Category Archives: Agency Life

Going Beyond The First Date, What it Takes to Win a Pitch

Agency Management; A good agency will still lose pitches, by David Hunt

You’ve had all the right signals; she laughs at your jokes, shows an interest in your stories, and your friend said – her friend said – that she said – she liked you. So why, when you asked her to the cinema, was she washing her hair? The life of an agency can at times, resemble those formative teen years. A lot of time, effort & dedication but without fair reward. To be successful there are three key ingredients – timing, chemistry & brilliance (I think you can win with two).

1st date

I’m busy tonight
Having graduated in Design in 2002, I found myself in Vancouver with Tim Woodcock, now GM of HAVAS LYNX London. I had a strong portfolio, excellent qualifications & the confidence of youth. With the help of the local design directory we set about securing employment. As a 22 year old, desperate for a job & a new life, I learnt more about pitching than at any other stage in my career. I’d know who I was meeting, their background, work, interests & ambitions. I’d know which of my portfolio would resonate the best, ideas they would get, reference they would love. The feedback was tremendous & disappointing in equal measure, “Love it!! But the timing…”, “Wow! But at the moment, we just can’t…”. In 2001, the burst of the dot.com bubble had ensured that the US investment had been withdrawn from Vancouver and local agencies were having to re-align their strategy & adopt a more cautious approach to recruitment. Despite, my best efforts there were simply not the opportunities. As I would learn throughout my career, even the most confident candidate, with their favourite ideas & best customer insight can be unsuccessful if the timing isn’t right.

It’s not you, it’s me
Without doubt our best campaigns are powered by chemistry when the client & agency teams work as one, from the medic through to engineer. Total alignment, a shared goal & a rewarding experience. Equally, at the heart of our more painful campaigns is a toxic relationship. A lack of empathy, trust and fragmented communication, will inevitably lead to a flawed deliverable. A defective relationship does not signal a bad agency, it simply confirms that as people – there are those we like & those we don’t. I applaud clients that make decisions based on their instinct, based on the people they meet and a conviction that they can collaborate. A campaign involves a long-term partnership, inevitably with highs & lows, so working with someone that you respect, whose opinion you value and company you enjoy, is a key ingredient for success. Even with perfect timing & great ideas – chemistry can be all important.

I’m just not sure
There are those agencies who believe life is a game of numbers, the more you ask, the more you get. They pitch more, but offer less. They don’t expose themselves, confident in the knowledge that they’ll win a couple. I COMPLETELY disagree. I have been brought-up to always give 110%. My Father-in-law, Carlo Distefano, owns an incredibly successful restaurant group and as he explains, “I work because I love it, and then it doesn’t feel like work”. You must be passionate about an opportunity, you must care about the outcome, you need to be your best. At the heart of every success is always a brilliant idea. It can be the right time and the right team, but without the excitement of an idea there is no vision. 

I ask three things of my teams at HAVAS LYNX:

  • Commit entirely to an opportunity, and deliver a brilliant idea
  • Understand the client, and build a partnership for success
  • Enjoy the creative process, as it just might not be your day

And like all the best relationships, the first date is just the beginning. Each & every day, we need to make our partners happy.

Understanding who you are, And knowing where you are going

Merger; From the Inside, by David Hunt
Part I, Initial engagement 

June 2012 was huge, after 18 months of careful planning I married my beautiful wife, running to the same timeline Creative Lynx merged with Havas. Both life changing events, both spectacularly exciting, but whilst friends & family can offer advice & council on your marriage, a merger is an altogether more isolated experience.

Having completed an MBO in March 2008, just six months after the credit crunch had started, business was going exceptionally well. We’d experienced year-on-year double-digit growth, collected 16 wins at the PM Society Digital Awards in 3 years and continued to develop a number of industry firsts. At the heart of our success was an exceptionally talented multi-disciplinary team that combined insight, with creativity and innovation. A team that would be at the forefront of our thoughts, every step of the way.

Through sustained growth & success, we saw three opportunities;

  • We were a young agency with brilliant ideas and passion, but we were a young agency that could benefit from a global partner. We needed global experience and sophistication to transform raw talent into global communication experts
  • Inside and outside of healthcare, consolidation is an increasing trend. As a boutique agency it can be seen as a threat or opportunity. We saw this as an opportunity to combine our intimate service with a global footprint
  • We’re based in Manchester, which is brilliant for creative & digital talent. However, in global communications it can be viewed as a province and whilst this perception is changing, before Havas we were being overlooked for the best global briefs

We’ve always grown our business through referrals, recommendations and repeat business. Through experience & intuition we know how to run an agency, we know how to build teams & deliver results, we know our business. But a merger is not about today, it is about tomorrow. Suitors have a passing curiosity in where you have come from, they have a fascination in where you are going. Having previously been focused on the here & now, at the outset of the process we became smarter, more considered, strategic – by simple proximity to potential global partners we were setting out our long-term ambition, designing a roadmap and creating an infrastructure to deliver sustained success.

