'We certainly don’t underestimate ourselves' - Q&A with Rachel McDonald, managing director of Dentsu Aegis North

Rachel McDonald, managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network North

Last month, Rachel McDonald was named as the managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network North, where she has been tasked with leading the business' brands such as Vizeum, Carat, Fetch, iProspect and Amplifi across the north of England and Scotland. The Drum spoke to McDonald to find out a bit more about her plans for the business in the future.

What is your focus for DAN North over the coming months?

We’ve already established sustained year-on-year growth having tripled our turnover since becoming DAN North in 2009. And we obviously want to continue on that journey. To do that, its key that we put our clients and our people first.

Our clients’ challenges are constantly changing and as their partner we must adapt to meet these changing needs. Our focus is on enhancing and growing our capabilities - to make sure our clients get best-in-class solutions but also to differentiate ourselves. We already do this but we want to keep moving forward. We’re in discussions with some exciting businesses who will significantly add to our strength and capabilities.

Ultimately, the work we’re producing for clients is proof for how our approach works and this year it’s been fantastic to see the hard work of our people recognised with tangible award successes. We now need continue to shout about the great stuff we do.

We’ve set ourselves some tough targets for 2018 but are on track to deliver.

The Manchester office of DAN North is arguably underestimated in terms of its overall importance to the network with some great clients - why do you think that is?

Well, we certainly don’t underestimate ourselves. We’ve been honest in the past that we haven’t done a good enough job talking externally about the success story that is Dentsu Aegis North. But I can assure you that the 600 people that work across our four offices for many global and local clients are aware of the current scale and ambition of our operation.

We have offices in Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle – all of which are leaders in each of those respective markets. I think it’s exciting to see how these markets are all growing and what that means for our business and our people.

In Manchester alone, the media scene has never been so strong. With high profile moves from the BBC and ITV, plus hubs for Google and Facebook, and more on the horizon it’s an exciting place to be. The talent and skills available is already impressive but these moves are only enhancing the pool as people embrace the opportunities available and the scene we have.

How do you hope to progress the business going forward?

The success of our business is built on truly understanding our clients and their customers. This is what drives us to evolve, invest and ensure that we are at the forefront of new opportunities in our market and for our clients. I only see that success continuing as we grow the role that we play for clients.

What excites you most in the media sector for the future?

It’s got to be people. Bringing in fresh talent and different skill sets and expertise adds to the mix and to the vibrancy, not just of our business but the industry as a whole.

With young talent, it’s amazing to see how quickly they can make a real difference to our business. Last year alone, we took on 78 apprentices and integrated them into different areas of our business and the impact they have had has been remarkable. Our future talent are digital natives and that means we have to make sure we capture all their knowledge, excitement and skills.

What do you think marketers should be more aware of when it comes to media going forward?

Most of the marketers we work with already understand the value that we as their media partner can add. We have strategic relationships with our clients and I’d encourage all marketers to ask more of their agency.

Agencies like ours have deep pools of specialists, strategists and expertise perfectly placed to help them understand their customers and how to engage with them in the disruptive world we are all operating in.

Transparency has been a massive issue for the media section in recent years - how does it overcome that challenge?

I think what both we and our clients want is an open working relationship that is founded on a shared stake in growth.

We have strong and open relationships with our clients, based on an understanding that commercial relationships have many facets, including delivering greater accountability for all parties. Our clients are invariably highly skilled commercial organisations with a clear view on what they expect from their agency - and transparency is just one part of that.

Ultimately, the solution is in developing working frameworks for clients that establish full disclosure across the entire supply chain, better data governance, and greater accountability for all parties

Where next for media in the coming years?

We’re a connected services operation. Media may be our heritage but we only see the range of capabilities we offer our clients increasing. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the future is all to play for. And those that understand the role of media in the future coalition of media, data, tech and creative will be the ones who succeed.

Recently, Amplifi named Pippa Gluckitch as its UK chief executive.

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