IS IT WORTH BRINGING IN FINANCIAL SPECIALISTS?
I think if the person is right and it’s worth the investment, yes. Some guidance to sail through the waters at the moment cannot be a bad thing. But it’s down to the right individual – and if you find the right individual then that could be your saving grace.
HOW DOES ATTIK ENSURE A CONSTANT FLOW OF WORK? That comes back to having a business development eye outside the country. We’re shrinking here but other markets aren’t necessarily – and even if they are, that’s where you can play the Great Britain card.
So if four agencies pitch for a piece of work in the UK, they’re all British, they all sound and look the same, same haircut, similar portfolio. But once you go overseas, all those attributes of Britain and your British portfolio look really great and all of a sudden instead of having a 25 per cent chance against three people, overseas you might have a 50 per cent chance over the other three, because you have that creative voice of authority.
HOW DO YOU KEEP CREATIVITY UP WHEN JOBS ARE UNDER THREAT?
There’s always a worry that the remaining staff will be on edge, slightly insecure, but rather than shrivelling up and thinking ‘oh gosh, I think I’m next’, people are looking to prove to the company or their clients that they made the right choice in keeping them.
The last thing anybody wants is secret squirrel conversations: if you’re being honest and asking people to pull together then it becomes not solely a management issue but also a company issue, that you need to get through difficult times together. Management has to recognize that they need everybody on board, rather than putting the fear of death into them. The remaining team then needs to be clear on what the company goals are.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE OUTLOOK FOR 2009 AND BEYOND?
It’s clearly going to be a very challenging year for everybody, but there’s the opportunity over the next two or three years to grow the business, depending on where you are on the ladder. If you’re a three-person agency then there’s a great opportunity to turn it into six people. But if you’re 150-strong then you’re likely to end the year with less than 100 staff.
HOW CAN SMALL STUDIOS GROW?
Target the right clients – those clients that have been using the big agencies will want to see efficiencies. And if the big agencies can’t provide that, they’ll turn to the smaller agencies.
The right clients provide more than a one-night stand, because you’ve put all that effort and groundwork in, and if all you’ve got out of that is a single project then you could have been using that energy elsewhere, to get ongoing work and a relationship that could develop.
The other thing that makes a good client is the work: don’t let your standards slip, in terms of taking on anything just to survive. We’ve never taken that route: we’d prefer to reduce the company size and still do great work than stay overweight, overstaffed, and take on everything because you want to keep everybody happy and in a job. You’ve got to be prepared to make sacrifices, we just didn’t want to start sacrificing the type of the work that we took on, otherwise there’s no point in doing it for any of us.
Attik has long marketed itself using volumes of creative work, titled Noise, which it even sells in bookshops. Sommervllle says: “PR is always a strong channel, so make sure the work is out there and the website is up to speed. There are lots of ways in which an agency can market itself without really spending any money.”
Attik’s work for Lexus and other international brands means that it can get a crucial heads-up for possible downturns, simply by listening carefully to what its clients are saying.
Attik’s portfolio includes work for US car brand Scion. Somerville says that studios should now be cutting back on “Anything that doesn’t contribute to the making of money. That could be staff, luxury days out, lots of fun stuff. It might be that decking out the reception or the conference room is on hold.”
ATTIK’S RISE AND RISE:
2009 NOISE FIVE
2007 ATTIK IS ACQUIRED BY DENTSU
2005 LEEDS OFFICE OPENS
2005 ATTIK LANDS COCA-COLA ACCOUNT
2005 CEO RIC PERALTA JOINS ATTIK
2004 FOUNDERS SOMMERVILLE AND NEEDHAM MEET THE QUEEN AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE
2001 RECESSION HITS: ATTIK SHRINKS FROM 180 STAFF TO 60; SYDNEY OFFICE CLOSES
1999 SYDNEY OFFICE OPENS
1999 NOISE 3.5
1998 SAN FRANCISCO OFFICE OPENS
1997 NEW YORK OFFICE OPENS
1997 NOISE 3
1996 NOISE 2
1995 LONDON OFFICE OPENS
1995 NOISE 1 (BOB) VOLUME OF CREATIVE WORK RELEASED. ORIGINALLY AIMED AT POTENTIAL CLIENTS, IT IS ALSO SOLD IN BOOKSHOPS
1992 RECESSION FORCES ATTIK TO LOOK BEYOND HUDDERSFIELD FOR NEW BUSINESS
1987 MOVE INTO NEW HUDDERSFIELD OFFICE
1987 BOUGHT FIRST APPLE MAC
1986 TWO ART SCHOOL GRADUATES FOUND ATTIK WITH A PRINCE’S TRUST GRANT OF £2,000, IN SOMMERVILLE’S GRANDMOTHER’S ATTIC, IN HUDDERSFIELD