AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Suits Laid Bare - Andrew McGuinness

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch up with Andrew McGuinness, founding partner of Beattie McGuinness Bungay, and one of London and Adland's most renouned Suits. (Apologies that it's taken me so long to post it, but real life gets in the way. I have new theories on why the blogosphere is awash with Planners and Creatives but so bereft of Suits - but they can wait.) Now, Andrew's featured on ALS before - he has strong views on the Suit's role in an Agency, and as such has been a man that I've been keen to talk to for a while. Here's how it went.

ALS: Andrew - good morning! To start us off, how did you end up working in advertising? Were you one of those people who claim to have loved adverts since they were a toddler, or did you just stumble into it?

AM: Probably somewhere in between, to be honest. My Dad worked on trade press, so when I was a kid we used to get a lot of random shit coming through the door - Cranes Today, that kind of thing. The sort of specialist publications you see on Have I Got News For You. One of those magazines was Marketing Week - and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea that you could earn a living doing that. At first I thought you had to be a client, but I eventually worked out that wasn't the case. I worked at a DM Agency before I went to University, when I didn't really know what DM was, but I enjoyed it, I got promoted and it paid well - I was a Suit at the age of 17. I ended up on the graduate scheme at JWT, where I was very much the runt of the litter - no silver spoon in my mouth...

ALS: And after JWT, you went off to M&C in Sydney - how did you find life over there, and how would you say advertising in Australia differs from the UK?

AM: The Sydney thing was, as with a lot of my career decisions, basically very, very lucky. I'd met my wife-to-be shortly after we'd both been travelling, and we'd always said we'd go back to Australia - I'd been at JWT for 5 or 6 years, and the timing was right. I spent two years working my bollocks off over there. It was a period of intense work, and of great worth. I worked with a guy called Simon Corah, legend Suit and a great mentor, who taught me a huge amount - and I would still say that the UK can learn an awful lot from how things are done over there. First off, partly because it's a smaller market, they've been doing integration for years. There is no ATL/BTL division - you just get on with it. Secondly, you do tend to deal with tighter budgets, which means canny production solutions. There's a myth that people work less hard in Australia, which is just nonsense. Yes, it's a great lifestyle, but you do a hell of a lot of work. And M&C was great for me - because it was a growing company with a fairly flat structure, there were lots of opportunities, which I made the most of.

ALS: So would you say going to Australia was the best career decision you've made?

AM: The honest answer is that I've been extremely lucky with most of my career decisions: getting into JWT was lucky; going to M&C in Sydney and working with Simon was lucky; coming back to TBWA, becoming MD after a year and CEO after two years was bloody lucky! And the opportunity to do our own thing, to develop our own values and work at BMB is incredibly energising. Overall, I'd say it's been a combination of luck and getting my head down, more than any great planning.

ALS: Let's talk about BMB for a moment. It's obviously doing very well. Where is that success coming from?

AM: When you're running your own place you find out very quickly how good you are - there's nowhere to hide, and there's no bullshit, which is incredibly liberating. I think we started at a great time - what Clients want is changing, and a start-up is inherently future-facing, entirely unencumbered by the past. The future is uncertain at the moment, and we have a bunch of people who get that, and are extremely excited about it. Too many people look back - we're too busy looking forward. The idea that I'm most proud of would have to be the iPint - it's an example of thinking differently.

ALS: What idea have you been involved with that you're most proud of? And which idea do you wish you'd had?

AM: I'm most proud of the iPint - it's different thinking, a way of communicating with the audience in a cost efficient fashion. There's no media owner involved, it's a direct, pleasurable conversation. And my most envied idea (though I think it could have been better executed) is the 'Best Job In The World' campaign [for Queensland Tourist Board]. A simple idea with next to no media behind it, it generated its own noise.

ALS: So - to Suits. Who's the most influential Suit you've ever worked with, and what do you think the future holds for Suits?

AM: Simon Corah would be the most influential - I met him at the right time in my career, and he's a fantastic Suit. He was very entrepreneurial and very business savvy. Extremely good strategic thinker (he could easily have been a planner), and a real leader and energiser of people. I had the time of my life working with him, soaking up everything I could.

I think a lot of that is relevant to the second part of the question. Suits need to be entrepreneurial now more than ever, and that's a big shift - the skill set is changing, even from three or four years ago. We need to be deal-makers and revenue drivers, for the Agency and for the Client. This is new, and will change the type of people that thrive in the job. We need to adapt, or we'll die - it's not enough to sell, or share other peoples' ideas anymore. We need to be idea generators ourselves - how do we get this programme made, how do we persuade the director to do this... It's an extremely exciting time to be a Suit.


Anonymous said...

this is great. i met andrew mcguinness once and was thoroughly impressed by his exceptional... suitiness. i mean that in a good way - he was perceptive, insightful, charismatic and completely in control of the situation.

i'm a little bit jealous, frankly.

AdLand Suit said...

A very charming, extremely smart chap, and very lovely with it. He's a very good thing.

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