Sunday 26 July 2015 10:04 pm

Grey London’s Lucy Jameson on why truth is key to building a brand

With a growing emphasis on content marketing and earned media, awareness of a brand is no longer enough. From bank accounts to biscuits, brand engagement hinges on social media interaction, practical participation and a visceral connection between the customer, a company and its product. Creative agency Grey London realises that ideas, strategy and creative development must be constantly reinvented to achieve this, and its efforts were rewarded at Cannes this year, with two Grand Prix for its work on Volvo’s LifePaint campaign. Chief executive Lucy Jameson tells City A.M. why agencies need to be making headlines.
How do you understand a brand?
As a strategist, you need to be asking several questions. Why does the company exist? Why is the product desirable? Which audience should you be communicating to? Then, how can you make it play a role in culture? Many clients come to us looking to be turned around, to rediscover the reason behind their original success and how they can harness it for the future. 
This should come before you consider which technologies would be best for distribution. I get annoyed when agencies decide they’ll focus on programmatics for the next six months and that’s that. Each brand is unique and needs unique treatment.
How can you turn brand awareness into engagement? 
Earned media is increasingly important. It’s a sign of social engagement with a brand, rather than merely acknowledging it exists. Viral campaigns make the headlines, which propels them even further. So making a brand culturally relevant is fundamental. 
Our work for Lucozade Sport is a good example. They weren’t sponsoring the World Cup last year, so we came up with Conditions Zone, an indoor five-a-side pitch in Canary Wharf which simulated Brazilian weather conditions, allowing fans and journalists who couldn’t get to South America to experience the difficulties England players would face, and feel how Lucozade could help. The project got 1.75m video views, 300,000 engagements on social media, and Lucozade Sports profits increased by roughly 12 per cent in the UK. The more news you create, the better you’re doing.
How has the creative landscape changed since you began in the industry?
When I started about 20 years ago, 30 per cent of television viewers actually preferred adverts to the programmes broadcasted. Today, that idea seems inconceivable. You need to be a lot smarter in your approach, ready to think outside the box. 
Take Volvo. That’s a brand whose core DNA is safety; they gave away the patent for the three-point seat belt back in the fifties. But safety is a hard-sell. How do you make that exciting? Well, we have some Scandinavian staff who found a start up manufacturing a reflective spray for improving the visibility of elk, which are a frequent cause of traffic accidents. We thought that the same product could be used to help cyclists. It isn’t one of Volvo’s flagship products, but it has flown off the shelves at dealerships and salespeople can link it to the safety features systems in their vehicles. Once again, it comes back to what a brand connotes in the public consciousness, and engaging with it.
Most of the business in advertising is still stateside. What does London offer?
Our business is split roughly three ways; domestic business, EMEA accounts, and we also handle some smaller global brands. London is still a small market for advertising, but its proximity to Europe and the east makes it a great hub for handling regional accounts, and any global presence boosts your profile domestically, so the two are symbiotic. 
London’s diversity is also great for the creative industries. Grey is trying new ways to attract that talent. We’ve stopped looking at where our new apprentices went to college or university, and that’s the start. Creative is about a broad vision and diverse teams are the key to unlocking that.
Grey London has enjoyed a renaissance in the last few years. How do you explain that?
You need to be entrepreneurial and have solid financial backing for when things go wrong. But it’s mostly down to a cultural change. We used to be a big network agency and our name, Grey, was no accident. Across the industry in general, bureaucracy was bloated, the corner-office culture was ingrained, and hierarchies needed demolishing. 
Most of the time, highly educated and creative graduates were sitting around for something to be signed off. Now, we have no walls and no sign-offs. We get the people required from advertising, social, digital, or activation and production to sit at a table, and ensure that our approach is coordinated and effective decisions can be made quickly.