The Bridge Club FIRST team

Recently I ‘shared my business story’ with a group of students, graduates, entrepreneurs, professionals and investors at November’s FIRST event, organised by the Bridge Club (Caroline Theobald and her lovely interns).

I think people say, never look back, but in this instance I had fun telling some of the tales associated with working for some of Birmingham’s leading agencies. In fact, I could probably write a book about them!

In looking back, I decided to hunt down my old ‘agency portfolio’ and file copies of old work and found some excellent ‘leaving cards’ from Palmer Hargreaves and Wallis Tomlinson which many of my colleagues (all working in advertising and being creative types) created.

One message from one of the best ever copywriters I’ve ever worked with said ‘No more walks to the Deli. No more Nana Nora stories. No gratuitous swearing. I’ll miss your bluntness and lack of pretention. Good luck – you won’t need it’.

His art director then added ‘You’ll be forgotten in a day xxx‘.  This agency was Wallis Tomlinson (or WT) which was (in my opinion) one of the most creative-led agencies I’ve ever worked in.

Working for WT really taught me a lot. On my first morning at WT  (before I even met any of my colleagues), I was told by my Black Country MD to ‘Grab your coat’ as he chucked a bunch of ad concepts at me and said “Right kidda, you’re presenting today”. Talk about chucking me in at the deep end! I didn’t even know what the brief was. Needless to say, the campaign was well received and a big success. I then went on to work on many TV and below-the-line campaigns for some of the biggest brands like National Express, Denby Pottery and rightmove. It was really hard work and being in such a male-led  laddish agency was often hard for me, but I think I managed to use my Geordie charm to get on with everyone from production, to the moodiest creative times and clients.

Working at WT taught me to always voice my own opinion (always ask questions), never be shy and the real value of a good idea and what makes a successful campaign.

Since WT I worked for another couple of great agencies, but WT really developed me as an account manager and led me onto bigger and better things.

I still consider myself to be outspoken at times, but still retain that ‘can’do’ attitude I have always had, even from working in my first ‘proper’ big agency as a Junior account exec at Palmer Hargreaves.

So, although I’m not a creative myself by trade, working in the industry has given me the best background and experience to then start my own agency.  I know how to get the best brief and best creative execution for the job.

I didn’t know founder of WT Geoff Tomlinson very well but I know he and George Wallis built one of the best Midlands agencies. I always used to bump into him into the corridoors of WT in the afternoon after a session at the Bucklemaker and I’m sure he told me his grandad was a Geordie if memory serves me well  – RIP Geoff who passed away earlier this month