Neilson Hall is the chief executive and co-founder of Illuminate and Geode; Hall was featured in Media Week’s 30 Under 30 in 2012
Neilson Hall is the chief executive and co-founder of Illuminate and Geode; Hall was featured in Media Week’s 30 Under 30 in 2012
A view from Neilson Hall

Budding marketers should look where others aren't looking

The chief executive and co-founder of Illuminate and Geode shares his career tips for young budding marketers.

Since being inducted into the 30 Under 30 list in 2012 while working at iProspect, I haven’t rested on my laurels. It was a difficult decision for me to break free from the security of working at a well-respected and established marketing agency but a combination of ambition, ennui and the lure of seeing a clear gap in the market was irresistible. I felt compelled to go out on my own and start a new technology business and digital agency with a focus on culture, innovation and partnership. 

There are five standout pieces of advice I would give to any budding young marketers. 

Listen and learn. Get yourself a group of experienced and diverse mentors to help you on your journey. New Look founder Tom Singh, retail pioneer Mark Eve and Dan McPherson, a key investor, have helped guide me through some difficult times. Without these people being involved, there’s no way that Geode and Illuminate would be the businesses they are today.

Take risks. I’ve never been one to conform to industry norms. If you’re going to find gaps in the market to exploit, you need to do something different – and, eight out of ten times, that can go wrong. You have to believe in your own insight and be bold enough to trust those last two times will pay off and make it all worthwhile.

Just because you are one person and they are many doesn’t mean they are right. You have to stand on your own two feet and, if you need to do something out of left field, it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

Push into the unknown. To find success, you need to look where others aren’t looking. You’re not going to make your mark by copying what someone else has done. You need to look at what people aren’t doing, where the needs of the market aren’t being met. That’s where you can find your unique strength.

Keep moving. Don’t rest on your laurels. In marketing, the cutting edge is fluid and evolving radically with technology and trends. If you aren’t looking to the future, you’ll be left behind. 

Always have one eye on what you will be doing next and future-proof as you go. This is a really exciting time to be in the digital sphere but you have to be ready to move quickly.

Be honest. You need to accept your own shortcomings. Try whenever possible to improve them, but never be scared to employ people who are better than you. That’s the mark of a truly great agency.

Despite being chief executive of a tech platform, I’m not a classic "techie", so I’m very lucky to have John Barlow [co-founder and chief technology officer of Illuminate] with me every step of the way. He is the best in the business and outstanding in his field. 

As an agency, we must accept that we can’t be masters of everything. We bring in individuals with specific skillsets to round out the team. They don’t always have to be the best of friends, but they work together and make the best of everyone’s specialisms.

Neilson Hall is chief executive and co-founder of Illuminate and Geode; Hall was featured in Media Week’s 30 Under 30 in 2012