London / Belfast UK – The Mission Control Communications today announced its D&AD membership for teams.
James Killoran, Strategy Director at The Mission Control Communications said: “I’m delighted to be an active member of this, the finest creative community in the world.”
Founded in 1962, Design and Art Direction (D&AD, formally known as British Design & Art Directions) is a British educational charity which exists to promote excellence in design and advertising.
Whilst best known for its design and advertising awards, D&AD offers a world of research and training to members with more than 23,000 case studies dating back over 50 years.
“Embedding the knowledge, hands on skills and standards of D&AD within our own values and practices has been a long-term objective,” said Killoran.
“Our team can now continue to take part in workshops and lectures that tackle the ever-changing face of our industry and migrate that knowledge and those skills into the campaigns they are working on with clients. We are already working with a number of clients where D&AD research and insights are being woven into the strategic direction of projects.”
© THE MISSION CONTROL COMMUNICATIONS LTD., 2017.
In this interview, we chat to Patricia Killoran, managing director at The Mission Control Communications about the impact of Brexit on an agency that is best known for its work overseas.
“I don’t think anyone really expected the outcome of the referendum to be what it was, not even those leading it. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Martin Sorrell summed it up: ‘the fact that the Brexiteers, having not expected to win, don’t even have a Plan A, let alone Plan B, hardly helps to boost market confidence.’
However – with the majority of our work originating from brands in the United States, the collapse in the value of the pound against the US dollar post Brexit has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The drop in the value of sterling means US companies are now saving as much as 20cents on the pound. In layman terms – a US company can now save up to $2,000 against every £10,000 billed.
This sudden and unexpected windfall means that US brands are finding their marketing dollar buys them a lot more than it did a few short weeks ago in the UK. Likewise, we’re seeing a similar trend in work coming from South Korea and Japan where the value of a weak pound is also being felt.
Whist the real impact of Brexit is yet to be felt on the ground, this initial short-term benefit is helping to lift my post-referendum depression and putting a smile on the faces of US clients.”
In our latest interview with Patricia Killoran from The Mission Control Communications, we hear her thoughts on a subject that is rarely out off the media at the moment – mergers and acquisitions.
“Regionally, we’re more used to associating news of mergers and acquisitions with job losses and the hyperbole of hysteria press and politicians subsequently generate around it.
However – step outside of Northern Ireland and there’s a different story to be had. Globally M&A’s are one of the most effective ways for businesses to grow. Overnight a company can find itself with an established foothold and heritage in an overseas market – something that otherwise can take years to achieve.
M&A’s are also a catalyst for innovation with R&D being shared between companies that may formally have been bitter rivals but whose collective knowledge and insights can and often does result in amazing breakthroughs and leaps of logic that are simply inspired.
The M&A culture is also a catalyst for many companies, especially those small companies specializing in a particular niche. Venture capitalists will often invest heavily in these businesses, as whilst they recognize that the product or service alone stands little chance of success, they are betting that another company will spot a use for it within their own model and therefore acquire it.
Understanding the mechanics of M&A’s has allowed us to earn a reputation within what is often called the billion dollar ideas club as a trusted and discreet partner capable of assisting companies navigate the communications, marketing and strategic considerations necessary during this volatile and sensitive process.
In the context of M&A’s, our role differs significantly to that of a typical rebrand project, which relies on building on the existing creditability and goodwill associated with the brand.
No two M&A projects are ever the same. But one of the most common mistakes made during the process is to overlook the importance of engaging the workforce. These people are essentially the backbone of the business that has been absorbed and as mentioned at the top of this article, they will normally default to a position of fear and uncertainty when an merger or acquisition is announced. Without proper engagement, you can quickly find that the intelligence and reputation you thought you were buying in the employees of the business is snapped up by a competitor who will play on the uncertainty they feel. So engage with employees early and put their minds at ease. Remember – whist for you this is just business, for employees it’s the difference between being able to pay their mortgage and not.
Another reason to engage with employees is actually rooted in our subconscious need to belong to something. Just as our ancestors banded together first in tribes and then as nations, the same is true with people and brands. So when you step into remove the brand and values that employees have belonged to for years, you need to be in a position to replace it with something better that they will be proud to be part of. Again – the key is early employee engagement and clear messaging that will galvanize people behind a common purpose.
Historically, brands have saw this as a secondary necessity after informing customers, but as experience has taught us, if your employees are not initiated into the new brand and its mission, vision and values, the experience customers have will not be consistent with the image you’re paying to create.
As mentioned, when you are creating a new brand, it has to offer employees something more than the brand you are telling them to leave behind. However – it’s also worth noting in the midst of a merger or acquisition, many companies lose sight of the importance of marketing, which is why it’s important to have a strategic partner in place that can support you during the process and cover the bases in the event that you get distracted with the wealth of other subjects that need dealt with.
You might wonder why I keep using the term strategic partner as opposed to ‘agency’. Simple. An agency infers something that is simply commissioned to do a defined job. However, positioning the agency as a partner in your mind leads to multiple benefits. Firstly, it leads to more open and honest discussions and will actually alleviate you from a lot of work.
As a strategic partner, it’s our responsibility to create a brand that is more than just a name and logo, but something that encapsulates where your company is going. This can and does lead to some very open and honest discussions, but there is no use in creating a brand that does not give you room to grow or, simply follows current trends. Do that and you end up with a brand that fits in somewhere between your competitors, whereas experience proves that the most successful brands are those that redefine a sector and leave competitors in the dust.
If you are comfortable with the new brand, the chances are it’s because it’s familiar and your brain is unconsciously associating it with existing brands. Therefore – you’ve failed to create your own identity. Our job is to create what can often make you feel initially uncomfortable, but time will validate its effectiveness.
It is also important during any merger or acquisition that your strategic partner works with you to realize an authentic brand story that effectively integrates the two or more company cultures. Remember – it’s not just a case of rehashing your old brand story. The purpose of a merger or acquisition is to make you better and by default your brand story needs to reflect that and unite everyone behind a common purpose.”
With 2016 shaping up to be a year in which we see unprecedented mergers and acquisition coming to the table and many established brands acting like venture capitalists, it’s going to be an interesting ride.
The story behind The Mission Control Communications.
By any definition of the word, 2015 has been a ‘spectacular’ year for The Mission Control Communications. But what motivates the agency that has blazed a trail for itself in recent months, picking up multiple international awards and clients on an almost monthly basis?
“I don’t think it was ever just one thing,” says Director, Patricia Killoran. “When we launched the agency, we knew we were going to have our share of critics, but in many ways that negativity drove us all the harder and it’s a testament to the character and resilience of the people that I work with that we were able to rise above all that and focus on creating the type of agency we always wanted to be part of.”
That agency you wanted to be part of, describe it? “Effective, Strategic, Collaborative, International and Brave,” says Patricia. Ten months on, have you succeeded in creating that agency? “I’d say we’re work in progress. I don’t think we’ll ever fully see ourselves has being done. There’s always something new to try and the agency that stands still gets left behind.”
You don’t refer to the brands you work with as clients’; you describe them as partners, why? “Client is a such a horrible word. It just suggests a cold financial transaction and that’s never going to be the catalyst for producing great work. When we partner with a brand and its in-house marketing team, we work together. We get to know them as people and that leads to a more open and honest relationship and honesty is key to creating effective work. The partner brand needs to be honest about not only what it’s looking to achieve, but why and we need to be honest about the work and if an idea isn’t working – kill it and move on.”
The Mission Control Communications has established a reputation for itself as being down to earth; do you see that as a problem when it comes to working with the more conservative types of companies? “Some people can find it strange at first. They have a perception of an agency and we don’t really fit into that cliché. But that’s not a bad thing. It causes people to open their minds more and that’s part of the process – challenge the norm and look at new ways of doing things.
The majority of your work originates outside the UK. Geographically how do you cope? “We’ve created a structure that allows us to work seamlessly with partners all over the world. Geographically, I don’t think it really matters where you’re based, what is important is being able to do work that get results and is relevant to the market you’re operating in,” says Patricia.
