Mike Hoban

Chief Marketing Officer of

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director



Tom Holmes talks to Mike Hoban, Chief Marketing Officer of

Mike joined in July 2010 from Directgov, where he spent 18 months as the Communications & Engagement Director.

Prior to this Mike held senior marketing roles with Scottish Widows, Barclaycard, British Airways and WH Smith.


Creativebrief: As Chief Marketing Officer at, what are your key responsibilities and priorities?

Mike Hoban: Our number one priority is to deliver the commercial objectives. Price comparison sites generate over 4 million quotes for car insurance every month and we need to ensure that we get our fair, and increasing, share. Everybody says that they are operating in a competitive market and ours is no different. Price comparison sites compete for customers in the most high profile way – day to day on TV. If TV provides the air cover, digital – email, display and analytics – represent the infantry.

Creativebrief: How successful have you been in taking market share from rivals?

Mike Hoban: It’s no secret that was having a hard time a couple of years ago but, we’ve managed to turn the business around. We’re growing, we’re making more money, our customers are happier and so are our colleagues.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned, Directgov, Scottish Widows, Barclaycard, British Airways, and WH Smith, what have been the high points?

Mike Hoban: The high points have always been being part of a business that has to face up to challenging times – for example, I was at British Airways on 9/11 – and seeing it respond, change and succeed.

If I reflect, there are three consistent themes that deliver the high points – turning businesses around and delivering improved commercial performance, championing the customer and ensuring that the business has an accurate understanding of the customer perspective, and working with great people.

The low points have been those organisations who forget about, even derided, the customer, who think organisations based on conflict work (so wrong!) and chose short term profit at the cost of long-term sustainability.

Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been particular marketers who impressed and inspired you?

Mike Hoban: Peter Grender, who was my boss in consultancy, I learnt more about Marketing from Peter than anyone else I know. Bob Ivell, who was the CEO of Scottish & Newcastle Retail – he is a role model for leadership. Eva Eisenschimmel, at British Airways, who genuinely championed the customer in an organisation that had stopped listening. Jill McDonald, also at British Airways, who set the highest standards and whose passion, tenacity and brain power are unrivalled. Muriel Stirling at WH Smith, who understood the need to ensure that everyone in the business understood your product, believed in customer service and were happy and engaged.

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently that makes you the most proud?

Mike Hoban: Pride worries me because it leads to complacency. The important question is “are you making things better for the customer, the shareholders and your colleagues?” I’ll let others judge whether I’ve done that.

I’m very lucky, I get paid to do a job I love doing.

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

Mike Hoban: We’re fortunate in that car insurance is a compulsory purchase enforced by the law so the UK recession has not affected us in the same way that it has affected other businesses but, the main challenges are improving the customer experience, keeping up with the changes in the digital landscape and managing effectively media investment to deliver profitable business.

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

Mike Hoban: Make no mistake, TV still works, and will continue to do so. Don’t fall for all of the social media hype. Nonetheless, working out how to use digital, both as a support and in its own right, will drive changes in the digital landscape.

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

Buy specialists. Integrated agencies tend, in my experience to not actually be brilliant at anything. The more important challenge though is for the Marketing Department – make sure you give a good brief and do not abdicate responsibility for your business to your agency. Your business will never be as important to them as it is to you.

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

Mike Hoban: No. But, I am influenced by good work, great people and a point of view. Will Arnold-Baker at Publicis, really impresses me because he delivers great work that delivers. Bruce Haines at Cheil Communications is a genius. James Murphy at Adam & Eve has built, arguably, the most customer-focused agency in London.

Creativebrief: What challenges do you face, managing day-to-day agency relationships?

Mike Hoban: Getting the agency to stay on brief, getting them to be as passionate about our business as we are, and getting them to set the highest standards for their work.

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

Mike Hoban: Everyday. You should always be open to possibility.

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

Mike Hoban: Conversation. If someone calls you, be prepared to listen. If someone does something interesting, be prepared to call them up. Listen to your network and read the media.

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

Mike Hoban: The ‘hot’ agencies are not necessarily the most effective. If you want great work, call Jo Parker at Teamspirit, Angie Moxham at 3 Monkeys, Daren Rubins at PHD, Viki Cooke at BritainThinks.

Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Mike Hoban: The most successful pitches, in my experience come from, a tight brief, founded on data and insight, a passionate agency who genuinely want the work and creatives given the opportunity to think and share.

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

Mike Hoban: Often. Four things – great work, a passion for the business, market understanding and cultural fit.

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

Mike Hoban: Answer the brief. Set high standards and care.

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

Mike Hoban: 3 Monkeys, when they pitched for the Scottish Widows PR brief. Inspirational ideas, presented by the people who would implement them and on brief.