This blog marks the first of our exciting new interview series, as we celebrate this vibrant and progressive industry by “Zero-ing in” on some of the most influential names in the business; delving into their time in marketing and looking closer at the things that have inspired, motivated and challenged them.
This week, we start a little closer to home with an anniversary special featuring our very own UK MD and Global Creative Partner, Rob Nicholls. Now into his 10th year at Zero Degrees West, we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane as well as finding out where he thinks marketing is headed in the decade to come.
For people who don’t know, sum up for us what the UK MD and Global Creative Partner at Zero Degrees West does.
“Well that’s a tricky one to answer, my position involves a lot of different roles and responsibilities, but in a nutshell, I oversee our UK arm of the company and make sure we are delivering creative, effective campaigns that inspire our clients and their audience.”
What do you think sets Zero Degrees West apart from its competitors?
“We’re known for being a super talented team that create stunning work. We make a point of hiring passionate people who love pushing boundaries and take pride in what they do – which tends to make my job a bit easier!”
UK MD at 36 is a pretty staggering achievement. Tell us, where did it all begin?
“I started out as an editor, in a company not too dissimilar to Zero Degrees West. We worked on theatrical campaigns and I was producing work for clients like Disney, Universal and MGM. It was an exciting opportunity for a graduate – to suddenly find yourself working on big media campaigns. I said yes to every opportunity and tried to learn, grow and gain as much experience as possible, and I got to meet and interview some great talent to boot – like Martin Freeman, Danny Glover and even the pop sensation, Rachel Stevens!
I then spent a number of years expanding my experience by moving into television and music, working at the BBC, Channel 4, plus solo projects where I filmed, directed and created behind-the-scenes content for 4 Music and Warner Music. Then, in 2008, I settled down and joined Zero Degrees West as a Creative Director… the rest, they say, is history.”
What is it about working at Zero Degrees West that you enjoy the most?
“I love my job; every day is different – different briefs, campaigns and challenges. It’s a fast moving environment full of creativity and energy. With a global footprint, we work on some of the biggest brands, and I get to do that alongside a super talented team who are not only my colleagues, but also close friends.”
So, 10 years! What’s been the biggest change you’ve seen over that time?
“In the 10 years I’ve been here, one thing has always stayed the same: Zero Degrees West is all about having the best people. Not only as brilliant creators who are excelling in their field, but also as a tight-knit team. I suppose the biggest change has been that we’ve gone from a very small group of talented individuals, to a much bigger group of talented individuals. We opened our LA offices in 2016, which was super exciting, and it’s fantastic to see it grow and take over the world!”
What’s the key to creating a brilliant campaign?
“I’ve found the key to creating amazing campaigns is, not only understanding your brief inside and out, but also always asking yourself ‘Why?’ Why is this idea right for the client? Why is it right for your audience – why that platform, and how will it engage the audience, and why will it deliver results? It’s not always about the easy route or the most complex or innovative campaign, it’s about knowing when to deploy the right creative tools across the right platforms. From there, it’s about delivering outstanding creative with great design, precision editing, effective strategy or cutting edge innovation – I love the fact that we can deliver on all of these.”
Being MD and Creative Partner do you find you have less time to be creative or find inspiration?
“Not at all! In fact, I find I am involved in more projects across both the UK and the US, and I get to collaborate with the different teams. Long gone are the days of actually getting on tools and editing though. In regards to inspiration, I take it from all sorts of sources: from social media, watching kids’ TV with my daughter, keeping up with popular culture (yes, even Love Island) or going to a design or art house exhibition – you’ll be amazed where inspiration for great ideas can come from!”
What do you feel has been the biggest development in marketing over the past 10 years?
“There’s no doubt that the growth of digital has changed the industry more than anything else and the rate at which it is developing is astounding. When I started out it was very much in its infancy. Over the years it has brought many exciting creative challenges and opportunities, meaning we’ve constantly been able to re-shape the way we reach our audiences.”
How do you see marketing changing over the next 10 years?
“That’s a tricky question; the marketing and technology landscape is constantly evolving with lots of exciting opportunities. Over the next 10 years, whether we like it or not, I think all channels of marketing and creative will become more targeted. As we become more of a connected digital society, we will be able to gain even more information about shopping habits, likes and dislikes, hobbies and so on. I think this will offer us more opportunities to engage audiences, and create a two-way dialogue.”
Finally, tell us something about Zero Degrees West that people might not know.
“Every week we make sure our team are recognised for all their hard work. We have a giant wheel in the office (a bit like the Wheel of Fortune, but more yellow) which a nominated “Zero Hero” gets to spin to win great prizes – I’m trying desperately to get nominated so I can get free lunch for a week…unfortunately, there’s some pretty tough competition.”