A 'magical, mad culture': Vizeum alumni remember the agency where 'orthodoxy was there to be challenged'

Dentsu confirmed this week that the Vizeum name would disappear when the network was merged with iProspect. Here, some of its former leaders remember what made the agency that grew out of BBJ Media so special.

Clockwise from top left: Affleck, Hook, Allan, Lloyd-Williams, Morris, Millar
Clockwise from top left: Affleck, Hook, Allan, Lloyd-Williams, Morris, Millar

Jem Lloyd-Williams

UK chief executive, Mindshare; former chief executive, Vizeum UK

Super-smart people, with a real focus on strategic edge and innovative execution, plus a fantastically creative and fun place to work – that’s a synthesis of the feedback I got from mates when I asked them about potentially moving to Vizeum. The feedback was completely borne out by my experience of the business, during five years on the sixth at Triton Towers. I'm very proud to say I’m a Viz alumnus. Even prouder to say I was one of its CEOs. Great agency. Brilliant people. Stellar work. Thank you, Vizeum.

Richard Morris

Chief executive, IPG Mediabrands UK & Ireland; former managing director, Vizeum UK

For many years, people bemoaned the lack of differentiation among media agencies, but this could never have been levelled at Vizeum. It was a truly special place, with a sense of mischief at its core. Vizeum’s desire to innovate and disrupt pervaded pretty much everything it did and, consequently, it attracted brilliant, disruptive talent and the most amazing client list. The sheer volume of people now making waves across our industry who spent informative time at Vizeum means its legacy will carry on, thankfully, for some years yet.

Grant Millar

Platform GSK EMEA digital & DCT lead, Publicis Media; former UK chief executive and global chief client officer, Vizeum

My Vizeum phase started from a shared belief with Matt Andrews that marketers needed an agile, planning-driven media partner, where great talent built powerful ideas and better results.

Having more than our fair share of the best talent and clients was our mission, and it bred a magical, mad culture. Credit to Nigel Sharrocks [former CEO of Aegis Media, now Dentsu International] for fuelling the vision and pushing Vizeum to be more radical. It paid back.

The happy by-product was a five-year run of pitch wins, hundreds of anecdotes and incubating some of today’s best media talent, who co-built a fearless culture with friendship and fun at its heart.

Matthew Hook

Strategy consultant and owner/director, Hook Strategy; former head of strategy and managing partner, Vizeum UK

Vizeum was widely known by clients, media owners and its people as one of the smartest, sharpest and nicest media agencies there was. Working there at its peak was formative for me, and for many other people who worked there.

It wasn’t underpinned by a proprietary box of tricks, but by a belief that orthodoxy was there to be challenged. As a result, the agency had some amazing talent, encouraged to have a point of view, to try new things and to stick together.

The alumni list is extraordinary, including some of the most prominent strategists, media buyers and general managers in the industry, as well as people who have gone on to do all kinds of interesting things in the new landscape that we were exploring together.

The reality of this industry is that agency brand names come and go, and Vizeum won’t be the last to disappear. But the open, free-thinking spirit of that time and place will continue to shape the industry for years to come through the people who were there.

Patrick Affleck

CEO, Havas Media Group; former president, Vizeum USA

I joined Vizeum in 2008 moving to the newly formed Jump Team, a strategic solutions unit and the brainchild of Matt Andrews and Matthew Hook. I’d argue that Vizeum at that time was one of the most progressive and forward-thinking planning-led agencies in town. It had an infectious culture, which struck the right balance between professionalism and absolute hilarity, and one that led to some truly ground-breaking work for the likes of BMW, Mini, Ikea, AB InBev, 20th Century Fox, Burberry and Coca-Cola. Vizeum’s client base was enviable at its peak.

It's quite astounding to think of the talented people I worked with and who have walked Vizeum's corridors, particularly as many went on to become agency leaders, including Jo Sutherland, Paul Hutchinson, Mike McCoy, Stu Bowden, Jack Swayne and Sally Weavers, to name a few.

So, from VIzeum's original BBJ roots, founded by Buhlmann, Brien and Jelfs back in 1989, to the global network it became, I salute you and bid you farewell. RIP.

Jo Allan

Managing director, Newsworks; former client president, Vizeum

Vizeum has always been a great agency, a real challenger brand that was a creative, energetic and fun place to be. In my view the success was down to a couple of key factors – consistent strong leadership, combined with a genuine people and client centricity. Many of its alumni have gone on to shine and achieve great things in other agencies and areas of the industry, which says it all really. But as we all know in this industry nothing stands still and change is a constant, so it will be interesting to watch the evolution within the iProspect brand.

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