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Ten questions with… Tom Jarvis, CEO of Wilderness

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The Drum Network's 10 Questions With... series asks our members a series of questions about their lives in the industry, both relevant and irreverent.

This time Tom Jarvis, founder and chief executive officer at Wilderness, answers our queries about his career and what needs to change in marketing.

What was your first ever job?

My first ’proper’ job was working in the marketing team at the now defunct and somewhat infamous Revolver Entertainment. At the time it was a pretty forward-thinking film and TV business following a few breakout hits in the UK.

I worked with some extraordinarily talented people who have gone on to do amazing things. It was just, how can I put this, a not particularly well-run business. But it was a great breeding ground for young marketing talent and I moved on after a few amazing years to join Entertainment One, which was growing at a rapid pace following the success of the Twilight movie franchise.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

’Micro influencer’. Just think about it.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

I’ve recently started following @thevoiceofcolour which gives a voice to issues of racism in the UK and beyond.

I also follow @ftblforfuture Football for Future is an amazing organisation we are working with and is the place for sustainability in English Football.

Also, check out our charity partner for the year @Villagewater as they are doing incredible work bringing sanitation and clean water to the most in-need.

Highlight of your career (so far)?

I’d have to say taking the plunge to start Wilderness. I did so off the back of a failed venture with a good friend and I could have got a “proper job” but knew I could build something really impactful.

We have over the last six years delivered some incredible work and I’ve had the pure joy of sharing the journey with some insanely talented and brilliant people and I’m thankful every day to the (growing) team who bring their all.

And we are just getting started.

What piece of tech can you not live without?

If it’s hardware then it would have to be my Google Pixel phone but if it’s software then I’d say my podcasting app. At the moment I’m using Pocket Cast, or Twitter which are the two apps I use every day.

It’s crazy how often I’ll see a news article online or on TV and my first reaction is to go to Twitter to see how it is being discussed or reported there. That’s probably not a healthy habit but I’ve tried over the last year or so to follow a more diverse range of people who really add value on a range of topics that interest me.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

I didn’t really have posters on my wall as a kid but if I did then it probably would have been some Italian footballer from the ’90s or The Strokes who were the first band I remember really being obsessed with.

In marketing, what needs to change soon?

I think two things need to change, firstly brands need to take more risks, there’s an ever increasing aversion to risk from brands who are scared to put their head above the parapet in case they get it wrong. I think the ones who are bold, know who they are and what they stand for can have a real impact but all too often they fall back on safe creative, or strategic ideas and executions.

The second is understanding that your competition is not who it may have been five or 10 years ago or your leader in the category. Brands who have, or aspire to have, a cultural impact need to be aware that their competition is the broad culture in which they exist. Brands don’t define the culture in which they exist anymore and they no longer have control over people’s attention. But they can still play an important role in people’s lives – they just need to see clearly what that new role is.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?

I studied film and world cinema so the list of movies is far too long to but Seven is just about the perfect film.

As for music my taste runs up until the mid-2000s so I’d say Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem, Silent Alarm by Bloc Party and In Rainbows by Radiohead were are pivotal albums for me in my 20s.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?

I think the pandemic has taught us that we can do business pretty well without most events and in truth I’d rather spend the time with my team or my family.

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

Stay the course.

As an agency founder and really anyone in a senior position within an agency you know you are playing a long game or as Simon Sinek calls it “the infinite game”.

My role is really navigating both the near waters of the day-to-day to make sure the team and business operates as effectively as possible and well as keeping a north star view on the future and ensuring I create and communicate a clear vision of the goals and ambitions.