SO YOU THINK STUDIOS SHOULD UNDERCUT THE COMPETITION?
The ideas will always be a defining factor of why a client should use an agency. But I also think there’ll be a natural undercutting: if you’re targeting clients who would usually use international agencies or major branding agencies, their fees will naturally be higher than yours if you’re a provincial or a small agency.
Your rate card could stay the same but you’re actually undercutting because you’re going up against much larger companies. But clients ultimately will decide it based on the work.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD ALL CREATIVE STUDIOS BE TAKING NOW?
I’ve been banging this drum for ten years: we go to the US, we went to Sydney, we’re now in Asia – but I hardly see a British agency when I’m out there pitching. I’m very surprised that people don’t tend to look up from their own backyard.
Because London has been such a focal point of the design world, there’s probably been no need to look beyond London. But I think smart designers now are making sure their passports are up to date and going overseas.
Because British design is without a doubt seen as the best in the world: in architecture, fashion, design, we’re in the Premier League. That respect then can turn into business – it’s often easier to pick up projects overseas than it is back home.
WHERE DO YOU SUGGEST PEOPLE LOOK FOR FOREIGN WORK?
We’ve been actively targeting the BRIC nations [the fastest-growing economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China] for the last two or three years. So we have work now coming out of Brazil.
In Russia, we’ve made quite a few inroads, and obviously in India and China everybody’s there already... That’s one reason we targeted and joined an Asian-based agency – they have resources in these countries that can otherwise prove quite difficult for an agency of our scale.
If people have the energy, and the time, and the willingness, and the drive, it’s just essential. You can chase your tail around Europe forever and get nowhere, but if you’re smart then the rewards can be great [further afield], especially in times like these.
WHAT SHOULD STUDIOS BE HANGING ON TO AT ALL COSTS?
People, where they are directly contributing to the invoices. That’s ultimately the lifeblood of our agency: the hours that are put down on a timesheet that result in an invoice.
Efficiency is key. I wouldn’t cut back on technology either – there’s no point working on a Mac that’s three years old because you can’t afford a new one, because it’s a false economy.
If you think that an investment of a few thousand gets you a new Mac, but you do work in two thirds of the time, ultimately it will be worth it. It’s value-based decision-making rather than cost-based decision-making.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT SMALL STUDIOS ARE MAKING AT THE MOMENT?
I would say reacting to this crumbling world by holding onto people: it comes back to pride, and a fear that if you let 20 per cent of your people go then the other 80 per cent are all going to get disgruntled.
If anyone is still holding onto the numbers of people they required in the good times then they’re kidding themselves, and if they’ve not acted yet then they should be doing tomorrow.
It’s harsh, but the number one overhead is salary. They should also go back to their landlord and do a deal on the lease. We’ve done that several times: no landlord wants to lose any money right now, but if you’re paying £60,000 a year, try to get that down to £50,000 or £45,000 straight away: give them the option of that or your studio moving out.