It feels like only yesterday that our founders, David Yorath, Oliver Durkin and Ben Livingstone, launched Viewing Figures, a software platform that enabled advertisers to track audience viewing figures online for the first time
Twenty-one years have passed since then. There’s been a lot of growing up and a fair few lessons learned. Yet, in many ways the spirit and focus that defined those embryonic days remains the same. The entrepreneurialism that defined these beginnings is now baked into our DNA.
Breaking down barriers
Viewing Figures was the springboard for developing a new approach to TV planning. Suddenly, this was a media channel accessible to smaller businesses with tighter budgets.
There was now an alternative to the bloated package deals larger network agencies wheeled out. This opened up the market, breaking down the walls that had prevented all but the biggest brands from enjoying a slice of the pie.
Risk and reward
There’s no hiding from the fact, however, that starting your own business is hard. It can be a lonely endeavour wrought with stress and anxiety; at times, the risk can feel too great a burden.
Yet stick with it, and the rewards are often huge. Those early days were tough, but we were galvanised by our belief in a product that stood out and offered something different. Advertisers gradually began to take notice, and we were soon planning and buying TV airtime for the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, whose single, “Put Your Records On”, reached number two in the UK charts, and Afroman, who scored a number one with “Because I Got High”.
Guerillascope steadily grew over the following years, with hires such as Jay Bhatt, Katy Sharpe and Alexa Buckler pivotal in attracting new business, which, in turn, led to a larger team.
But this concerted period of growth coincided with a time of great change for the industry: the two key protagonists were the 2008 crash and the digital switchover in 2012.
Its important to focus on opportunities during challenging periods. For many brands, that means growing share of voice as others hesitate; for Guerillascope, not only did the crash establish upfront payments as the norm - which was crucial for a fledgling business where cashflow was vital - but the desire from advertisers to make every penny count blew wind into the sails of our line-by-line, ultra-targeted approach to TV buying.
With the switchover triggering an explosion in new TV channels, clients now also had access to a wider selection of smaller broadcasters. This considerably increased the number of spots brands could get for their money, while also catering for niche interests. Concurrently, the development of new tools that enabled us to plan and monitor TV activity by channel, programme, day of the week and audience profiles that were more granular than ever before, helped budgets go further.
Luck has a huge role to play in the success of a business, and it’s fair to say that we had the fortune of benefiting from both events.
Rebrand, expansion and sustainability
Having relocated to our offices in Farringdon and continued to add fresh talent to the team, in 2018 Guerillascope decided to rebrand around our three core values: flexibility; honesty; and reliability.
This coincided with an expansion beyond what had been our bread and butter for over fifteen years - TV advertising - to become a full-service media agency that acts as an extension to our clients’ marketing teams. We became partners in two specialist media buyers, OOhyes and MoreScope, as part of our transition, implementing a new focus on cross-channel strategies that encompassed the touchpoints of modern consumers.
However, the larger we became, the more aware we were of the impact our operations would have on the planet. While recognising that offsetting is no silver bullet, we teamed up with Carbon Footprint to become a verified carbon neutral company in 2019. As part of our ongoing commitment, we have invested in tree-planting around schools in the London area and reforestation in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, as well as supporting community projects that provide better access to education and medication.
The Covid-19 pandemic
No business got off Scot-free when the pandemic hit; for Guerillascope, as with most companies, the first priority was protecting staff. We ensured no member of the team was furloughed, introduced policies - such as Zoom quizzes and trained mental health first-aiders - that would reduce the psychological toll of working remotely, and sought to use the lockdown periods as opportunities to upskill.
Then, of course, we had our clients. We resolved to keep them informed of the latest developments and media trends throughout the pandemic, sending weekly reports while remaining a constant point of contact and support.
We were also delighted to be collaborators on the SafeWorld19 campaign, a project developed to spread messages of love and hope during the darkest days of lockdown using the power of TV and out-of-home.
Having been voted one of Campaign’s best places to work four years running, and verified as carbon neutral for three years, we’re delighted with the progress made as we celebrate our 21st birthday.
Our culture of nurturing both professional and personal development has been crucial to getting us where we are today. Around half the team has been at the company for over five years, with some much longer; indeed, we’ve celebrated three ten-year anniversaries in the twelve months alone. A happy team means happy clients - you cannot have one without the other - so we’re grateful that our employees feel this is the right place for their long-term development.
This belief in individual fulfilment has translated into strong business results. The most recent year has seen our revenue grow 43% as new brands have joined our existing roster of clients and shown resilience amidst a challenging climate. This includes Chip, Procook, Flarin, the English Cricket Board, Penfold, L’Occitane, Protect Your Bubble, Mindful Chef and Cartridge People.
But while it’s nice to acknowledge milestones such as this, there is no resting on laurels; our journey has a long way to go.
It would be disingenuous of us to say the past 21 years have been all smooth sailing. There have been growing pains; mistakes have been made. But it’s the mistakes you learn from most, and it’s because of this - interlaced with a lot of hard-work and proaction - that we feel ready and raring for the next 21 years.