CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: Profile - Patrick Semple. New-media visionary has his eyes fixed on the big picture. Patrick Semple feels Blue Marble is a chance to grow, Gordon MacMillan writes

People, people, people. It might look like there are a lot of them around, but when it comes to the UK’s digital industry there is a severe shortage. And in order to get the people who will give you an edge over your rivals, you have to pay through the nose.

People, people, people. It might look like there are a lot of them

around, but when it comes to the UK’s digital industry there is a severe

shortage. And in order to get the people who will give you an edge over

your rivals, you have to pay through the nose.

However, Peter Hollins, the managing director of IMP’s internet arm,

Blue Marble, managed to get his man. ’We really wanted Patrick and we

made sure that we got him,’ he says.

The Patrick in question is the Bates Interactive creative director

Patrick Semple who has been involved in the development of some of the

most talked-about websites of the past couple of years, including

Amnesty International, Shell Nigeria, Compaq and, most recently, the Ten

Downing Street site.

He is joining the London office of Blue Marble as its first creative

director at the same time as the IMP new-media network is preparing to

step up a gear.

It is often regarded as rather grubby to talk about money, but this is

new media where things are different and discussions about your new job

and the equity that came with it are bar-room chat. So I tell Semple

that I am taking soundings, checking the pulse of the industry in order

to give Campaign readers an idea of the kind of financial packages on


Semple is staying quiet on this subject, however. Having said that, he

reveals a little later that he will soon be swapping Habitat for Heal’s.

Say no more.

He looks a little concerned as he sees me note these remarks. ’You’re

not writing that down are you?

I’m joking, Habitat is fine.’ New media is unlike advertising where the

route to a major agency - for both suits and creatives - is tried and

tested. Backgrounds tend to be more diverse in new media and Semple is a

good example. A former art student, he spent part of the 80s going

through a post-abstract expressionist period in the East End warehouse


It was, he recalls, terribly introverted. ’My partner at the time worked

in advertising. It was the 80s and all about Golf GTIs and being

horrible. That was going on while I was just getting out of bits of

carpet stuck on canvas.’

Semple started freelancing as a designer at publishers such as Marshall

Cavendish. This led him into what was briefly considered the new-media

future: CD-Roms.

’My first reaction was time. Instead of being about the image and the

text you could follow it through and add frames and graphics. It was

telling stories,’ he explains.

Semple talks a lot about stories and a lot about time. He is a fan of

creating stories out of random and surreal elements as exercises in

lateral thinking.

His move across town from Westbourne Grove to the D’Arcy and IMP

Buckingham Palace Road offices must have come as a blow for Bates

Interactive, recently rebranded as CCG.XM. But the temptation to join a

company that has major growth plans was too attractive for Semple to

pass up.

Semple gives a reluctant shrug. ’I was concerned at Bates that the wider

picture was not being seen. There was still a feeling that new media was

about ’toys to make money out of’ rather than ’toys without which you

won’t make any money’.’

His comments address a wider issue. No matter how many conferences are

attended or press statements are issued, some people in the advertising

industry still don’t understand new media.

When Semple first walked through Bates’ doors he saw huge potential.

He says: ’I entered a building where there were rich and influential

names such as Halifax, Safeway and Land Rover. It was potential to me

written in caps.’

Like many others, he was under the misconception that advertising

agencies would be ahead of the game. ’I thought they would understand.

But I found that was far from the truth. I would even suggest that some

still do not get it.’

Semple is not alone on this issue and his experience is echoed elsewhere

in the industry. So why IMP? Do the direct marketers have a better

handle on it?

’The integration issue was an important one. Blue Marble is in the

middle of the IMP operation. It is at the centre and that is inspiring.

That isn’t true of Bates.’


1984: Artist

1986: Antique restoration/freelance

1987: Designer, IMP Ltd

1989: Designer, Marshall Cavendish

1992: Senior designer, new media, IMP Ltd

1995: Art editor, new media, IMP Ltd

1996: Head of design, Bates Interactive

1998: Creative director, Bates Interactive

2000: Creative director, Blue Marble.


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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).