Creative industry Leader Interview - 5 minutes with...

Danny Turnbull


Danny Turnbull - Stein IAS

Career to date:

2017, Managing Director, Stein IAS
2007, Managing Director, gyro
2000, Managing Director, Cicero Marketing
1998, Account Director, BJL
1997, Account Manager, Gardiner-Caldwell Communications
1993, Account Manager, Commercial Advertising Services
1992, Marketing Manager, Envirosystems

Creativebrief: As Managing Director of Stein IAS, what is your primary focus?

Danny Turnbull: My remit spans the UK and France, two huge markets for us, both creative hubs. We have a major presence in the UK and in particular, London, which I’ll be looking to expand further. The business has grown and continues to grow globally, at significant speed. My appointment is to ensure that from a European perspective, we continue to deliver on our hugely impressive 24% year-on-year increase in revenue (year ending February).

I joke that I’m the new old boy. I’m new to the business but perhaps not so new to the space. Stein IAS has a very strong culture of promoting from within, and so my appointment is somewhat of a deviation from that, which explains the 16 interviews! That’s a great privilege for me and gives the business some fresh new external perspective. My appointment at the beginning of the year coincided with a management restructure across the agency’s global operations, which resulted in the formation of a 12-strong executive team. Charged with leading the agency’s aggressive growth plans in, our collective goal is to become a £30 million revenue within the next four years.

Creativebrief: Please could you outline your career to date, talking us through anything of particular interest or that you’d like to highlight?

Danny Turnbull: As the proud son of a celebrated B2B academic, I was always destined to follow my father into industry. My father was an eminent B2B professor and wrote extensively on the subject of B2B marketing in the 80s, 90s and noughties so following into that space was quite important to me. Although that said, I didn’t really fancy going to work in academia and I was attracted to the bright lights and the glamour of a career in advertising and marketing.

I began my career client side, but then spent the best part of 25 years working predominantly in B2B agencies. Although I did have a stint in B2C with BJL where I worked with brands such as Granada and Littlewoods, and worked in medcomms at GCC, B2B is my passion and in my time, I’ve seen it evolve from trade and tech to what is today, an immensely respected discipline.

Prior to joining Stein IAS, I headed up gyro’s Manchester office and I’m extremely proud of the fact that I took the agency through its centenary year. Throughout my time at gyro, I worked on many successful campaigns, but I’m particularly proud of the work for the rebrand of Leyland DAF to DAF, a 12-month undertaking. I’m also hugely pleased with the work in recent years with Marshalls which saw the establishment of a market leading positioning for a brand based on sustainability and ethics. Getting shortlisted for a Cannes Lion for a B2B paving manufacturer isn’t bad going!

Moving from one Northern powerhouse to another is definitely exciting, and something I’d never considered. Until I met the team last year, after a chance meeting with Stein IAS CEO Rob Morrice, I’ve not really looked back. After 16 years at gyro, I felt it was time for a change, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision.

“As the proud son of a celebrated B2B academic, I was destined to follow my father into industry...Although that said, I didn't really fancy going to work in academia and I was attracted to the bright lights and the glamour of a career in advertising and marketing."

Creativebrief: What’s unique about Stein IAS? Why did you join?

Danny Turnbull: People ask me why the move, and the temptation is to say a mid-life crisis but without the ponytail. The truth is that I was ready for a fresh challenge and this definitely represents it. The agency has a great pedigree in all things digital, and in particular marketing automation. This, coupled with the agency’s view of the industry’s future driven by the advancement of digital technology but driven equally by human emotion, was a huge draw for me.

The digital transformation in B2B has been incredible and Stein IAS has been at the forefront of that, in fact that’s one of the key reasons I joined. But that’s table stakes now. The post-modern marketing agency is one that embraces the tenets that characterise the ‘modern’ age of B2B - marketing automation, analytics, conversion, granular segmentation and targeting - and balances them with a renewed emphasis on the bold, intuitive creative experiences that re-assert our human nature. At Stein IAS, we aim to provide exactly that.

Creativebrief: What has been your agency’s best work in the last year?

Danny Turnbull: We have had the opportunity to work on some exciting, meaty and fun briefs this year. One in particular that stands out was for ingredient solutions provider, Ingredion. The company has been on an incredible three-year digital transformation journey with us and their latest campaign would see them make their mark as a food texture specialist. The overarching objective was to develop an asset that would drive organic traffic into their database and launch social media from scratch with engaging shareable content.

