Last week, the former Rapier partner John Townshend, the outgoing COI chief executive Mark Lund and the former Engine strategist Kate Waters announced they were going into business together to offer advertisers a different type of agency. It's called Now. But what's it really all about?
- How will Now offer an alternative to existing agencies?
John: This quote from the marketing director of a major retail bank sums it up pretty well: "In my siloed world, I just want people who don't think in silos."
Mark: The currency in client organisations is all about results and that means getting people to do something - be that switch brands, talk to a colleague or try a new product. So we see our role very simply to be about creating action. And between us, we've got a very good track record for doing it.
Kate: Our aim is to create a more fluid agency structure, organised not in departments but in ideas teams. And we'll expect everyone to excel in at least one craft- be that design, data analytics, digital planning or consumer insight.
- It's easy to be different when you're small ...
Kate: Quite right. Which is why instilling the right culture from the start is such an integral part of creating and maintaining a differentiated agency. By starting "converged" at the top, we hope to breed a culture of respect between disciplines and a cross-pollination of creativity. We want to build an agency where every member of the team, irrespective of job title, is focused on outcomes not outputs, share responsibility for creative and commercial success, and demonstrates a "delay no more" attitude to work. And obviously we'll practise what we preach in terms of behaviour change, and make sure that our people are incentivised to behave in the ways that generate maximum benefit for our clients.
- What are the key things marketers are looking for?
Mark: John spent a lot of time talking to clients while we shaped the proposition, and Now is heavily influenced by what they told us - that they want objective advice, an agency that focuses on outcome not output, that they need innovation and creativity, but feel the "creative" people are kept too far from their business and, finally, that they want a simpler way to manage their increasingly complex and sophisticated marketing campaigns.
- Who are your ideal clients?
Mark: Given our range of experience and ambitions, it's definitely clients who want to create action for their business, while building their brand. We love businesses that have a rich and more complex relationship with their customers and where the communication is about revealing the truth rather than creating a surface.
- Why will you be good partners?
John: I've known Mark for more than 20 years as a friend. I always thought we had the same businesslike focus, I thought DLKW's culture was similar to Rapier's - do the right thing for the client. I have known of Kate for years by reputation. When talking to people about potential partners, she was the one planner mentioned to me more than once or twice - eight times, in fact, by clients and colleagues.
Mark: I knew John when he was still an account man - before the invoice queries drove him into the arms of the creative department!
At DLKW, we both worked alongside and competed against him at Rapier - with a great deal of admiration. We share a very similar approach to the ethics and ethos of business. I met Kate early on when I was at COI and it seemed as though every interesting bit of thinking had something to do with her. She's a really innovative thinker with the ability to find truth in the data, and she's rigorous enough to keep us intellectually honest.
Kate: I met Mark for the first time shortly after he joined COI and then kept bumping into him on committees and panels of one sort or another. And we kept finding more stuff that fascinated us both, and on which we agreed. I thought he was brilliant, and was determined to find a way to work more closely with him! Mark then introduced me to John and, as I had done with Mark, we clicked immediately. We both have deep-rooted respect for different disciplines and a love of craft that makes us perfectionists.
- Where are the gaps in your skills/experience?
Kate: Mark hasn't made enough tea recently, so we'll be putting him to work in the kitchen, and John could do with typing a bit faster ... More seriously, the world is changing so fast that we know we will always need new skills, and if we can't learn them fast enough, we'll recruit people who can teach us. One of the promises we've made ourselves is that we will recruit from the broadest pool we can to ensure the most eclectic and diverse mix of talents in the agency.
The best ideas always come from bringing the most radical points of view together.
- What mistakes have you made in the past that you're determined not to make at Now?
Kate: Not listening to my intuition often enough.
John: Taking it too seriously. Mark Not being confrontational soon enough.
- How will you know when you've made a success of your new company?
Mark: When we get most of our new business on referral, when clients walk in the door and tell us it feels different, and when we become a place that talented people want to come and work.
- And what's your exit strategy?
Kate: Great succession planning.
If we had to sum up in a sentence, it would be only hiring people who are better than we were at that stage in our careers.