Building a sustainable future for digital advertising. Find out how we’re supporting the industry through the COVID-19 outbreak and keeping members connected.

London, United Kingdom
Founded: 1997

This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more

From Leeds to Liverpool: Digital ad innovation in Northern England

by Jessie Sampson

January 28, 2022

How is the digital ad industry evolving in the North of England? And what impact has the pandemic had? We’ve asked members of the IAB’s Northern Group to give an insight into how innovation and creativity are flourishing. Here our members share the most exciting digital ad developments happening today, from new talent to new businesses.

Hybrid working

Tom Elder, (product partner, Open.Partners): “As a programmatic specialist, one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen over the last few years is the number of northern businesses across the network agencies, independents and clients themselves, starting to establish true programmatic buying teams, to better service their clients or manage their own media better. When I moved to Amnet in Manchester in 2014, we were the only in-house team within one of the network agencies outside of London. Now, my LinkedIn is bursting with former colleagues that have been promoted or moved elsewhere to take senior roles in fledgling programmatic teams, which are helping to establish a much wider local talent pool for the future of our chosen specialism.

"In the wake of the pandemic, the new normal has brought new opportunities to many, with the shift to remote and hybrid working putting less emphasis on where a person lives in the hiring process. We are now able to recruit talent from practically anywhere, which has been vital to the growth of my current company, Open.Partners. Whilst we were founded in Manchester, our team has grown from 18 to 60 during the last year, with people joining us from Leeds, Liverpool, London and elsewhere; the strength of our geographically diverse team is a testament to the benefits of this new paradigm.

"A more robust local market for new people coming into our industry or moving north, coupled with opportunities to accelerate growth without geographical barriers for local businesses, puts digital advertising in the north in a very healthy position for 2022 and beyond.”

Working with the industry to equip students with digital skills

Joanna Bodley (senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University): “Understanding graduate employer needs and providing our students with opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to match is a key focus for us. It is key to supporting our students to achieve their early career ambitions.

"Manchester Metropolitan University has always prided itself on our strong industry links and relationships. It’s a genuine collaboration with employers to increase awareness of opportunities they might have, and to develop our grads and expose them to the sector at large. Whether that’s through guest lectures, real-world briefs for their assignments, entering student categories at industry awards, or our successful alumni mentoring scheme to find their ideal career pathway. We also have strategic ongoing partnerships with respected professional bodies such as IAB, MPA, IDM and CIM.

"Our challenge as a university is to keep pace with industry trends to ensure our graduates have the skills employers need. For instance, we were one of the first to market with our Digital Marketing Degree Apprenticeship and very, (very) recently have partnered with IAB UK to launch the IAB Informed Certificate programme at Manchester Met later this month. We will be the first university to give our entire student body access to their extensive e-learning platform and the ability to get this industry respected qualification alongside their degree.”

Growing regional revenue

Bill Dennett (senior agency sales partner, The Ozone Project): “In 2021 we formally opened the doors of our first regional hub in Manchester. While our London-based team had represented the region well, it was clear even more opportunity lay with having people here on the ground who understood the unique pace and ways of operating we see in the regions.

"On joining Ozone, what struck me immediately was how openly our customers welcomed our proposition. 2020 had been no ordinary year for society, but closer to home digital had been rocked by major challenges like Google’s announcement to kill off third-party cookies, or the ramifications of the ISBA and PwC programmatic transparency report. While many claimed to have solutions, clients quickly told me how well-equipped Ozone was to meet these challenges in a way that was easy to activate, simple to understand, and made sense for those who cared about delivering campaigns in quality environments.

"Fast forward 11 months and we now have sales hubs in Manchester and Glasgow, with dedicated client services resources to work with regional customers. We held our first live event since lockdown in October in Manchester, during which we launched our brand new attention research with Lumen. We’ve also moved our Manchester team into a new office base.

"It’s been a busy time all round and we have connected and worked with many new agencies. Nowhere is this more notable than in the 10x growth we’ve experienced in regional revenue from an 8x growth in advertiser count. And this is only just the start.”

Leeds as a hive of digital creativity

Alex Jungius (owner and director, Distorted): “We're proudly based in the North of England - right in the centre of the creative hub of Leeds. Our city has always been a vibrant and experimental place, but more recently it's become a shining beacon for UK media and the creative industries. Leeds is home to national TV networks, numerous film studios, production companies, media agencies along with a rich and thriving cultural scene.

"Businesses from across the globe work with our city and it’s easy to see why with so much opportunity and innovation. Channel 4 and The Leeds Digital Festival represent some of the bigger and better-known developments but Leeds has always been a hub for digital innovation and enterprise.

"We have recently noticed growth in the amount of new business coming from beyond the UK with clients coming from as far as America and Australia and we can proudly stake the claim that the biggest online music radio shows come out of Leeds. Leeds has become a hive of activity for digital creativity and Distorted, as the region's only audio-first agency, is excited to be a part of it.”


Digital Advertising
Digital Skills Gap