As the world’s attention focuses on London, on the eve of the Olympics Tom Holmes talks to Chris MacLeod, Marketing Director of Transport for London.
Chris was recruited to TfL in 2006 and is a former marketing director of Papa John’s. He also has agency experience as a former Chief Executive of CDP and managing partner at McCann Erickson.
Chris MacLeod, Marketing Director of Transport for London (TfL)
TH: Chris, as Marketing Director of Transport for London (TfL) what is your primary focus?
CM: It’s very broad ranging role; Tube trains to Cycling, Oyster cards to Road Safety. In essence I try ensure we put the customer at the center of everything we do and help them use our services in the most relevant ways to get around London and make the most out of what the city has to offer.
TH: Your career has spanned TfL, Collet Dickenson Pearce, Laing Henry, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leagas Delaney, what have been the high points?
CM: Memories, memories…..
I have always said I learnt about advertising at Leagas Delaney, about the business of advertising at Saatchi and about running a business at Laing Henry. And it was a privilege to have worked at such a legendary agency as Collett’s.
TH: Along the way, have there been individual marketers who particularly impressed and inspired you?
CM: I think it would be unfair to ‘name names’. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the best people in both Advertising and Marketing and I have tried to learn something from all of them – mainly the good stuff!
I think the trick is to remain open to new ideas – you can learn something from most people.
TH: You are a former Chairman of the Marketing Society, and currently head the Fellows Group, can you tell me what you most appreciate about this organisation and the members it attracts?
CM: I like the idea of working with others to set the standards for Marketing generally, promoting the latest thinking and providing resources for all Marketers particularly those up and coming. And personally it is stimulating to be around such a great bunch of the best marketing talent and I get a lot from that.
TH: What work have you done recently makes you the most proud?
CM: A result of our broad remit is that we have a large and varied output. I am obviously biased but I think we manage to achieve a very high standard with all our outputs – thanks to very dedicated and committed staff and excellent supplier partners.
Recent highlights are our work on Teens Road safety – an important issue matched by very powerful creative (and a recent Marketing Awards winner) and our campaign around the Tube Upgrade Plan – a very hard working programme which features a high level of integration everything from ads through to emails and films highlighting the work we are doing, line by line.
TH: What are the main challenges for TfL over the next 12 months?
CM: We have recently completed a major re-organisation which has included the development of a new integrated Marketing function to work across all our businesses – bedding that in and developing a new strategic marketing plan are key challenges.
We have to do this whilst continuing to support a high standard of operational delivery across all our services – many of which, such as the Tube, are also undergoing major change and investment programmes themselves.
And then of course there are the Olympic and Paralympics Games…….
TH: Can you tell us about ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ activity and what you plan to achieve?
CM: It’s simple really. We have invested a huge amount in improving and increasing transport capacity in advance of the Games. But every Games always experiences a huge demand for transport. So at certain times and certain places across the public transport and roads network in London during the Games there will be major ‘hotspots’ – places where there is likely to be crowding and congestion. What we need to do to make everything to go smoothly is to get people who are not going to the Games to travel differently at those times. This might mean travelling in different ways, at different times or travelling less or working from home if that is possible. For businesses it could include how they manage staff, freight and deliveries.
Everyday will be different and we need to encourage people to plan ahead, to not get caught out or to ‘chance it’ with their transport and travel plans. So in conjunction with the ODA and the main UK transport providers we are mounting a major multi-media campaign which aims to establishes this issue and then provide people, including businesses, with information and support for dealing with it.
Voted in Campaign magazine as the top Olympic ad. By M&C Saatchi
TH: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?
CM: Big question. For us it will involve the increasing use of digital channels and providing information directly to all our customers, not just at home but also on the move. Wi-Fi on the Tube is a big step in that direction. More ‘personalisation’ and making our businesses easier to work with, again driven by technological developments and digital channels is important too.
TH: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?
CM: I don’t have hard and fast views on this. ‘Integration’ is one of those topics that has been flogged to death. What you need are agencies which take an open ‘media neutral’ approach to the Marketing problem, whatever it might be. A lot claim to do that, very few do in practice.
TH: When choosing agencies were you ever influenced by awards?
CM: No. But a general track record of creative and business achievement and excellence can be a good guide to their future performance.
TfL’s marketing awards wall
TH: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?
CM: As a public body we have pretty set timings and processes for this. Main agency contracts usually run from 3 to 5 years and are determined through competitive reviews. But we can obviously change our arrangements at any time if requirements – or agency performance – warrant it.
TH: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?
CM: I try and keep up with the journals and talk with peers and colleagues. But our Procurement approach really puts the onus on agencies to come forward when we have a tender.
