Diversity in marketing

The boss, Pan­na Rose, was inter­viewed recent­ly by Gabriele Skel­ton. Some nice thoughts on diver­si­ty in mar­ket­ing and tal­ent spot­ting today. Here’s the transcript:

We were thrilled to be able to pin down Pan­na Rose, the MD and one of the found­ing part­ners of Our Design Agency. We’ve worked with them our­selves, which is always a plea­sure and we have watched them con­tin­u­al­ly pro­duce stun­ning design work since they began a lit­tle over 3 years ago. So we put some ques­tions to Pan­na below, which pro­vide some great insights into her own career path as well as this blos­som­ing start-up agency:

What drew you to the design indus­try in the first place?
My BA Brand­ing course cov­ered many dif­fer­ent aspects of the cre­ative indus­try, from adver­tis­ing and brand­ing, to pack­ag­ing, typog­ra­phy, film­mak­ing and design man­age­ment. Design man­age­ment stood out for me. I loved being able to input into the cre­ative process but also being close to the busi­ness side of design.

How did you find your place in it?
I was inter­view­ing for a local news­pa­per to be part of their mar­ket­ing depart­ment and at the same time I spot­ted an advert for an account man­ag­er at Elm­wood. At the time I didn’t know much about design agen­cies or pack­ag­ing design. The process of inter­view­ing real­ly opened my eyes to the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of good design and all the think­ing that goes into the brands we know and love. That was the begin­ning of the journey.

In a nut­shell, what has your career jour­ney been?
I joined Elm­wood in Leeds after grad­u­at­ing and ran the Asda account. It gave me an excel­lent ground­ing in retail that has always stood me in good stead. After 4.5 years I was ready for a new chal­lenge, so I moved to Lon­don and joined Enter­prise IG (now Brand Union). That was excit­ing, but a very steep learn­ing curve. I went from a thor­ough, well-earned, under­stand­ing of FMCG and retail, to man­ag­ing glob­al cor­po­rate brand projects for the likes of Mer­rill Lynch, Corus, and BT. It was the first time I’d man­aged teams across UK and USA. Apart from meet­ing some inspi­ra­tional peo­ple it was instru­men­tal in my under­stand­ing of run­ning cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty projects as well as being able to man­age projects of that kind of scale. My next move, to Williams Mur­ray Hamm in 2002 was dri­ven by a desire to be part of a very cre­ative agency at the top of their game. It was extreme­ly chal­leng­ing and reward­ing work. The late Richard Mur­ray was an incred­i­bly inspir­ing men­tor in my life, and that of my busi­ness part­ners too. I start­ed out there as Account Direc­tor and worked up to MD by the time I left in 2012.

What made you decide to set up your own agency?
Over the years I expe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent agen­cies, clients, work and cul­tures and I began to form my own ideas about what I admired and what I might do dif­fer­ent­ly giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty. But then it came down to find­ing like-mind­ed part­ners who shared the same vision and desire, and who I want­ed to do this with. I found all that in Grant and Sarah. We share the same work eth­ic and com­mit­ment to keep push­ing for great work.

Did you all work togeth­er before?
Yes, very close­ly. We just click. We had worked togeth­er and known each oth­er for over 15 years. We know each oth­er so well that we just know what each oth­er is think­ing. We are very dif­fer­ent but share the same core val­ues. We have huge respect and admi­ra­tion for each oth­er and there’s an ener­gy between us that we bring to our work. What I love is that we still man­age to sur­prise each oth­er and we all share a desire to do new things and to push our­selves. Hav­ing your own busi­ness is hard work and grown up stuff, but we laugh a lot and have fun. Peo­ple for­get to do this.

What is your ambi­tion for Our Design Agency (ODA)?
We’ve come such a long way already with real ambi­tion and hard work and I just want us to build on that and keep deliv­er­ing against the high stan­dards we set for our­selves. It sounds quite cheesy but I’m most proud of the work we’ve done for our clients. Last week a new client said the work we had done had gal­vanised their peo­ple around a new pur­pose and com­plete­ly trans­formed the way they thought about their cus­tomers and brand and pre­sent­ed huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for growth. That was bril­liant. I want to explore new avenues that will bring val­ue to our clients, and build on the infor­mal ways we work togeth­er to keep mak­ing the process huge­ly reward­ing from both sides.

If you could col­lab­o­rate with any­one – who would it be?
Will.I.Am – that would be amaz­ing, he’s a geeky, cre­ative, tech­ni­cal genius. I haven’t met him, but he looks kind, feels authen­tic and crazy! I think we’d have a lot of fun. As the busi­ness we col­lab­o­rate with many amaz­ing peo­ple. It’s great to get out of the mar­ket­ing bub­ble and col­lab­o­rate with authors, artists and film­mak­ers because they bring real depth, rich­ness and authen­tic­i­ty to our work. We are pas­sion­ate about seek­ing out the right col­lab­o­ra­tors for our projects to bring fresh per­spec­tive and val­ue to our clients. There are so many tal­ent­ed peo­ple out there and social media makes con­nect­ing with them easy.

Do you find there’s a lot of cre­ative tal­ent out there at the minute?
There’s lots of tal­ent­ed peo­ple out there and the pool of tal­ent should get bet­ter each year with the qual­i­ty of our grad­u­ates even in the post Brex­it era. Since we start­ed the agency we’ve been extreme­ly lucky to work with some fan­tas­ti­cal­ly tal­ent­ed peo­ple. Tal­ent is one thing but find­ing the right fit is anoth­er. Find­ing the right ODA per­son is quite spe­cif­ic. They’re hard­er to find.

If you weren’t run­ning a design agency, what would you be doing?
On par­tic­u­lar­ly rainy com­mutes I do find myself day dream­ing about run­ning a beach bar some­where exot­ic. Obvi­ous­ly, it would have top notch nib­bles. But then I get to work and feel excit­ed and I can’t tru­ly imag­ine doing any­thing else. I still love it.

There is a gen­er­al lack of diver­si­ty in the cre­ative indus­try – how do you think this can be changed?

It’s very odd, isn’t it? Giv­en that we’re a cre­ative indus­try, you’d expect there to be much more diver­si­ty. Often clients are the ones lead­ing when it comes to diver­si­ty. As far as we are con­cerned, it’s a nat­ur­al part of who we are and how we oper­ate at ODA. Diver­si­ty is clear­ly reflect­ed in our cul­ture; hav­ing peo­ple with dif­fer­ent back­grounds and per­spec­tives not only makes life more inter­est­ing, it brings a real rich­ness and dimen­sion to our ideas. We need to hear dif­fer­ent voic­es. I think hav­ing peo­ple who tru­ly under­stand the impor­tance of diver­si­ty in man­age­ment posi­tions affords us a unique per­spec­tive and greater empa­thy, which we bring to our cul­ture and to our clients’ work. I think that the broad­er indus­try will change as we start to see that approach pay off and the exist­ing struc­ture will feel archa­ic. I know some peo­ple are sur­prised when they see me sit­ting at the helm but I like that. It means I can help break down bar­ri­ers and pre­con­cep­tions, which might help oth­er peo­ple and their journey.

17 March 2017 | Saman­tha Jamieson