Fergus Hay

CEO, Leagas Delaney

Joanna Ray

Team Assistant Creativebrief


Fergus Hay- CEO, Leagas Delaney

Career to date:

2017, CEO and Partner, Leagas Delaney London
2014, Managing Director Social@Ogilvy Asia Pacific, Managing Director Global Brand Management APAC, Ogilvy and Mather, Asia Pacific
2011, Worldwide Managing Director, Senior Partner, Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago
2010, Executive Global Marketing Director, Ogilvy & Mather, NYC
2008, Account Director, BBH, London 
2005, Account Director, Zulu Network/Claydon Heeley
2004, Management Trainee, Omnicom Group

Creativebrief: As CEO of Leagas Delaney what is your primary focus?

Fergus Hay: We are an independent creative agency who have spent 37 years working with great clients to build their value. During that time, we have learnt that It’s not an idea unless it changes a business.  With that in mind, I spend my time working with our clients to develop ideas that change their business – it’s what clients want, what we get paid to do and what I love doing!

Creativebrief: Please share a paragraph on your career to date – specifically talking us through the high points.

Fergus Hay: I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing clients developing integrated communications across a wide range of markets and sectors at wonderful agencies such as BBH, Ogilvy and now Leagas Delaney.  Having lived and worked in London, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore, I have learnt a huge amount about different approaches, cultures, medias, behaviors and from incredible talent that I find myself continually drawing on for the benefit of our clients and agency.  I have led integrated global accounts for multi nationals such as Coke, Unilever, SC Johnson, Diageo, British Airways and Uber.  I also led Asia’s largest social media agency, Social@Ogilvy, developing ground breaking new social media products.

I have an Executive MBA from London School of Economics, Stern School of Business NYU and HEC Paris.  This experience helps me look at our clients’ commercial challenges and identify the right choices to drive profitable growth.  I also advise a series of startups, wrote and produced a content series called Creators where I interviewed creative leaders such as Jackie Chan, Donna Karan, John De Mol, Emmanuel Jal and Sir Jackie Stewart.

In March 2017, I joined legendary creative agency Leagas Delaney as partner to lead a transformative agenda.

“[…] despite the wealth of marketing options available to marketers, it has never been more important to make informed decisions on communications, both in inception and distribution in order to drive consumer behavior. If both clients and agencies were focused on looking for the distilled strategy that delivered simplicity there would be better results all round.”

Creativebrief: What's unique about your agency / business? Why did you join Leagas Delaney?

Fergus Hay: I love this agency, it’s such a special place – it’s got creative and business leadership steeped in its DNA. Before I started I watched 620+ pieces of creative work made by the agency since it was founded in 1980. Iconic work for iconic brands such as Adidas, The BBC, Harrods, Nationwide, Telefonica Italia, Barclays Bank, Waterstones, Skoda, Patek Philippe, Glenfiddich, Ikea and Value Retail amongst a host of others. It was an emotional and creative roller coaster through generations and categories.  But one thing was absolutely clear – the agency creates powerful ideas, rooted in an intelligent strategy, creating culturally relevant ideas that change business.  And they have sustained that over time, through economic cycles, marketing fads, client and agency changes.  It’s only an Idea if it changes a business is rooted in our work:

  •          We have just reached the 23rd year of working with Patek Philippe, taking them from being the world’s 6th largest luxury watch maker to the largest using the creative idea “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”.
  •          We are currently doing this for Value Retail as we reposition them from being B2B commercial real estate to a B2C fashion retail brand targeting digitally connected young consumers – so far this has yielded double digit year on year growth for Value Retail.
  •          Over 10 years working with Adidas we repositioned them to a younger consumer base (12-20) taking them from the brink of bankruptcy to floating on the stock market.
  •          Over 5 years we achieved breakthrough results with Timberland taking them from $4.50 per share to $43 when they sold.

The tenure of our client relationships and the impact the marketing has on their business shows that the agency recommends long term responsible choices and not faddish flash in the pan ones.  The opportunity to lead the next wave of the agency is a real privilege.