TH: Which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?
CM: Again I think it would be unfair to single out particular agencies – and we are obviously pretty happy with our current arrangements! I am not sure how important that rather nebulous concept is to us; there are a lot of great agencies out there and the important thing is to have agencies which meet our complex and demanding needs – and that might not be the ones which are ‘fashionable’ at any point in time.
TH: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?
CM: I have used them in the past and they can be useful in giving additional insights into what is available, when looking into new areas and specialisms and for specific projects.
TH: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?
CM: We probably would not do that at TfL because of our Procurement guidelines. But we would give new projects to existing roster agencies if that was appropriate.
In general it would depend on the situation.
TH: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?
CM: As always, it’s about the basics: Keep it simple, get to the point. Talk about us not you. Do your homework – and listen.
TH: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?
CM: Still waiting……….
TH: Thanks Chris!
Chris MacLeod, Transport for London at The Marketing Society 'That's what I call great marketing' held in January 2012. Helping members understand what it takes to win a marketing award
TfL's Chris MacLeod on marketing's battle against Olympic gridlock
03 February 2012, By Gemma Charles
The Transport for London marketing director's preparations for the London 2012 Olympics are finally coming to fruition.
It must be up there as one of the toughest marketing challenges of the year – persuading stubborn Londoners to alter their commutes when the capital stages the Olympics this summer.
This is the task facing Chris MacLeod, the marketing director of Transport for London. "You are very much in the public eye with this role", he admits, reflecting on the scale of the job in hand when we meet in his Victoria offices.
Since 2005, when London won the right to host the Olympic Games, public opinion has polarised between those looking forward to it and naysayers decrying the event as a waste of money.
What everyone seems to be united on, however, is a belief that the transport system will be a living hell when officials, athletes, spectators, the world's media and other hangers-on descend on the capital for the start of the Games on 27 July.
Grumbling about public transport is a pastime perfected by Londoners, and this prospect has provided them with yet more ammunition.
Horror stories have abounded about hour-long waits just to get into Tube stations, while some newspapers have whipped up a sense of moral outrage about the controversial Olympic Route Network (ORN).
This network of roads connecting key venues has been caricatured as hundreds of miles of 'Zil lanes', created to enable big-spending sponsors to whizz around London in limos while everyone else is left to fume in gridlocked traffic.
So it is without doubt a difficult climate into which MacLeod this week launched the 'Get ahead of the Games' marketing campaign, funded by the Olympics authorities and several transport bodies.
Designed to inform travellers in the capital of the problems they might face during the Olympics, and offer alternatives, the campaign will be implemented in four phases.
It starts by building awareness of the likely "hotspots", such as London Bridge and Kings Cross St Pancras, before moving on to inform travellers of what action they can take.
In its third phase, the activity will urge people to act on their newly acquired knowledge, while the final stage is intended to maintain high awareness of problems that could arise during the Paralympic Games.
While the focus is on London, the activity will also run in places outside the capital that are hosting events such as football.
The work has a gently humorous theme. One outdoor execution, for example, features illustrations of queues forming behind a horse and rider on an escalator, while another shows a traffic jam caused by a wheelchair basketball game taking place across a yellow box at a road junction.
TfL pushes MacLeod up the ranks to director role
22 April 2010 by Branwell Johnson
Transport for London (TfL) has promoted Chris MacLeod to group marketing director.
He takes up the responsibilities left vacant by Nigel Marson, who departed from the company at the end of last year. MacLeod comes to the job as TfL takes ownership of the Oyster Card brand.
It bought the rights for the Oyster Card brand for £1m from Transys earlier this month. The transport body will now be able to further explore uses for the pre-pay travel smartcard.
MacLeod was recruited to TfL in 2006 and is a former marketing director of Papa John’s. He also has agency experience as a former chief executive of CDP and managing partner at McCann Erickson.
He steps up from the role of head of group marketing and communications.
Transys always intended to extend the Oyster brand into new categories through product launches and partnerships, and trials have been conducted with bank cards and mobile phones.
About the Editor
Tom Holmes outside Transport for London Head Office, Windsor House, 42-50 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0TL
As Founder & Chairman, Tom launched creativebrief in 2002 with the intention of revolutionising agency search and selection.
For many companies, marketing success depends largely on the quality of agencies and media partners a brand engages. However, finding the right ones can prove difficult and time consuming, as the marketplace is complex and constantly changing.
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Prior to creativebrief, Tom spent over 20 years working with some of the world’s leading agencies and brands in UK and internationally, including Account Management roles at WCRS and Saatchi & Saatchi, Board Director of The Lowe Group and Executive Vice President of Grey Worldwide.
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