The Mission Control Communications has had a very successful time on the awards circuit. How important are awards to you as an agency? “Awards are always nice, but they need to be seen for what they are; a by-product of what we do – not the driving motivator. I read an article in one of the trade press titles recently that said: ‘We’ve all been witness to weeks and months of ‘strategising’ without a corresponding award winner in sight.’ I can’t believe that we still live and work in an age where for some agencies, awards are more important than campaign effectiveness. You can’t serve two masters. If your eye is on a night at the awards and not the outcome the brand you’re working with needs, you’re not doing your job. That’s why when it came to selecting the awards we would be entering; we chose those that were based on campaign effectiveness and not just pretty pictures solutions.”
What do you mean about pretty pictures solutions? “It’s a term we use to describe work that looks pretty but has no substance. It’s pointless. If we want to make pretty pictures, we’ll go to an art class. Our work is about making a difference.”
So how do you plan to top your achievements this year, next year? “Like I said earlier, we’re work in progress. Next year will bring a host of new challenges and we’re looking forward to coming to grips with those. We come back in the New Year to a lot of planning meetings and some rollouts, so that is going to keep us busy. But we’re fortunate in that we have work to be coming back to, so we’ll be focussing on looking after our existing partners, but if a new opportunity presents itself and it’s right for us, naturally we’ll look at it.”
That sounds like you don’t plan to be pitching in 2016? “It’s not a priority for us. We have some pretty great partners on the books already and they keep us busy. It’s easy to get caught up in pitch fever, but that’s when your existing work starts to suffer. So for us, we’d rather keep our existing partners happy than go off on a fools chase after something that might or might not happen.”
Despite the genuine down to earth and jargon free manner of the agency, The Mission Control Communications houses a wealth of industry intelligence that allows it to deliver effective and informed campaign strategies to brands working in some of the most complex markets world wide. You can’t help but feel an underlying confidence within the team in that they know their stuff. Looking forward to seeing what comes next from the team.
My mother always said I had a face for radio, but that didn’t stop one of the team from breaking out his caera last week and doing some on-the-fly shots. In addition to some really cool images of the studio, he captured a few nice shots of some of the team as well.
And for anyone wondering if our guys are any good at retouching images, just look how natural they made all my wrinkles and grey hairs look. Talented feckers!
It’s probably one of the best know logos in the world – yet when it comes to the design and marketing industry, perhaps one of the most misunderstood. When you look at the Apple logo – what do you see?
OK smartarses – yes you see an apple – well to be accurate, what you actually see is part of an apple. That’s right – there’s something missing.
Now – this is where I believe the confusion has crept in. Increasingly the world of business has come to see the Apple as a design solution as opposed to what it actually is – a tool – albeit a complex and expensive one.
So what’s missing? What is the Apple logo telling us if we take the time to study it?
I guess the short answer to that is – it’s missing ‘human creative input’ – that bit of inspiration that can only ever come from the neural circuitry and sparking neurons of a person that spends their life filling their head with ideas and asking questions. The person that thinks beyond the processing power of the machine and the limitations of the software coding.
For all of his creative wizardry and visionary design, the legendary Steve Jobs never managed to create that final piece of the logo. That little missing piece on the top right hand corner of every Apple logo that reminds us, great design comes from a person – not a machine. Then again – perhaps he always knew that!
I’ll be the first to admit, there are times when I can’t wait to post news about a new piece of business we’ve won or show-off a piece of work we’re particularly proud of. But as a rule, most of what we create is never seen or mentioned within our own brand promotions. We don’t even mention most of our clients in our client list.
It’s not that we’re not proud of the work or indeed the brands we work with, but when you get into serious B2B campaigns for brands that have turnovers in the hundreds of millions or even billions, then you really have to respect their confidentiality and consider the impact of your actions each time you name drop.
Think about it – what’s the easiest way to see what one of your clients’ competitors are up to? Answer – find out who their agency is and check out their site or social media pages and with a little digging and intelligence, from what is posted – you’ll be able to work out exactly what their strategy is for the coming months.
This leads me onto my next point. When you are posting work you have created for a brand, why are you doing it? Most likely it’s because you’re setting the scene to go after another piece of new business – in other words you’re showboating and stroking your own ego. And there in is the problem. You’ve taken your eye of the work you’re commissioned and getting paid to do and thinking about the next job or client. You’ve already relegated your client to second place and that’s just bloody bad service.
So – remember, it pays to keep your mouth shut and its much easier to lose an existing client than it is to win a new one. My advice – respect the clients you have and if you’re doing your job well, then new projects will come to you of their own accord.
If you don’t believe me – then just ask yourself, what would Chuck do?
The third ad in the PeopleAX campaign was unveiled at the end of April. This time we focus on a topic many of us will be familiar with – working overtime.
Continuing to explore the in-depth range of features offered to HR managers by the Microsoft Accredited Equiniti PeopleAX software system, we show how PeopleAX helps you identify when and where overtime is being accrued. This not only helps you identify cost efficiencies to be made within your organization, but also opportunities.
The Bite Group has appointed The Mission Control as its lead creative and strategic agency following a comprehensive brand review that began in January.
The retail manufacturer who produces brands for Starbucks and Dunnes amongst others has been in substantive discussions with the agency for months but only awarded the business earlier this week after a final round of presentations from agencies in both the UK and RoI.
James Killoran from The Mission said: “It was obvious from the first meeting that the Bite team shared out appetite for amazing work. Bite has gone through a very open and honest internal journey over recent months to get clarity on their brand. That’s a very brave process and one of the things that endeared the brand to us. It proved a genuine willingness to explore the retail market they operate in and not simply follow the herd.”
The Mission’s first work for Bite is due to break pre summer.
When Napoleon describe us a “une nation de boutuquiers” or “a nation of shopkeepers” he touched upon a unique cultural trait that defines our society to this day. For hundreds of years, we have relied upon commerce and not the extent of our land or population to generate the nation’s wealth.
However – have you taken a walk down your local high street recently? It’s not an inspiring sight with up to one in four shops boarded up in some areas and more independent retailers being forced to pull down the shutters every week.
Whilst it’s often easy to see this simply as an economic issue, there’s more at stake here than just the financial implications and lost jobs.
Our high streets are an intrinsic part of our social and cultural identity. If we allow them to vanish, we are not only depriving communities of their livelihoods, we are depriving them of their social and cultural heart.
So what do we do?
The first thing we need to do is fundamentally change the way our high street retailers think. This starts with overcoming the online retailer complex:
Online retailers are spending fortunes trying to conquer social media and become ‘friends’ with their customers. Yet high street shops are failing to take advantage of the fact that they already enjoy a level of social engagement that Amazon would kill for.
It often seems that whilst online retailers are doing everything within their financial, technological and marketing capabilities to humanise their brands, our high street retailers are doing the complete opposite, believing that they have to dehumanise their social engagement and just fight a price war.
As a shop owner, you have people walking in and out of your store every day. Engage with them! It’s not all about the immediate transaction and getting people in and out as fast as possible. It’s about building a relationship and reinforcing the high streets position as the dominant social centre for your local community and by virtue the economic rewards will follow in time.
Make people feel welcome and wanted. Yes – even the young. Remember today’s teenage shopper is potentially tomorrows high earner. And unlike most adults, teenagers often have a higher amount of disposable income to spend.
Remove the inference that everyone coming into your store is to be treated like a potential shoplifter. It makes people feel uncomfortable and more inclined to walk out of your shop without opening their wallet. The high street shopping experience should be ‘communal’ and welcoming.
Many of us will remember a time when a trip down your local high street was a social event. You would meet friends and neighbours in the shops and on the street. You would chat and gossip and the high street was that facilitator and whilst there we would be comfortable and we would buy. The person in the shop would more often than not know your name and be able to tell you if something new had come in that you would be interested in.
