that probably haven’t seen each other since the last one.

What is your favourite piece of creative work ever from the industry?

Crispin’s early Burger King work sticks with me. Particularly Whopper Sacrifice - brutal but brilliant. A lot of it felt episodic and oddly subversive. Described by the team at the time as something your cool uncle may do - the uncle who tells you how things really are and lets you get away with a little bit more than your mum and dad do.

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

Let’s have a Hack day.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

It’s exciting to see Poke go from strength to strength. The team are doing some incredible work and have flourished within the Publicis Groupe which was always the plan. Of course, there have been challenges, but we keep learning, stay optimistic and hold on to a curiosity for the creative opportunities technology offers.

Best book you have ever read?

Anything by the travel writer Eric Newby, but The Last Grain Race stands out. His books often start on a whim when he is tired of life and needs an adventure. The Last Grain Race begins when he leaves the world of advertising behind him, walking out on the Dorland agency and running away to set sail on the Finnish windjammer Moshulu. For me, all his books are a reminder that you can and perhaps should try anything.

Who is the person you most want to meet in the industry and why?

There are far too many. Perhaps this is why we run an event called The Brilliant Lectures where three inspirational individuals are invited to talk on three topics; I Made This; This Inspired Me and This is New to Me. Each topic helps shed a little light on them and their work. The goal this year is to launch The Brilliant Lectures podcast providing the perfect excuse to invite all the people I’d love to meet on to the show.

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

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10 Questions With... will return next week.

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