Numero P

After a decade working in the creative industry, I decided to go freelance. When the work was frequent it was a great way to earn more money, whilst at the same time see what other agencies were up to. It was also a brilliant way to build a network of contacts.

One of my gigs landed me in Denmark working on the rebrand for one of the world’s biggest lager brands. I was employed by a creative agency as a freelance consultant but sent on secondment to work for their client at their global head office in Copenhagen. They had what the agency described as ‘a problem child client’. My brief was to “understand what the client’s problem was and fix it”.

I was told I’d need to be in Copenhagen for two weeks. I returned to the UK five months later. You see, the problem wasn’t the client. The problem was the agency’s perception of the client and what the agency thought the client wanted. They failed to listen.

When the client asked me for my honest opinion, I told him to fire the agency. At first the client thought I was joking. Then he was intrigued, as he knew I was effectively signing my own death warrant.

Firing the agency was the right thing to do. You see there is only one standard of creativity that is acceptable today and that is great. Good is never good enough and you should never accept mediocrity. The most important thing in any business relationship is trust. When the trust has gone, the relationship is over. The client no longer trusted the agency, therefore, the relationship was over. The agency had to go.

I gained the client’s trust and respect. I was prepared to lose my job to do the right thing for his brand and business. Having gained his trust he asked me what he should do. The rebrand was still required, time was now against us and now he didn’t have an agency to help him.

Working in an alien environment you become a lot more perceptive to your surroundings. I noticed a lot of empty desk space and rooms being used for temporary storage. My advice to the client was simple. It was based on the information he told me. His biggest frustration was the agency continuously flying over from London, only to disappoint.

This problem was magnified when he received the bill for their expenses. The solution I proposed was to put the unused desks and rooms to better use by building a creative agency in-house. Why have a creative agency in another country when you can have them at the end of your corridor?

That’s exactly what we did. I fired the agency that employed me and built an in-house creative studio, from the ground up.  I had 48hrs to assemble a fully operational studio and 72hrs to revise the creative.

Having been handed the task of informing the MD of the agency who employed me that the services of their London office were no longer required, I had the great pleasure of also informing him that the client welcomed the news of the launch of the agency’s new Copenhagen office – that just so happened to be based in the client’s global head office.

The agency could keep the account if they agreed to extend my contract and get their best people to Copenhagen within 24 hours. That’s exactly what they did.

My contract was extended for six months and within 24 hours their people started arriving from London, Germany, St Louis, Frankfurt and Sweden. Within 48 hours, we had a fully operational studio. In 72 hours we solved the creative challenge. A small lean team stayed out in Copenhagen for five months to see the project through to completion.

Ask the right questions and you’ll find the right solution. Be perceptive. Always keep your eyes open for an opportunity, and when an opportunity comes along, take it.

Most importantly of all, learn to listen. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. There is also a big difference between hearing someone and listening to what someone has to say. Master the art of listening and opportunity will present itself.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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