Following our deal with Havas we have;

Our vision & ideas, originally inspired through the merger process are now becoming reality as a result of the support, infrastructure & expertise that we can now harness.

Having committed to the process & having defined our vision, we engaged with a number of networks. As a result of our success, we had already been approached by nearly all of the global communication networks –  now on our terms, in our time, the courtship could begin. I first met Donna Murphy & Doug Burcin (Global CEOs of Havas Health) in 2011, they were brilliant, the perfect combination of drive & consideration. Someone that I wanted to both work with and learn from. Alongside them was Ed Stapor, with an absolute passion for us and for Havas. Ed was driven by people & relationships, as were we.

As the journey unfolded we met a number of brilliant & respected leaders from across the major networks. Every interaction was another opportunity to learn, engage and shape our plans – they were all worthwhile. Whilst similar in their achievements & proposition, it quickly became apparent that there were significant differences in their approach. I believe that Havas made their decision based on the people & our ideas, the others focused more on numbers & forecast.

Beyond the chemistry that would ultimately shape our decision, Havas also talked more about digital, more about social, more about the future. They didn’t just want to buy the answer, they wanted to help create it. It wasn’t just about our insight, our ideas, our technology, it was about shared expertise, shared resource, a shared vision. It was about creating something unique. It was about creating a global group that would shape & define digital communications in healthcare – HAVAS LYNX.

It has been a fantastic start. We have enjoyed the honeymoon period, it is new, exciting and fun. There will always be highs & lows, it’s a relationship and we are all passionate. However by following our instinct & choosing people over profit, I know that we’ll have an ally when times are tough and an advocate when moving forward.

Part II, Agreeing the finer details

Part III, Business as usual

Part IV, A year in & the lessons I learnt

A Technology Start-up, Born from an Agency

Software product development in healthcare, by David Hunt

In April 2012, Instagram had an estimated 27 million users with only 13 employees. At the back end of 2012, Pinterest had approximately 100 staff to 40 million users. Whilst social media played a significant part in the growth of these businesses, at the heart of their success was a need, which inspired an idea, that in-turn became a solution.

I’ve collaborated alongside some amazing creatives. People with ideas and concepts, people who are not limited by technology conceptually, but in the delivery.  Likewise, I am fortunate enough to have worked with some exceptional software engineers. People with talent and expertise, people who master technologies to fulfil their want. Both have the common ambition, to make a difference.

Having an idea and a solution is not always enough. First you must identify a need. A genuine, real need that represents an opportunity to make an impact. Communication agencies have the potential to make this leap. They can harness creative & technical expertise, and have the insight to identify a need. As demonstrated by the likes of Pinterest & Instagram, impacting the many can be done by the few. As an agency, I believe it comes down to courage & conviction.

Earlier this year we launched, HAVAS HEALTH SOFTWARE. We understand healthcare and we know the challenges. We pride ourselves on meaningful innovation, and have a proven track record of ideas that work. We have a brilliant team of engineers led by Andy Stopford, Technical Director. It is a bold move, it has required significant investment, but we believe the timing is right. Over the last decade we have built a number of products, and we have the appetite & ambition to take local success stories and make them global.

Why now? And what will success look like? Our clients are bored with technology that is not designed around the unique needs of healthcare, like old hand-me downs they don’t quite fit. Equally they are frustrated with great ideas that simply fail to deliver on the promise, wasting time, effort and money. With 15 years experience in software engineering & 50+ full-time developers, our foundations are solid. Backed-up by a vibrant local digital community and with robust process & systems, we have the infrastructure to deliver. Our products fulfil the ideas of the creatives & sectors specialists, provide a robust & long-term solution, and most importantly meet the needs of our clients.

40 million users are unlikely, however a portfolio of robust products supporting key clients is already becoming a reality. With customer engagement being led by Jon Vernon, we are seeing real traction & success. But our ambitions are greater than that. We want to create an innovation pipeline, with significant and ongoing investment in new products & new features. They won’t all be a success, but as a partner to our clients and with courage & conviction, we are well placed to identify needs, develop an idea and provide a solution. 

One of our greatest achievements has been blending the maverick of our creative teams with the science of our engineers. Now with the benefit of experience, a proven portfolio of products and the ambition to meet the bespoke needs of our clients, we introduce HAVAS HEALTH SOFTWARE.

Further information:

Data sources: Business Insider, Facebook, Forbes, LinkedIn, Macroaxis, Reuters, Statista, Tumblr, Twitter, The Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia