14th July 1980. Margaret Thatcher was in power, Nottingham Forest were champions of Europe and Olivia Newton-John was top of the charts with Xanadu. These were all newsworthy stories – little did the world know that our MD was just starting out on his eventful and incredibly successful career in marketing.
We’ve heard many stories from him over the years about how when he left school, he started out selling ladies underwear on a market stall. Other anecdotes include the fact that he once crashed his boss’ very expensive car and that the industry was indeed a very different place in his early days – with whiskey and cigars in the office very much the trend.
To celebrate Nigel’s journey since his very first day 40 years ago this week, we thought it was about time we sat down with him to get the lowdown on his most memorable moments, the ups and downs and what he sees the future looking like. One thing we should say is that he does have a lot of years left in him, make no mistake!
Give us a top level overview of your career over the last 40 years please Nige!
Crikey, that’s a big one. Well, 40 years is a long time but as anyone will say, it’s flown by. I suspect the first thing worth noting is the sheer amount of change that’s happened to the industry in that time.
The first big shift was the digital revolution of the 90’s where we went from presenting design work to clients basically as drawn ideas on a board, to then working them up on a Mac and printing them for presentations. The same with artwork – once the design work (and copy sheet) were approved, we would produce artwork which used to be type stuck onto board to then be scanned – before being printed or sent off as an ad for the papers. Now of course, everything is worked up on the Mac and handled in one fell digital swoop.
I remember working for a large furniture retailer in the 80s. We would design national press ads in Nottingham, gain approval and then send them to a London overnight studio who would work up the artwork and send the proof by fax for me to check first thing in the morning. We would receive a new brief on Monday and work days/nights until Thursday when the ad would have to be signed off to go to the national papers. There would then be a mad rush to get a copy of all the newspapers on Friday and see our hard work in print!
Of course the internet then came along, followed by game changers such as social media – and that’s when the really significant shifts started to happen.
What’s been your most memorable moment?
I’ve had some great days – from being a model on a shoot at my first agency to now seeing my daughters do a similar thing for our clients! Taking an ad in the Live Aid programme for Ford and then receiving tickets to take the client to the concert was pretty special. The London years were bonkers because the economy was on the up – so we worked and partied all hours.
Deciding to set up my own agency and opening the doors to The Dairy in September 2002 has to be the high point – closely followed by winning the Bravissimo account three weeks later. It meant we were in profit from month one – which no one expected!
What do you enjoy most about the industry?
The people and the buzz of agency life. It’s a real people business which is normally a great thing – but sometimes it can be a pain! I’ve never considered the day-to-day job to be hard work. I used to play rugby with some lads who worked down the pits in Nottingham – now that is hard work!
What’s changed the most in the industry over the last 40 years?
The technology as mentioned previously. The way we work is completely different now but at its core, great and effective marketing communications needs good strategic thinking and engaging creative work. Those fundamental ingredients will never change.
What are your goals for The Dairy’s future?
Well, getting out of this dreadful year of COVID is the first objective. We had plans to grow the business over the next three years, but we may have to lower our expectations somewhat now.
Trusted Account Director Tom Walters has recently joined the board and now has more of a vested interest in the company – so I want to see him develop and really make his mark on the business over the next few years. There may well be other, similar appointments in the years to come to take the pressure off me and allow me to take some more holiday time!
Overall, I would love to see the great team we have in place prosper and take the business on to the next level. We need to keep producing effective marketing strategies alongside brilliant creative work for solid, reputable clients. This will only stand us in good stead. We’ve always used the term ‘Open and Honest’ in our own marketing and I want to continue to be seen as the good guys in our industry.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Work hard and play hard! It’s a great industry to be in and if you give it your all, the rewards will be there!
The marketing industry is incredibly popular – so getting a foot in the door can be really difficult – but I’ve seen some of our interns go on to amazing opportunities in London and end up working in some of the top agencies – so that’s rewarding to see. I feel well qualified to offer advice because my eldest daughter Charlotte has just finished an English degree at the University of Reading and is looking for her first role. She wants to work in marketing but more on the social media side of things – so I am offering her all of the advice I can give right now.
Please join us in congratulating Nigel for reaching such a fabulous milestone in his career. Here’s to another successful 40 years Nige – although perhaps the next 40 will be spent more on the beach than in the office!