MRM's Nicky Bullard on the keys to building successful agencies even in testing times

The Drum 14 Sep 2020 08:51

Nicky Bullard, chairwoman and chief creative officer, MRM, and chair of The Drum Awards for agency business, discusses her predictions for agencies for the next 24 months and how the industry is moving in the right direction with equality and inclusivity.

What do you think will be the priority for agencies over the next year, and how do you think that will impact the work we see next year?

I've got three Ps. The first is our people. Keeping them safe physically and mentally. We don't know what's going to happen with the pandemic. We want people to be able to be themselves. We want people to be able to say 'I don't feel okay'. It's OK not to be OK. And we want that feeling of safety because it means you can be yourself. When you can be yourself and feel safe that's when creativity happens. Also, keeping people motivated. They've been hearing it from different agency leaders as well. As an industry, our people have been so amazing at adapting. We do it all the time. We're used to tight deadlines, we're used to change requests. And we've really shown it in the last year. We need to keep that motivation and dedication. Keeping people motivated, keeping them safe, mentally and physically.

The second P is progress. Keep pushing forward, keep making progress and most importantly, keep sharing that progress, because that in turn, will keep people motivated. There's so much bad news over the industry press, there's a lot of doom and gloom. Redundancies, clients leaving, senior leadership suddenly disappearing and you don't know where they've gone. It all feels quite unstable, but actually we're seeing the strength of those agencies. When we are winning, when when great stuff's happening, great work is being produced, we should celebrate it and show that progress.

Your passions are direct and digital – what innovation has happened in those areas over the past 12 months?

A great example is the Do Black card from Doconomy, a carbon limit credit card. It was a stroke of genius. It's just a brilliant invention where you can set your own carbon limits so you literally can't spend on your credit card if you've bought too many products with too much of a high count.

Learning from that thinking that best practice is important. But if everything's best practice, everything can feel the same and remembering that the brand has to be at the heart of creativity. That was so on Banksy's brand, not giving a toss on annoying people.

Like I mentioned, we're really good at beating ourselves up. But actually, in the last few weeks, I've been able to see some of my friends who work in different industries, and talking to them about some of the things that we're all doing and how far ahead our industry might be compared to others. There's a lot of stuff we're doing, but it's never enough. We're all sitting here thinking there's so much I need to do.

The other bit is talk, talk, talk. We're very good at saying what we want to do but everything becomes a bit sanitised. Because people are so worried about saying the wrong thing. And I think it's only when we say the wrong thing that we can be corrected that we're saying the wrong thing and understand the same thing. It's one of these vicious circles. But if we just accept that we're not going to get it right all the time and call it out.

Action is everything. Because until we do stuff, nothing changes. We can talk about it but let's do some stuff. Take Hidden for example. They're a brilliant recruitment company. They will put somebody within your business so that person becomes an extension of your team rather than hidden as an employee and understand your culture. They'll also bring you a richer, more diverse bunch of people to interview in first instance.

What are you looking forward to with the entries this year?

The deadline for The Drum Awards for experience is Wednesday 16 September. Make sure you enter now and visit the dedicated website.

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Nicky BullardDoconomyGeorge FloydBanksy
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