Lucy Batley: Nine years ago Rob and I were both running separate businesses but we increasingly found ourselves collaborating on client projects.
Robert Brown: We were separated by a flight of stairs, but that was it. We have always believed that a combination of great design, original ideas and excellent functionality and technology builds brands, so it made sense to combine the businesses.
Dan Appleby: I guess the easiest way to describe our roles is that Rob and his team make things work, Lucy and the creative team deliver an impact and I try to make sure that it’s practical from a marketing point of view. Rob and Lucy’s roles may be ‘sexier’ than mine, but we are all as important as each other – otherwise we would just end up producing things for vanity’s sake.
You describe your team as the ‘felt tip fairies’ (designers) and the ‘Tefal heads’ (coders). What is the real strength in the combined skill set?
LB: Definitely return on investment for our customers. When you look at our work for the People’s Theatre in Heaton, it looks great and is very different from what other theatres are doing. Importantly it has also delivered a 50 per cent increase in ticket sales.
RB: Our next challenge for the theatre is to improve the user experience of booking tickets online. Online ticket systems are generally pretty rubbish, so we’re going to design and build something really cool to make the whole process easier and take some of the user pain away.
DA: Design creativity and powerful ideas are essential to any effective marketing, but we also merge this with formidable technical and digital knowledge. JUMP is a North East business that consistently outputs world class graphical and digital materials.
LB: Lots of people think what we do must be great fun, and it can be, but it’s bloody hard work as well, and that’s the bit that people don’t see. We don’t just sit around brainstorming for hours over chai lattes. The creative process can be a challenging one.
RB: Running a creative company is a complex business. You have to balance the demands of employees, clients and suppliers while always maintaining the quality of work. It’s been important for us to focus on what we’re good at, and the kind of work we want to produce …
LB: … and, as importantly, what we don’t want to do. There are too many companies that say they can do branding, design, marketing, advertising, websites, apps, PR, search engine optimisation, events, basically anything that they think their clients could want. Our approach is to focus on what we do well, and if we can’t do something, we tell our clients.
DA: It happens far too often when an agency tries to deliver something they’re not geared up for. It rarely ends well and it actually takes more time away from doing something you’d be better at. So why bother? Life is too short and there’s enough work out there to concentrate on what you want to do as a business.
RB: I think clients value that approach. They know where they stand, but it relies on working with clients who can tell the difference between experts in their field, and companies claiming to be a jack of all trades.
DA: I believe that, as an agency, we should be as demanding of our clients as they are of us. After all, they play a big part in the conception, creation and quality of the work we produce. The best work always comes out of a strong relationship based on trust and collaboration. When you find yourself able to present bold ideas you’re not sure a client will like, but that you believe is the right solution for the brief, that’s when you know you have a strong relationship.
RB: We don’t have project managers or account handlers at JUMP, which our clients appreciate. It means they get to work directly with the people doing their work, and they don’t have to pay for a layer of middle management which can often clutter up the process.
RB: Over the years we’ve seen the positive effect of those who fit in, want to create exceptional work and contribute to the team. We are really savvy about getting the right kind of qualities in the people we employ and we always hire based on personality
DA: We’ve got such a strong team now, blending exciting creative and strategic talent with very clever technical people who are producing amazing solutions for our clients.
LB: I truly believe that designers should read, travel, watch films and be innately curious. Good design is about sharing emotions and being exceptional communicators. To create effective design, we need to understand the world and the people who live
LB: A lot of new client work comes from referrals and recommendations, which is a credit to the hard work our team puts in. We wouldn’t get repeat business or those recommendations if our clients weren’t confident in our ability to deliver for them.
DA: I think it’s fair to say that we need to be more proactive than we have been in the past. We’re a bit under the radar mainly because we don’t shout as loudly as some other agencies. But when people see our work, they can tell pretty quickly that our team is very talented. There are some hugely ambitious and exciting businesses out there in the North East, and part of our challenge is to help those people find us.
RB: It’s always about getting to know our clients, and for them to get to know us. We’re confident that when a client tests us out on a project we will do a great job for them which will lead to more work. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients like Montane for the last seven years and we continue to push ourselves to do even better work for the extreme sportswear company, like the responsive e-commerce website we’ve just launched.
DA: We’re invited to pitch quite often, which is a contentious issue within our industry. If they had a choice, most agencies wouldn’t do it because of the internal cost involved. But the truth is that it is a part of the industry that won’t go away until everyone stops doing unpaid pitches, and that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. There will always be at least five agencies willing to pitch for free, even if they claim different. Once you accept that, then you start to see pitches for what they are, opportunities to show a potential client what you can do. And on a level playing field, and with a decent client brief; I’d put our team and solutions up against any agency in the north.
RB: Over the last 12 months we have doubled our office space in Milburn House in Newcastle city centre and have worked very hard to bring in the right people to add to our talented team.
LB: We’re incredibly proud of some of the work we have done for our clients. Launching Montane’s new e-commerce website was a particular highlight for us, as was winning contracts to work with South Tyneside Partnership and the Northumberland Development Company ARCH.
DA: As good as 2015 was, we’re all really looking forward to what 2016 is going to bring. We’ve already got a number of projects due to launch in the early part of the year, and we’re hoping that we get the opportunity to work with more interesting and ambitious clients. That’s our core belief, if we produce good work, good clients will follow.