Duncan Lewis, Group Marketing and Development Director, Age UK

Duncan leads the digital, brand, CRM and business development teams at Age UK.

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman



Tom Holmes talks to Duncan Lewis, Group Marketing and Development Director at Age UK.

Duncan leads the digital, brand, CRM and business development teams at Age UK. Before taking up the role he spent eleven months heading up marketing and commercial activity for Commonwealth Games England, until the Games in Delhi in October 2010.

Prior to this he was Group Marketing Director at Land Securities and held a variety of roles at Barclays including Head of Brand Communications for both Barclays Stockbrokers and Barclays Private Clients, a spell as an Associate Director in the Group Strategy and Planning team, concluding as Marketing Director for Premier Banking. 


Creativebrief: As Group Marketing and Development Director at Age UK what is your key focus?

Duncan Lewis: Making sure that the organisation’s key marketing assets – brand, database and website are able to support the range of commercial and charitable activity that we undertake to improve later life.

Creativebrief: How did the UK’s largest charity for older people come about?

Duncan Lewis: Through the merger three years ago of Help the Aged and Age Concern. Both organisations came to the conclusion that the interests of people in later life would be best served by having a single, strong organisation working on their behalf. The mechanics of the merger were completed before my arrival, but it is greatly to the credit of everyone involved that Age UK has emerged from the process in such good shape.

Creativebrief: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?

Duncan Lewis: Core demand for our charitable services will continue to rise as existing models of funding and provision for social care struggle to meet rising needs. The fundraising environment continues to be challenging as a result of the prevailing economic situation although at Age UK our diverse revenue streams (including those from our commercial activity) leave us better placed than many to weather the storm and our plans are to use the merger as a platform for growth in the next few years.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned Age UK, Commonwealth Games England, Land Securities, British Olympic Association, Barclays, Carlson Worldchoice and Thomson Travel Group, what have been the high points?

Duncan Lewis: I have been lucky enough to be involved in exciting projects in all the industry sectors I have worked in. Seeing the first brochure pages that I was involved in producing at the start of my career as a graduate trainee at Thomson Travel was a thrill at the time!

Big rebranding projects at AT Mays (which became Carlson Worldchoice), Barclays and Land Securities were all challenging in different ways, but all gave rise to a great sense of achievement when they were successfully completed.

Working with Sir Clive Woodward for a while at the BOA was a great experience and developing a new brand for Commonwealth Games England and then getting to see athletes wearing it on the podium at the Games in Delhi was also fantastic. More recently, getting out and about and seeing first-hand the great work that Age UK and its local and international partners do in places as diverse as Blackburn and Haiti is both humbling and immensely rewarding.

I have also been lucky enough to work with some great teams of people and the high points share in common the convergence of good people, harnessing focussed creativity, to make a real impact.

Creativebrief: Along the way, which marketers particularly impressed you with their attitude and vision?

Duncan Lewis: I would like to think that I have picked up something from most of the people I have worked for and with. The (sadly) late Colin Mitchell, my first ‘big boss’ at Thomson could dissect the most complex of spreadsheets with a freshly sharpened HB pencil and a few equally sharp questions.

Malcolm Hewitt at RCI and Carlson was a great sales and marketing oriented leader who always had time for front-line staff and as a result could drive organisations through significant periods of change.

Simon Gulliford and Jim Hytner led the marketing function at Barclays in very different, but nonetheless successful ways. These are to name but a few (and I will spare the blushes of my current colleagues, but suffice to say that I am learning all the time!).

I am also often inspired by the passion and commitment of the people who have worked in my teams- especially here at Age UK, where the drive to achieve something really positive for others is clear to see throughout the organisation.

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently makes you really proud and what did it achieve?

Duncan Lewis: Seeing the Age UK brand only two years old but going from strength to strength is a great tribute to the work of everyone in the marketing function here and creates a platform that will help drive the organisation forward and enable it to do more good.

Have a look at Age UK’s recent animated TV ad, created by Karmarama with Larry Lamb’s voice over.

Using the key theme ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, the ad features different animated scenes made of cake and icing to demonstrate how Age UK provides practical help to millions of older people across the UK.

The stop motion animation, features icing characters exercising in a swimming pool with marshmallows as floats, a house made entirely from cake, and a purse filled with chocolate coins – was created by Daniel Gill and Robin Crowley, who recently worked on feature film Fantastic Mr Fox, as well as Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

We wanted to create an appealing advert that resonates with everyone and clearly demonstrates the wide range of free information and advice services offered by Age UK. From financial and health issues, to concerns about family, friends or property, there are many things to think about as we all grow older. Through this campaign we want to show how Age UK can help with many of the issues that may be faced in later life.


Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Duncan Lewis: More complex and fragmented, but with greater interactivity. This will bring benefits and challenges to marketers in equal measure. Potential for more precise targeting and greater engagement will open up on one hand, but on the other integration of campaigns and management of the customer journey will become more complex.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

Duncan Lewis: I tend to favour specialists rather than a one stop shop – although they should work together in a highly integrated way.

Creativebrief: When choosing agencies were you ever influenced by awards?

Duncan Lewis:  Not consciously

Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?

Duncan Lewis: No set timings. As part of every annual planning process we would look at our supplier requirements but whether or not that would lead to a wider review and/or pitch depends on much more than just length of tenure.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Duncan Lewis: Through personal contacts (especially other client side marketers) and professional bodies such as ISBA, The Marketing Society and the CIM.

Creativebrief: Which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?

Duncan Lewis: The ones we are working with at Age UK!!

Creativebrief: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?

Duncan Lewis: Intermediaries can be a huge help with the leg-work on something like a pitch – enabling you to get a level of market coverage for initial selection that would be difficult to achieve unless you had a huge in-house resource, and making sure that the whole process has structure and rigour to it. They also enable your existing team to concentrate on the day-job because that doesn’t go away and changing the wheel whilst you are riding the bike is always a bit tricky!

Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?

Duncan Lewis: Never a large project or ongoing account relationship – these should always be subject to the rigour of a pitch. If, however, you had huge time pressure and felt you could trust a known supplier to deliver on a smaller project, then there might be circumstances when it would be the right thing to do.

Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

Duncan Lewis: Don’t. I’m afraid that a request to do a generic credentials presentation is doomed to failure. A bite-sized piece of fresh insight that is relevant to my organisation  is much more likely to get you on my radar, but then you will need to be patient because until I have an appropriate need it really doesn’t matter how good you are.

Creativebrief: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?

Duncan Lewis: The most effective was probably a presentation on innovation at the Marketing Forum many years ago by Chris Wood (then of Corporate Edge). He was good, but even better was the recommendation I got from an existing client of his as we chatted over dinner that evening and the combination of the two has led to us working together on several successful rebranding projects.