Creativebrief: Who are the people new to you (either within your business or externally) who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?

Fergus Hay: We have terrific clients, massively ambitious who are a joy to work with. Steven Pearson and Gillian Naylor at The Dalmore, Jackie Fionda at Value Retail and Jasmina Steele and Emily James at Patek.

I’ve also loved working with our young talent in the agency – people who have exploding atoms in their eyes and sparkle with great ideas.  Watch out for Chris and Cristina one of our creative teams, Charley our super exciting content producer who we have just promoted, Sarita and Charlotte our surging Account Directors and Tom Pinnock who has just joined us as Planning Director.

Value Retail Integrated Fall / Winter Campaign from Leagas Delaney on Vimeo.

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

Fergus Hay: The Value Retail work is so important – elevating the brand out of a B2B commercial real estate category and into a lifestyle, fashion consumer brand connecting with the tech enabled younger generation.  It’s got a terrific insight and gorgeous execution that is digitally and technology enabled.  They have double digit market growth so signs are promising. It was also a great chance for us to bring diverse talent into the agency – the Creative Director comes from an editorial background, the planner from a gaming background.

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

Fergus Hay: I loved the Spotify OOH and digital display work over Christmas. It shows the importance of identifying a product attribute, its benefit to the consumer, playing on the cultural tension of the category and most importantly choosing the right media/channel to make the biggest impact.

Creativebrief: Who or what inspires you?

Fergus Hay: Tim Delaney, our founder and Chief Creative Officer, inspires me – it’s thrilling to work with someone who has achieved everything but still is in the agency every day, 6 days a week developing ideas that change businesses for our clients.  It’s inspiring, humbling and a great reminder that the only real measure of an agency is their work.

‘Thanks 2016, it's been weird’ by Spotify
‘Thanks 2016, it's been weird’ by Spotify

Creativebrief: How do you stay in-touch with the industry's best work and culturally relevant news?

Fergus Hay: Surely there is only one port of call – Creativebrief. If you must look elsewhere, I think Jim Carrol’s blog is terrific.

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

Fergus Hay: I think it’s essential to look at the progress being made quietly in Asia in e-commerce. In my time, we managed to sell 8000 cars priced at $50,000 through a singular WeChat message in China.  If we can sell cars over a text message, imagine what else we can do!

Creativebrief: What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Fergus Hay: I’m worried about the short-termist, faddist mentality that is pervasive in the industry.  It’s a blind and frantic race to be the most innovative, coolest and most cutting edge. The output however is a series of poorly interrogated latest must-haves that are sold to clients as essentials resulting in a huge wastage of client money.  Do you really need a 24/7 content newsroom? Is an always on content strategy right? What value are those Facebook posts adding to your commercial and marketing objectives? Is it credible for all brands to have a higher purpose? Does every female oriented product need to stand for feminine values? While there are many options out there in the market for marketers, never has it been more important to make informed choiceful strategies rooted in a commercial objective to drive business growth.  We have seen it all over our 37 years, it’s about picking the right things, not the most hyped.

The tenure of our client relationships and the impact the marketing has on their business shows that the agency [Leagas Delaney] recommends long term responsible choices and not faddish flash in the pan ones. The opportunity to lead the next wave of the agency is a real privilege.”

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

Fergus Hay: Facebook have already transitioned the media market from a sharing economy back to a paid economy.  With the integration of Instagram and Whatsapp that will just continue. Interestingly that takes us back to creating content for paid for media formats – film will continue to be the most magnetic of communication devices.

I’d put a big bet on the integration of e-commerce into these platforms – WeChat has already shown the opportunity with WePay.  The opportunity to develop purchase data informed decision journeys that can drive e-commerce conversion will be very interesting.

I also see a professionalisation of the influencer networks as media verticals.  No one has grasped this yet for Influencers with sub 1 million followers – it’s a major opportunity and one which will become a real asset.

