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Future Market Leader Interview - 5 minutes with...

Rich Bown

Senior Creative & Media Manager, O2

Elly Sandberg - La Roche-Posay

Career to date:

2018, Senior Creative & Media Manager, O2
2014, Creative & Media Manager, O2
2013, Advertising Executive, O2
2012, Assistant Brand Manager, British Gas
2010, Centrica Marketing Grad Scheme, British Gas

Creativebrief: As Senior Creative and Marketing Manager of O2, what’s your primary focus?

Rich Bown: The primary role of my team is to protect and grow the O2 brand. Our planning teams will work with various business functions to translate the commercial priorities of the business into our annual marketing plan. From this we develop clear campaign briefs and it is my role to lead a multi-disciplinary team to deliver large-scale marketing activity to meet the objectives of the brief.

At it’s core O2 is about mobile and connectivity but we’ve also got a lot of other industry leading assets, the sponsorship of the England Rugby Team, O2 Academy Venues, The O2. It means my job’s really varied so I don’t work on any one thing all the time.

Creativebrief: Can you outline your career to date?

Rich Bown: I didn’t start out to get into marketing. I fell into it a bit. I studied politics at uni which was fun, but I didn’t want to work in the public sector, so I started in accountancy in the city. I was working in fraud and forensic accounting, which is quite dry. It didn’t inspire me. I was friends with some of the guys that were in the marketing team and it seemed like they were having a lot more fun than I was.

I’m much more of an ideas person at my core so, I quit my job, did an internship at British Gas Centrica, which turned into a marketing grad program. From there I rotated round various areas of the marketing function such as digital and strategy before ending up in the brand team. I stayed there for a little bit, liked the brand stuff but didn’t really like the brand. I wanted to make a move out of that and had a list of brands that I wanted to work for. O2 happened to be one and then a role came up, so I went for that, luckily got the job. I was in what was the advertising team and then started working on large-scale campaigns.

“Marketing at its core is a social science. I'm quite intrigued by that study of human behaviour." 

Creativebrief: Why do you think you stuck at marketing? What drew you into marketing?

Rich Bown: Marketing at its core is a social science. I’m quite intrigued by that study of human behaviour. With agencies you generally take one of two paths. You either go media or you go creative. The reason I like client-side marketing is I will often straddle the two disciplines. I love being on set and shooting but I also like the enjoy media planning and understanding how to hit audiences. It’s got a good blend for me.

Within O2 we’ve got technology, music, sport all under the same brand so being able to straddle art and science and not be confined to one box or the other is quite nice.  I’ve been with O2 for five years now and I’m still not bored.

Creativebrief: What work have you been the proudest of over the last year?

Rich Bown: The one that stood out was free screen replacements for cracked screens. It was our Oops campaign. I led that one. When you get those things on paper you think to yourself this is not exactly a Beyoncé ad, which is one of our more famous campaigns. It’s not super sexy. But it’s a pretty universal insight, 30% of people had smashed their screen so you know it’s going to have a broad appeal as a proposition.

VCCP did a great job with the creative. They made it clear that we didn’t need to overthink it. The core creative idea was to overlay a cracked screen effect onto our blue graduation, our key brand asset, with the word ‘oops’ in big, bold font. It was designed to mimic a broken phone screen. From there our thought process was how do we smash everything else we’ve got creatively? We had lopsided billboards that looked they’d fallen. We did an ad pause on TV with All4. When the user paused their TV program, their TV screen smashed and then reformed. When you’ve got such a simple creative thought, it was easy to extend it and we had so much fun with it.

Creativebrief: What about industry wide? Are there any campaigns that have really stood out?

Rich Bown: Well last year it had to be Nike’s Breaking 2 for me. It’s such a powerful piece and Nike did it true to their marketing style of celebrating the athletes. It was a huge piece of work and took time in the making.

Naturally it being Nike, the content was beautifully shot and edited together. Likewise, the product integration was flawless and felt truly authentic, amongst other things a brand-new shoe was designed to help the athletes achieve their goal. But ultimately, as a marketer, it was the alignment with Nike’s brand mission statement and purpose that made this piece special.

“I don't think you can deny that you're going to disagree with agencies. But we're only doing this because we're all trying to hit the same objectives...They are supposed to challenge us and we can challenge them."

Creativebrief: It also comes off the back of a really established relationship with Wieden+Kennedy. What do you think makes a successful client agency relationship?

Rich Bown: It’s two schools of thought when it comes to agency relationships. Some people change theirs regularly maybe to drill down on costs or get new creativity. But we’re very much partnered with our agencies. We see the team as an extension of ourselves. There’s mutual respect, trust and open and honest communication.

I don’t think you can ever deny that you’re going to disagree with agencies. But we’re only doing this because we’re all trying to hit the same objective. We’ve never really fallen out. We’re not paying people to be yes men. They are supposed to challenge us, and we can challenge them.

Respect the strengths from both sides. Creative agencies are brilliant at creative, so we need to trust them when it counts. But we’re the brand experts, we know our brand better than anyone because we’re inside the brand, we live it and breathe it every day. It’s knowing your boundaries and making sure you’re really open with your conversations, not trying to hide or sugar coat anything. It stops conflict before it gets out of hand or it builds up especially when you’re working on high pressure, time sensitive campaigns.

Creativebrief: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing marketers?

Rich Bown: It is undoubtedly competition for consumer attention. In the digital age we’ve got this ever more fragmented media eco-system. As a brand, how do you compete for that slice of attention with the consumer? How do plan your media to make sure you’re hitting the right audience in the right way?

It’s both a creative and a media challenge. Your creative has to cut through, stand out and be different but then you have to make sure you’re delivering in the right way for that particular audience. Consumption habits are evolving and changing at an extremely fast rate, it’s hard to keep pace. I always try to remind myself that I am not necessarily the target audience for this campaign. It’s important to do your homework and to stay on top of key trends.

“It is undoubtably competition for consumer attention. In the digital age we've got this ever more fragmented media eco-system. As a brand, how do you compete for that slice of attention?"

Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for O2?

Rich Bown: The power of the brand is what attracted me to O2 so, my ambition moving forward is for us to keep investing in the brand. That’s our point of differentiation in the telco market. Obviously, we want to be the best brand in our category, but I think it’s bigger than that for O2. We want to be one of the best brands in the UK. From a strategic point of view, it’s important for us to keep innovating to stay relevant in what is quite a saturated market.

The good thing is we’re focused on this challenge. We’ve been the first to market recently with quite a lot of new propositions. We are constantly looking to innovate to make sure that we’re staying relevant to customers because they are more fickle than ever.

Creativebrief: Looking outside of the industry personally, who or what are you inspired by?

Rich Bown: I love film, creativity, photography. I’ve just tried to take it up myself. I got one of those SLR cameras. Although I find it a bit weird using it in London because that’s where I live. You feel like you’re a tourist the whole time.

The people that take risks [inspire me].  Elon Musk is a great example, he’s changing the course of human history by making these huge bets on things and they could completely fail. But failure is a part of progress.

On a more personal level, I’ve got a friend who’s an entrepreneur. He’s now got 15 restaurants, he’s CEO of this massive business and I remember the day he was like ‘yeah I don’t really know what I’m going to do but I quite fancy the idea of setting up a restaurant’. Fast forward seven years and he’s got this huge brand in the South West of restaurants called Koh Thai Tapas. He was willing to take that gamble and those are the people that get the biggest pay off in life, the people that are willing to take those risks.

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.

www.linkedin.com/in/izzy-ashton-950352a7