The resulting 90 second video brought to life the sensory journey we experience when eating a packet of crisps. The Ultimate Crisp video demonstrated Ingredion’s texture capabilities by engaging the audience in a fun and shareable way highlighting all the senses that come into play when eating something as simple as the humble crisp. This was an asset that was hugely valuable and, let’s face it, incredibly fun to make.

Creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?

Danny Turnbull: ING’s The Next Rembrandt immediately springs to mind. Because ING is a longtime supporter of Dutch arts and culture, art became the natural playground for the brand’s venture into innovation. The Next Rembrandt is a 3D-printed painting made solely from data derived from 346 known paintings by Rembrandt. It was created from a facial-recognition algorithm which learned Rembrandt’s techniques. Pixel data helped the computer mimic brushstrokes and an advanced 3D printer brought the painting to life using 13 layers of ink.

It’s an excellent example of what we at Stein IAS call Post-Modern Marketing. Really successful B2B marketing has to do more than adhere to the best digital technological protocols. It also has to connect and engage with individuals on an emotional level and I think a lot of B2B marketing has lost sight of that.

Creativebrief: What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential?

Danny Turnbull: As one of the most highly honored campaigns in the history of Cannes Lions, I have to say McCann New York’s Fearless Girl for State Street Global Advisors. The campaign saw the installation of a bronze statue of a girl standing defiantly across from the iconic Wall Street charging bull, commissioned to advocate for more women in leadership positions and draw attention to SSGA’s "SHE" fund, which invests in companies that the company deems as doing a good job of putting females in top jobs.

“Really successful B2B marketing has to do more than adhere to the best digital technological protocols. It also has to connect and engage with individuals on an emotional level and I think a lot of B2B marketing has lost sight of that."

Creativebrief: How do you see the advertising industry evolving over the next few years?

Danny Turnbull: For the latest and greatest marketing technology, and, more to the point, still emerging machine-learning capabilities, to really create awesome value, marketers must connect it to brands' emotional roots. Only by combining technology with core insights about the emotions motivating human behaviour can we genuinely touch hearts and minds, and thereby influence behaviour in what we believe will be marketing’s post-modern era.

Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for Stein IAS over the next few years?

Danny Turnbull: Our challenge is to maintain our growth trajectory whilst maintaining our unique culture.

Creativebrief: The changing nature of the traditional pitch is something that we’re increasingly interested in at Creativebrief. What’s your opinion?

Danny Turnbull: Now I’m not saying I want to get on a soapbox, but the pitch process is something I feel extremely passionate about. Having been involved in new business pitches for the best part of 25 years, I can safely say that the process is something that I simultaneously love and hate.

The process as a whole is infuriatingly a huge drain for agencies. The Good Pitch guide’s research into the cost of pitching uncovered major differences between client perceptions and agency realities. This is because while clients perceive agency pitch costs to be in the ballpark of £31k for a large pitch, the reality is it costs closer to £178K!

Luckily, I’ve worked for agencies, Stein IAS included, that are bold enough to refuse to give away work for free. We will of course enter into agency selection processes, but we won’t give away free ideas and we won’t give away free strategy and free creative. Another gripe of mine is that the pitch process is viewed by the majority as a one-way assessment, when in fact, it’s a two-way process, we as an agency also need to establish whether the client is in fact the right fit for us.

Creativebrief: Personally, who or what are you inspired by?

Danny Turnbull: I’ve already talked about how important my dad has been in my career. It may well be clichéd but outside of all things marketing, as a football fanatic, two of my biggest inspirations are Sir Alex Ferguson and Captain Marvel himself, Bryan Robson. What has endeared them to management, team mates and fans alike is their tremendous courage, industry and never-say-die attitude.

I’m also not that big into airport business books, but have long found inspiration in Stephen Covey’s The 7  of Highly Effective People. It’s about how to conduct yourself in this world rather than being a business strategy book. Anthony Burill’s mantra, “Work hard and be nice to people”, is also something I try to embrace on a daily basis, even when I’m driving into the office.

About the author

Izzy Ashton, Assistant Editor of BITE, Creativebrief

Izzy is a writer/researcher for BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She keeps abreast of the latest communication, technology and consumer news, and is responsible for conducting interviews with key agency strategists and creatives to gain insight into the most innovative global campaigns.