However, I think the real progress needs to be more upstream in the planning and creative process. I see the convergence of commercial strategy, media platform insights, consumer and brand insights and crucially PR/influenced marketing. If we bring these skills to bear at the strategic and creative phase we will realise powerful ideas that are rooted in commercial strategy and culturally influential. This is what we are building with the LD Network of partners to ensure our clients get one strategy and creative approach with the specialist skills.

Creativebrief: What's your attitude to the 'traditional' agency review process? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Fergus Hay: As we move to a heavily project based industry model, I’d welcome a more consultative approach to agency selection. The long creative process very rarely yields work that runs in market and with the high turnover of pitches puts existing client work in jeopardy. I’d recommend asking agencies to demonstrate their strategic thinking and then run a creative workshop to gauge creative chemistry.

Patek Philippe Generations from Leagas Delaney on Vimeo.

Creativebrief: What's the best agency review you've been involved in?

Fergus Hay: Working with Rocket Internet was a delight: fast moving, requiring acute strategic thinking and clear in what they wanted.

Creativebrief: In what ways do you think the industry can change for the better?

Fergus Hay: To be more choiceful - despite the wealth of marketing options available to marketers, it has never been more important to make informed decisions on communications, both in inception and distribution in order to drive consumer behavior. If both clients and agencies were focused on looking for the distilled strategy that delivered simplicity there would be better results all round. 

Creativebrief: What's the next big thing for Leagas Delaney?

Fergus Hay: We are on a transformative rocket ship to retake our position as a top 3 creative agency in London.  We are crystal clear on our value proposition- ‘Ideas that change business’ – and have a hugely exciting period ahead of us.  We have new talent joining at Chief Creative Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, Creative teams and senior account leadership roles.  We have developed a network of specialist partner agencies who we work with for the benefit of our clients across PR, Digital Transformation, Content Distribution, Luxury Consulting and Independent Media Planning. We have opened LD Studios which nurtures the finest creative talent from Central St Martins, National Film and Television School, London Film School and The London Met Film School.  These creative leaders of the future rotate through the agency and work on their own projects and client briefs.  We have launched LD Ventures with Private Equity Group Calibrate Management that focuses on series A and B startup businesses. We are opening LD Co-work bringing creative and technology businesses into our office in a co-working space to drive collaboration.

Topic of the moment

A constant drive to innovate means brands are experimenting with new technology more than ever before, how can brands ensure they retain a ‘human touch’ in this overly digital world?

The diverse marketing and media options provide a wealth of insight, engagement and choice. However, it’s essential to take some perspective before diving in as a marketer and being clear minded about our role and KPI.

Our job as marketers is to build brand and business value in the context that consumers and brands inter-relate. Brand value being the emotional attachment a consumer has to your brand that elevates your brand out of being a commodity and drives a higher willing to pay for price. The business value is the ultimate metric – sales. 

This discipline hasn’t changed since the advent of people making purchases based on an emotional and rational impulse. The only element that has changed has been the context that a brand and consumer inter-relate in.  In the 1920s, it was highly personal - at the street market, door to door sales, perhaps a leaflet.  In the 1930s-50s it was posters and radio.  The 1960s saw the advent of broadcast media.  The 1990s the searchable internet.  And today – the technology enabled world (not just digital!).  While the options have diversified, they must be in service of building business and brand value. Consumers intuitive emotional impulses have not innovated faster or even at the pace of technology.  With that in mind, it has never been more important than today to make validated choices (the essence of strategy) to ensure that marketing strategies, ideas and go to market plans deliver against building business and brand value.  To do so we can ask ourselves a few interrogative questions:

1 – What is our commercial target?

2 – What is the intersection between our brand/product attributes and popular culture? This is the emotional sweet spot we can own as a brand

3 – Who are our personas, and what are their drivers and barriers to loving our brand, trying our products and repeat purchasing?

4 – What is their customer decision journey from awareness to repeat purchase, and what are the key engagement channels and points we can reach them?

Based on this – we can construct an emotional engagement plan that uses a big idea they care about, and the right carefully selected touchpoints (technology and analogue) that build business and brand value.

Agencies Featured