Thought Leadership

It’s time for a new chapter. No excuses

MSQ Partners' CEO Peter Reid gives his key take outs from #BITELIVE19

Peter Reid, MSQ Partners

Chief Executive


No excuses. That’s what I came away thinking from BITE LIVE, the wonderful conference put on by this very publication last week.

Because we’re at a critical juncture in our industry. Indeed, the world is at a critical juncture full stop.

And as creative businesses, we have the capabilities and responsibility to make sure that we take the correct path at the crossroads.

It means talking less and doing more. It means taking positive actions and working smartly and collaboratively to help solve truly lifechanging problems.

That’s why BITE LIVE wasn’t about the intricacies of programmatic, or why content is king. It was about something far, far bigger.

How can creative thinking be good for both business and society? How can we smash stereotypes, lead the way on environmental issues and make sure we’re building more inclusive and forward-thinking organisations? 

As Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen said on stage, when it comes to the urgent issues facing the world today, “we’re going to be the first generation of leaders who won’t be able to look back and say, ‘we didn’t know’”.

We have no excuses. We need to demand more from our industry and ourselves. We need to encourage our clients to think differently. We need to stop convincing ourselves that everything is someone else’s fault.

This was a challenging conference. But sometimes uncomfortable and challenging conversations need to be had.

We’re going to be the first generation of leaders who won’t be able to look back and say, ‘we didn’t know’

Mark Cuddigan, CEO, Ella's Kitchen

Smashing stereotypes starts at the top

The only way to truly inject the belief and bravery required to break the stereotypes that currently encumber our industry is to have buy-in from the very top. As was pointed out on many panels, good intentions are much easier to embrace when there’s a business case that the board can get behind, and the leaders understand their importance. Diageo’s Head of Guinness Stout for Europe, Niall McKee, identified the importance of having the encouragement of Syl Saller, Diageo’s chief marketer, to produce provocative campaigns that genuinely break boundaries.

We need to be greater than the sum of our parts

Another lesson that McKee says he took from creating Guinness’ boundary-pushing campaigns is that “we couldn’t do it all on our own”. To really move an issue forward, the brand needed support from as many parties as possible, from the sports unions it sponsors to the broadcasters showcasing the events it supports. Agencies can learn from this approach too. Richard Miles, the Founder of What’s Normal, highlighted that the competitiveness of the industry makes agencies rather insular, which means their individual initiatives lack the impact they could have. It’s absurd that we’re all stuck in such protective, singular bubbles. Should we not be thinking about how we can work together to join forces and tackle such important issues? It’s an issue that D&AD Chief Executive and MSQ Advisor, Tim Lindsay, writes about regularly; agencies don’t join up and so the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Our efforts are scattered when really, we have to support each other.

There’s this myth that young people have low attention spans. They don’t. They’re just sceptical. So you have to work harder to earn their trust. They have higher standards because they can easily go elsewhere.

Rebecca Fennelly, Head of Brand & Communications, JOE Media

Millennials aren’t who you think they are 

Building a business driven by purpose requires a business that can balance creativity, commerciality and integrity. That was the subject of another illuminating session, hosted by CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). The panellists discussed why there’s no shoehorning ‘purpose’ into a proposition. You simply have to earn the trust of your audience by your actions. JOE Media knows this better than most.

The publication has a whopping six million unique users, most of whom are classed as ‘Millennials’. They see daily how their audience responds to brands, and it’s not necessarily how you think. “There’s this myth that young people have low attention spans,” Rebecca Fennelly, the Head of Brand & Communications at JOE Media, said. “They don’t. They’re just sceptical. So you have to work harder to earn their trust. They have higher standards because they can easily go elsewhere.” Stop using the Millennial mindset as an excuse and start using it as a springboard for building brands with integrity.

Stop being #diversish

BITE LIVE ended with the most inspirational of rallying calls. And a brilliant piece of work too; check out AMV BBDO’s ‘#diversish’ campaign, if you’ve not seen it yet. The film promotes the Valuable 500, which tells businesses that if disability is not on their board agenda, neither is diversity. Valuable 500 Founder Caroline Casey gave a rousing keynote, stating that she’s aware that inclusion is hard to do. But the disability agenda has been sitting on the side-lines for too long.

There are 1.3 billion disabled people, yet in the UK we design more clothes for dogs than people with disabilities. And together with their friends and family, disabled people have a spending power of $8 trillion. It’s a smart business decision to bring it to the fore. What this issue shows us is that businesses still often embrace inclusivity on a selective basis, depending on what suits them best. Going forward, more honesty, authenticity and perspective is needed from us all. No excuses.

Photography © Steve Brown

Guest Author

Peter Reid, MSQ Partners

Chief Executive,


Peter co-founded MSQ in 2011 as he believed that brands required smarter and simpler agency relationships. Today he continues to make sure that clients across the group have access to the right resources to meet their needs. Previously, Peter was CEO of Media Square plc, the prior incarnation of MSQ. He has also spent four years as a member of McKinsey & Co’s media team. Peter sits on the Cabinet Office’s Strategy and Evaluation Council, holds an MBA from INSEAD and is unfortunately a Southampton fan.

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