Features / marketing

Sector spotlight: PR and marketing

By ellie pipe, Monday May 13, 2019

Getting noticed is no mean feat in this fast-paced world of multiple media, short attention spans and sophisticated technology.

PR and marketing agencies must stay ahead of the game in an ever-changing sector that is easily swayed by outside influences and thrives off constant innovation and reinvention.

For Bristol’s key players, success lies in the city’s creativity and community spirit, where collaboration is not only commonplace but crucial.

“Knowledge-sharing and partnerships are essential,” says Jon Payne, the founder and technical director of Noisy Little Monkey, a digital marketing agency based in the Tobacco Factory in Bedminster.

“It’s much less cut throat or dog eat dog than you would expect. Bristol is a city built on communities, and this kind of collaborative spirit is certainly something that you see reflected in the marketing sector.”

The Noisy Little Monkey team relies on a collaborative approach to succeed

Noisy Little Monkey’s launch ten years ago coincided with the release of Google’s android operating system, the world’s most widely used smartphone platform, with a significant chunk of the market share.

Jon says that even a decade on, web developers and business owners are still catching up with the trend that has dramatically changed the way people interact and absorb information.

Reflecting on some of the challenges facing the sector, he adds: “There’s also a lack of understanding in the market about what a winning online strategy looks like.

“The digital marketing sector still has plenty of charlatans selling the promise of quick wins. While this might seem appealing, sustainable growth takes months and short-term tactics delivered by those with little experience can land you with a Google penalty and a damaged reputation.”

Caroline Macdonald says Bristol is faring well, despite the hurdles

Caroline Macdonald, CEO and founder of Oggadoon, a guerrilla marketing and campaigns company based on Victoria Street, agrees collaboration is key.

“Bristol is faring well in spite of the many hurdles, such as the pull of London, lack of government funding and the inevitable B-word impact,” says Caroline.

“But it is perhaps because of these that the sector is growing and prospering. You can’t stop the creativity which is endemic in this city and we should celebrate this.

“The strengths are many. Obvious to some but not to others is the collaborative nature of Bristol that is so integral to the city. Transpiring from that are the multiple places and spaces (in real life and online) for networking, which is the pillar of business, but also creativity.

“This ability to keep invigorating such an environment is unique. If we could have a more global focus – putting us on the map with the likes of New York, San Francisco and Singapore – I think it would elevate the industry to a whole new level.”

Caroline adds the digital arena is continually breaking new ground for how consumers engage, presenting both a challenge and opportunities for marketing businesses.

Bristol’s deep ingrained culture of supporting and promoting independent businesses is a key attraction for startups and Konichiwa, a creative and communications agency on Marsh Street, is tapping into this market.

“There’s a buoyant local economy, a real mix of cultures and sectors and inspiring creativity wherever you look,” says creative director Ursula Hutchinson

She adds that with margins under pressure, there is a need for flexible solutions in terms of marketing and PR and this has led to a shift towards more collaborative models of working.

“We’ve seen how difficult it can be for startups to compete and break through into new markets with limited resources, so the challenge for us to make sure that we are delivering solid strategic thinking as well as engaging creative,” continues Ursula.

“By investing in really sound creative communications strategies, startups and indies will end up with much more powerful campaigns. We are currently launching our new services and website as a response to this, with services which empower each stage of the startup journey.”

Plaster works on some of Bristol’s biggest events, including Upfest

Bristol’s burgeoning music, arts and festival scene has also helped boost the PR and marketing sector.

Plaster’s team of staff is among those working behind the scenes on some of the city’s biggest events – from Upfest to The Downs festival.

Director Kellie Hasbury admits the thriving cultural sector is a big draw, as are the digital, gaming and technology strands that feed into the media landscape.

Although the multi-faceted, fast-changing industry does throw up challenges in finding the right talent and getting messages heard over the noise of numerous digital and social media platforms.

“Artificial intelligence and voice activation are going to change the way people communicate and the way we do our jobs will be made massively more efficient within the next decade,” predicts Kellie, whose agency is based in the Tobacco Factory.

“We work on an international platform and video conferencing is making the world a much smaller place. This will, and already is, reducing the amount of travel and increasing the pace of work even further.”

The Six Agency team are responding to the digital revolution

John Argent, managing director of Clifton-based Six Agency argues that Bristol’s extensive creativity credentials can be a mixed blessing.

It means there is fierce competition for talent, he says, adding: “We must see that as a good problem to have though, one that’s further exacerbated by the additional talent bottleneck around digital innovation and software engineering, where there’s even more demand and less supply.

“The digital revolution that we’re all experiencing in our daily lives is not only creating new opportunities and challenges to our industry in terms of what expertise and services we offer – it’s also fundamentally turning upside down how we set up our agencies, how we work and unlock genuinely creative processes and ideas.”

Aspect specialises in creating videos for clients

For specialists Aspect Film and Video, the rise of video content has coincided with greater creative ambition among clients.

“Much of the growth has been down to improving technology, both in the growth of mobile video and also in the ubiquity of superfast mobile and broadband internet speeds,” says Evelyn Timson, managing director at Aspect.

With CISCO forecasting that video traffic will grow to represent 82 per cent of all internet traffic by 2022, Evelyn predicts the strategic importance of professionally-produced video content in marketing will continue to grow.

She adds: “This brings its own set of unique challenges for us and our clients – most notably how to get attention and achieve standout. Anybody can create video, in fact it’s easier than ever.

“But it takes a lot more to change how audiences think, feel and behave. Aspect is an insight-led agency and we advocate a strategic approach to video planning – brands that do this right get game changing results.”

Channel 4’s arrival will add to the city’s creative offer, say industry insiders

Channel 4’s decision to make Finzels Reach a base for one of its two creative hubs outside of London has generally been regarded as yet another coup for the city’s creative industries, adding to the rich, diverse melting pot of talent.

Commenting on the innovation and imagination across the board, Simon Russell, founder of Filton-based Inside Media, says: “For Inside Media, this means we have really good people, interesting work to do and we operate in a PR/marketing sector that is both dynamic and challenging – motivating us to be as good as we can be.”

Joanna Randall Purplefish predicts there are more changes ahead for the sector

Looking ahead to the future of the sector, Joanna Randall, managing director of Paintworks-based Purplefish agency, says: “The future will see increased automation in the information economy.

“The emerging technologies of machine learning (AI), which generate data will be used to more finely tune the messages we are sending out to audiences. Trackable consumer tastes and preferences will lead to tighter targeting of products and services to those people most likely to engage and ultimately buy.

“We have lived through a revolution in communication in recent years and there’s still more to come.”

Facts and figures:

  • Creative and digital companies in Bristol and Bath contribute £650m GVA (gross value added) to the economy and employ 22,750 people.
  • Creative and digital businesses in the region are predominantly SMEs (small and medium enterprises).
  • DCMS reported women filling just 37 per cent of roles in creative industries and 28.3 per cent in the digital sector. Marketing is bucking the trend and saw significant increases in female employment between 2015 and 2016.

*Source: Business West Skills Survey.


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