RBH team highlights link between risk-taking and innovation

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An expert panel from award-winning creative communications agency Rees Bradley Hepburn (RBH) discussed the challenges associated with the company’s transformation across its 20 year history at an event staged by The Drum Network earlier this month in Birmingham.

Debra Hepburn, managing director, and directors Angel Gibbons and Fizz Bingham, shared recollections and insights on how the agency, founded in 1995, has evolved and adapted to become a forty-strong team delivering integrated campaigns for international clients such as Peugeot and Wacoal.

Gibbons spoke on the importance of an open culture to innovation, telling the audience: “We’ve always stayed true to our ethos that a good idea can come from anywhere. This translates into a very flat structure here – we don’t do hierarchies and that is reflected in the open plan layout of our office. We chat, we listen, we share our ideas and, as a result, everyone who works here – whatever their role – knows that they can make a valuable contribution to the creative output of the agency.”

Hepburn shared her belief that the agency’s determination to remain “seriously independent” has been fundamental to its success: “We’ve had several approaches over the years, including some very attractive offers, but it would have made things harder for us not easier. The heart of RBH is our ability to take a risk. We’ve taken chances on less conventional clients because we believed in the people behind those businesses. We also take risks creatively with clients that possibly we wouldn’t if we had someone in Madison Avenue or London breathing down our necks, pushing for a particular growth target.

“It’s ironic that marketing agencies tend to measure their own progress by the number of established brands they have on their books, as, for me, it’s breaking new names and new ideas into the market that’s the truly exciting part of the industry.”

This philosophy led RBH to create its own freestanding fashion brand Young British Designers (YBD) in 2010 to discover and showcase the best emerging UK-based design talent. Five years on, many of YBD’s discoveries have now become well-known names, such as Sophie Hulme, Eudon Choi, Simeon Farrar and JW Anderson.

Hepburn explained how every penny made by YBD is ploughed back into the brand’s development: “The real benefit for RBH is that creating YBD has further energised us as an agency and given us somewhere to play and experiment. Our creative teams, our developers, can try new things there – and establish the proof to take to clients who have boards to convince. Our work on YBD also now means that we are renowned in the fashion sector as an agency that supports fresh talent and puts its money where its mouth is.”

Bingham summed up the themes of the night, saying: “Never has it been so important that agencies become fluid, flexible & brave. That the old school disciplines and skills are being swept away and replaced with a pure belief in creative communications: not advertising, not digital, not social, not programmatic, not labels of any kind but an open, passionate embracing of the right communications answer to a client's question.”

For details of more events organised by The Drum Network, click here.

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