In marketing talk, people developed a behavioural trend, taking in a circuit of shops and a new shop on the high street was an attraction and not another flat pack clone.
Your mission isn’t to simply compete against online retailers, it’s to offer people a shopping experience on the high street that leaves online retailers in the dust.
People don’t come to the high street for the best price (although online isn’t always the cheapest or the most convenient); they come for the experience.
They come for the human interaction and the spontaneity of spotting something they like and being able to do all those tactile things that the web just can’t let you do, like pick an item up, try it on and ask your friend / partner what do they think? The high street gives people a genuine tactile shopping experience.
Dispelling the online price and convenience myth:
Retailers will often lament that they can’t compete with online retailers on price, but the truth of the matter is that most people don’t expect you to. They are happy to pay a small premium for the ‘convenience’, yes convenience of high street shopping.
And there in we dispel one of those other popular urban myths – online shopping is in many respects far less convenient than popping down your local high street for a purchase.
For starters, it’s not very easy to try on a jumper or check out how your bum looks in a new pair of jeans when you’re online. And as much as online retailers try, the online shopping experience remains an impersonal and cold transaction that can often leave you pulling your hair out when the transaction suddenly freezes and you’re left unsure if it has completed or not.
Then there’s the inconvenience of having to sit and wait for the delivery and the problems that can cause if you’re not there to sign for it or when the product does arrive and its not what you ordered or its got damaged in shipping.
The high street offers people a simple select, purchase and returns policy that doesn’t involve emails, calls, repackaging and trips to the post office and another lengthy wait for a replacement. So long as you are within your consumer rights, the high street will normally be able to replace or refund there and then.
So take heart high street shops. The web is a wonderful invention but high street shops
Stop papering over the cracks:
News flash! People do actually care about their high street. That’s right. People care. No one wants to see their local high street boarded up and run down. Councils are doing their best to try and brighten up our abandoned high streets with fake frontages, new footpaths and a host of other civic programmes, but retailers need to pitch in.
Start with giving people something other than the flat-pack, clone shopping experience that has come to define so many high streets. Our high streets were once amazing places, unique and embedded in the norms of the local community. Today they are generic clones of one and other. Think different. Think interesting. Think that there is a website called www.notonthehighstreet.com for a reason. Make your high street unique and not just another carbon copy of the next town over and the one over after that too.
Also – rather than installing fake frontages let us use that money to encourage local entrepreneurs with an idea that will add to the visitor attraction of our high streets.
In reality, all fake frontages do is paper over the problem. Our high streets need substance and not window dressing if we hope to encourage shoppers back off their laptops, tablets and smartphones and back into real shops.
The High Street has always faced competition:
Apathy has helped bring about the current demise of Britain’s high streets with shops often taking customers for granted. Indeed there was a time not so very long ago when the shopping centres and out of town stores really struggled to attract people, but they worked at it and through persistence and a constant re-evaluation of their strategy, they did it. Whilst the shopping centres evolved, unfortunately all too often the high street stood still. The same has been true with the rise in online shopping. But if you remember, long before online shopping, the high street still faced competition. Many of us will remember the days of Kays and Empire catalogues and yes, Littlewoods Catalogue as well. That massive phonebook sized publication that allowed you to order whatever you liked without going any further than your post box for as little as 25p a week. Yet the high street survived.
From online to on-high street:
Yes the high street has taken a beating and rates are too high and the carrier bag tax probably wasn’t the most helpful idea from government. But there’s still a steady pulse to our urban heart and our high streets can come back.
So the mission for our high streets in 2014 is to reclaim their position as the social and cultural heart of our communities and embrace the online Ogre under the bed instead of fearing it. Rather than replicating the cold online transactional experience, tailor the medium to offer exclusive in-store only discounts and updates on in-store events to your customers. Capture people’s attention online and reel them into your shop for an on-high street resurgence where your search engine is a happy smiling shop assistant behind the counter who can tell you where you can find a blue jumper without having to wade through 73,600,000 possible results.
So come on high street – the next move is yours!