Interviews

Nick Docherty, Head of Strategy, BETC

"The way the industry delivers ideas will need to become much more diverse but the fundamental human needs, wants and desires it uses to create an impact will remain."

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor of BITE

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Creativebrief: Please could you outline your career to date, talking us through anything of particular interest or that you’d like to highlight?
Nick Docherty: ‘Career’ is a strong word. I’ve never really had a grand plan except to keep on doing new and interesting things, with new and interesting people, in new and interesting places. So far, it’s been a fun ride. In a nutshell, I started out learning how businesses tick as a management consultant, segued into planning to get closer to ideas, honed my strategic skills on global brands at Ogilvy, worked to change behavior for public safety campaigns at Leo Burnett, found out what the sharp end of creativity looks like at W+K Amsterdam, moved across the Atlantic to take a global leadership role at W+K New York and finally landed back in London as Head of Strategy at BETC. Along the way I’ve picked up an IPA Effectiveness Award, a Cannes Effectiveness Grand Prix, contributed to a whole raft of creative awards, and come to the conclusion that brands matter more than ever, it’s the people who count, perseverance is hugely under-rated and there’s no excuse for bullshit. Ever.
Creativebrief: As Head of Strategy at BETC, what is your primary focus?
Nick Docherty: We’re on a mission to grow the agency in a way that lives up to heritage of BETC Paris, stays true to our own unique London character and plays into a rapidly changing communications landscape. That means creating an entrepreneurial culture that people genuinely want to be part of, bringing in lots of different ways of looking at the world and helping diversify both our strategic and creative output. It also means producing awesome work that gets noticed, talked about and acted upon in the real word. I want our work to make the news, not just advertising festivals.

The way the industry delivers ideas will need to become much more diverse but the fundamental human needs, wants and desires it uses to create an impact will remain.

Nick Docherty
Creativebrief: What's unique about your agency? Why did you join BETC?
Nick Docherty: BETC is an absolute powerhouse in Paris, creatively and culturally, where over a thousand people work across pretty much every kind of client, discipline and problem imaginable. The new office in Pantin is at the forefront of urban regeneration in the area and you can feel the energy the location and space creates. It’s important to me that BETC was started and led by a creative and planner, both of whom are still heavily involved in the business, which means that there’s an enduring obsession with meaning and creativity. There’s also a focus on quality, or ‘savoir faire’, an instinctive appreciation of what’s right, with an expertise in good taste and style. In a world that’s become captivated by efficiency over effectiveness, we believe that one of the most important purposes a brand serves, regardless of category or target, is to create genuine value for people and in doing so justify a premium. That’s why we set out to elevate every brand, product and service we work with, strategically, culturally and creatively. It’s what continues to set BETC apart on both sides of the channel.
Creativebrief: What has been your agency's best work in the last year?
Nick Docherty: We just launched a powerful new campaign for Rimmel London tackling ‘Beauty Bullying’. Rimmel’s a brand that believes everyone should be able to express themselves without fear of judgement. We found out that 115 million images were deleted from social media last year because of beauty cyberbullying. So, we created a campaign focused around giving its real victims a voice. Every cyberbullying story is different so for the campaign we cast 14 real people from across the world, each one with their own story to tell. Rimmel’s also teaming up with anti-cyberbullying charity Cybersmile to develop an AI tool to help combat cyberbullying. The ‘Cybersmile Assistant’ will debut early next year and will recommend approved local resources, helplines and organizations that can help those affected by beauty cyberbullying. If you’re going to do something like this it’s important to walk the talk.
Creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?
Nick Docherty: I’ve always liked work that makes a big, simple, provocative statement regardless of channel. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to both cut through the noise and get reach so there’s not been much out there to chose from. The ‘Calm’ installation of 84 male suicide statues around the edge of the ITV tower did it in a really visceral way earlier this year, getting acres of PR in the process. And the ‘FCK’ press ad for KFC set the standard for both crisis management and copywriting.

It’s important to me that BETC was started and led by a creative and planner, both of whom are still heavily involved in the business, which means that there’s an enduring obsession with meaning and creativity.

Nick Docherty
Creativebrief: What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential?
Nick Docherty: Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. It’s a masterclass in cultural relevance that’s not afraid to pick a side. When the angry orange incumbent of the White House gives you the oxygen of free publicity, you know you’ve touched a nerve. And it’s pretty clear who’s on the right side of history. Lots of brands and agencies claim to ‘lead’ culture but very, very few of them actually walk their talk. Nike and W+K continue to be two obvious exceptions.
Creativebrief: How do you see the advertising industry evolving over the next few years?
Nick Docherty: For all the talk of an industry Armageddon in which social media giants, D2C brands, inhouse agencies and consultancies eat everyone for breakfast, I’m hopeful for advertising, or at least the top end of it. Because the conditions that make brands a critical part of the economy haven’t changed, in fact they’ve only become more pronounced. Competition is more brutal than ever, people are busier than ever, more distracted than ever, and they continue to use short cuts when making purchase decisions. At their very best, agencies still deliver the kind of big, smart, disruptive, creative ideas that can launch a start-up into the stratosphere or give a big brand back its competitive edge and help it develop new business models, inspire internal cultures and enter new markets. The way the industry delivers ideas will need to become much more diverse but the fundamental human needs, wants and desires it uses to create an impact will remain. Strong brands are more important than ever, whilst cut through and reach is more difficult than ever. The agencies that understand this will continue to thrive. The ones that don’t, won’t.
Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for BETC over the next few years?
Nick Docherty: It’s pretty simple. Above all we want to grow, diversify and experiment. Our ultimate ambition is to do things that the industry has never seen before, that help make our clients both famous and profitable. And we’re committed to having fun while we do it.
Creativebrief: Personally, who or what are you inspired by, outside of the industry?
Nick Docherty: Running long distances. It’s been scientifically proven that one 10K run around Hackney generates infinitely better ideas than a week of ‘brainstorms’ in an airconditioned office on the outskirts of Slough.

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