Feature

Power 100 2018: How Direct Line's Mark Evans restored the brand's confidence

Saatchi & Saatchi's Larissa Vince explains why Mark Evans is one of the UK's most influential marketers.

Power 100 2018: How Direct Line's Mark Evans restored the brand's confidence

If I had to choose one word to describe Mark Evans, it would be competitive. He’s competitive about anything and everything. The performance of his brands. His career. Sport. DLG team-building days. Everything.

But I don’t think he’d have got where he is without that. He loves challenge. He’s attracted to companies that need change, reinvention, focus. And he might have moved well beyond the day-to-day now, but he’s a very instinctive and brilliant marketer. We love working with him, for lots of reasons.

For one, he’s willing to take calculated risks. I don’t know if he expected to be presented with a creative idea that featured the world’s most famous gangland fixer when we came up with the Harvey campaign. But straight away, he bought it. He still talks about the instinctive response he had when he saw that work, that he knew it was right. You’ve got to be brave to make the kind of change that the brand needed at the time. 

"Mark is competitive about anything and everything. The performance of his brands. His career. Sport. DLG team-building days. Everything"Larissa Vince, managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi London

One of the things I most appreciate about Mark is his curiosity. I like people who think a lot. And Mark’s an inherently interesting person because he’s incredibly interested in understanding people – I think this is a trait that ought to be a prerequisite for anyone in marketing. He’s not a fan of small talk, really. But get him on to a subject he really cares about and he can talk for hours. Luckily, we share a bit of a fascination with behavioural psychology – digging into people’s personality traits and uncovering what makes them tick. It can be a bit boring for anyone who happens to get stuck with us over lunch.

I have to confess I’m slightly less enamoured of his other great passion, rugby. I mean, I do go to the odd England tie, but he’s there every game! If I had a pound for every time some chancer from another agency told me gleefully that they’d taken him out to the rugby, I’d be able to afford my own debenture. He’ll put up with anyone, frankly, for a seat at an England match. But a bit of advice – don’t bother talking to him at the game. He’s there to focus.

He talks a lot about balance in work and life – but he doesn’t mean rest. Rather, he wants to succeed but also have an impact on the world – do some good, I suppose – at the same time. I think that’s why he set up the Sprintathon, which is a now annual event to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer. It’s a bit of a crazy idea that he apparently had in the pub, and then, typically, made happen. Essentially, he rounds up hundreds of people to run 100-metre legs around a 400-metre track so they cover 26.2 miles between them. The aim is to run the fastest marathon of all time. Sorting out a big fundraising event is a time-consuming bit of extracurricular activity to fit around a huge job and his family life. But his drive is inspiring, if a little exhausting to those of us who can barely lift ourselves off the sofa come the weekend.

Mark tells me that even though the Direct Line reboot has delivered incredible commercial results, that’s not the main thing we’ve done for his business. He says we’ve given the brand its confidence back. That’s a huge compliment, and it makes me incredibly proud of our agency. So I’m going to give him a compliment in return. The best client-agency relationships happen when you push each other to be better. Mark does that with us, all the time. And when clients and agencies have the trust and confidence to push each other to be better, you can deliver work with great power to transform a business.

By Larissa Vince

Managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi London