Sunday 19th Apr 2015

Thoughts and insights from the World of Initials

Initials tops the creativebrief poll

Posted on January 28, 2015 by

Leading agency broker creativebrief regularly compiles monthly league tables of the agencies which have been most viewed by their client and agency database. Tables are also compiled for agencies’ case histories and latest work uploaded on the creativebrief site.

The 2014 annual tables have just been published, and the Most Viewed Agency in 2014 was….Initials. We also featured prominently in the Case Studies league table for the year with seven of the top thirty viewed, indicating that clients are interested in the agency’s output of work across our client portfolio. We topped the Most Viewed poll with a staggering 37,836 views during the year, more than some of the most successful and high profile companies including BBH, AMV BBDO and iris.

In the competitive world of marketing communications agencies, it’s always gratifying to be recognised both by clients and agencies who regularly peruse the creativebrief website, helping to keep the Initials industry profile high. creativebrief’s database includes some 2,000 individual clients who keep their finger on the agencies’ pulse by regularly checking them out online.

Thank you to everyone who viewed the agency’s portfolio last year. If you haven’t yet come across us, why not pop in and find out why we were top of the 2014 creativebrief poll.

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Getting Back to Basics

Posted on January 16, 2015 by

INITIALS CEO Jamie Matthews has contributed a feature to The Guardian Marketing Issues Column on the agency selection progress and the need to get back to basics.

The article, which is sponsored by the MAA, can be read here.

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Initials appoints Dan Jerrard as new creative director

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Initials (L-R, Nick Presley, Dan Jerrard)

Creative communications agency Initials is growing its creative department with four new hires, including ex-Haygarth associate creative director Dan Jerrard as its new creative director.

The appointments mark the launch of a company-wide development programme aimed at bringing Initials’ youngest talent and most experienced employees together. They will learn from each other and create the most informed solutions for clients.

Initials CEO Jamie Matthews comments: “20-year-olds can learn a lot from forty-somethings and vice versa. Both have a huge amount of creativity and great ideas to offer.”

Jerrard will play an important role in kick-starting the programme within the creative team, having helped to double the size of the creative department at Haygarth since he joined in 2011. Jerrard worked on some of Haygarth’s most high profile blue chip accounts, including Sony Mobile, Heineken and the Organic Trade Board. Before that he was group head at BD Network, having first launched his career at Dynamo.

At Initials, Jerrard will work on some of the agency’s largest accounts, including AkzoNobel, PepsiCo, Mondelez and J Sainsbury’s. Allan Guy, the current creative director at Initials, continues in the agency focusing on new ventures and working closely with Presley and Jerrard to ensure the quality of work in the agency remains at the highest levels.

Nick Presley, executive creative director, said: “We loved Dan’s passion and ability to work on multi-channel activity. He’s had a great grounding to his career in his previous agencies and he’ll significantly increase the firepower of our creative department. His appointment isn’t just responding to the increase in work from our current clients and recent wins, but will help us further develop our offering.”

Dan Jerrard commented: “I instantly recognised that Initials matched my ambitions to help build a creatively-led agency that was not constrained by channel. It’s a very exciting opportunity to work with Nick at the start of a new chapter in the World of Initials.”

Initials has also made three further creative  hires: Bethan Prestwich, a recent graduate from Reading University as designer, and junior creative team members Micaela Beni and Simona Zukauskaite, who join following a number of placements and internships over the last six months.

Presley added: “All three have demonstrated huge potential and a great willingness to learn. They will bring a new dimension of thinking and craft to our work.”

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The Ups and Downs of Retailing

Posted on December 25, 2014 by

On a lunchtime break down Oxford Street recently, the winners and losers in retailing were brought into sharp focus.

On one side of the street, the former HMV flagship store. I used to be a huge fan of the brand, having spent much time and money browsing the tantalising rows of CDs and videos combining the hottest artists on the planet with wonderfully obscure artistes from back when. If you were into music and film it really was the place to make impulse purchases, and over the years I gave my credit card regular workouts, adding to the audio and video collections that have given me endless pleasure for many years.

So how could such a dominant retailing icon have come to the brink of extinction? How could they have missed the online boat not just once, but twice? Even now, having been bought out of receivership, their website is not transactional, so I’m off to sites which stock a reasonable range and that deliver to my home a few days later. No surprise then, that the store closed and a pale imitation, with poor signage and lighting, and a fraction of the stock previously carried is just about hanging on near Bond Street.

The original site is now the flagship store of Sports Direct, one of the most successful money-making machines the high street (and the out of town locations) has ever seen. Interestingly, whilst the layout of the ground floor is a welcome departure from the cramped and crowded souk-style bazaar we’ve all learned to put up with, the other floors are sadly reminiscent of the standard Sports Direct décor. It’s as if the designers have been instructed to tart up the visibility at ground level purely on the basis that once inside, the poor old punter can put up with the usual shabitat style.

Something of a welcome relief, then, to cross the road to the Marks & Spencer where it’s much quieter, but there’s a disappointing familiarity about the merchandise. Despite all the protestations and the glossy advertising featuring people we can all apparently relate to, the goods don’t seem to change much any year. If results are the main criterion, Plan A doesn’t seem to be resonating much with today’s consumers. Whilst we can all attest to the need for sustainability, are we really engaged with it enough to buy the same sort of safe stuff every season?

So here’s my formula for success for each of these British behemoth brands. Sports Direct needs to attract a new, more up-market, affluent audience by adopting M&S attitudes, décor and service ethics. This way, they will increase their margins, and we might get a marginally more enjoyable shopping experience.

Conversely (and I’m not talking trainers here) M&S could do with a bit of Mike Ashley-style entrepreneurialism and a dash of Philip Green product range flare to drag the clothing into the twenty-first century.

And HMV? Despite all its woes, it’s still a great brand with the potential to become a major player in the wider field of audio and visual entertainment, but time is running out. By persisting with an offline-only retail sales strategy, they are condemning the business to an eventual grave. Let’s hope they can turn it around  before it’s too late.

Read more:


All in London


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All I want for Christmas is…

Posted on December 12, 2014 by

As I tick off yet another year on the career calendar, my thoughts turn to what the year 2015 has in store, and so what, in an ideal world, I’d like to put on my Christmas list. So here goes…

Online/offline balance

The torrent of comment about the next social media channel, the next mobile device and the latest gorgeous gizmo threatens to loosen our grip on commercial reality. According to a recent U.S. study, 90% of American retail sales still happen in stores.

What’s more, the seemingly unstoppable advance of the discounters is producing seismic shifts in market share, sales, profitability and thus share price for companies that for years have been the giants of the UK grocery retail scene. It seems to me that unless the big four turn their business models on their heads and become discounters themselves, they have to find radical new ways to retain shopper loyalty, and fast. Most things in life are cyclical, and a few decades ago the grocery retail market was enlivened by exciting, colourful, innovative promotional campaigns that drove basket value, brought in new customers and encouraged regular weekly purchase. In the new environment of, for some consumers, almost daily shopping trips to their local convenience store, there might well be a place for a return to that previously vibrant marketing activity, driven both by retailers and brands, and now enlivened by data driven online communication that enables a brand to identify and connect with its audience early in the buying journey.


Real briefs in real time

Please Santa, can you ask clients not to contact agencies unless they have a real brief with an approved budget? It’s an industry-wide issue and agencies will tell you that they spend thousands of pounds every year answering requests for information (RFIs), attending mass agency briefings and responding to what are often just fishing trips by curious marketing executives. It’s unproductive both for clients and agencies, and does nothing for the relationship between marketers and agency people which is so important to the creative process.


Investment programme or commercial bullying?

The IPA’s condemnation of Premier Foods’ tactic of demanding up-front payments from all their suppliers is timely, and the resulting withdrawal will be welcomed by every company with whom they trade. Over-riding discounts have been a feature of retailing since the seventies but this was clearly a step too far. It remains to be seen how that company will strive to replace the revenue it expected to gain from these ill-judged RFIs…that’s requests for income!

I hope that the season of goodwill to all men (suppliers) will extend beyond December, so that the many SMEs who trade with the big corporations can see their businesses grow as a result of, rather than despite their sales relationship with them.


Go tell the world

For years the UK creative industry has been recognised as pre-eminent globally, but it is in danger of being subsumed by the dumbing down of the art into a process-driven commodity. Ironic when you consider that some of the most successful ‘new’ brands, like Carphone Warehouse,  Amazon, Facebook and many others have created billion pound businesses by a combination of innovative product development, excellent customer service and outstanding marketing. So my hope for the New Year is a return to the recognition of the valuable contribution, not just to short term revenue, but also to the lifetime value of a business that innovative advertising and marketing investment can make.

Equally, agencies are sometimes at fault for not publicising their campaign’s achievements. Whilst marketers understand the value of marketing in building a long term brand, some CEOs, finance and production directors still see it as an unmeasurable cost rather than a necessary investment. So let’s celebrate our successes, not just through award schemes, but where it matters, in the boardroom and throughout our clients’ companies.


A very Merry Christmas and, above all, a happy and prosperous New Year.

Roger Hyslop


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