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
’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
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
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.’
THE SEMPLE FILE
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.