Power of Agency Brands: In Conversation with Mother



Creativity and power: a strong agency brand can help change the world

Creativebrief’s Stephanie Nattu speaks to Mother London Managing Director, Katie Elliott.

In a world where creativity has the power to make real change, Katie Elliott tells us why Mother’s agency brand proposition has shifted from ‘making their mothers proud’ to ‘making their children proud’.

In our latest interview, we spoke to Katie Elliott all about the famous Mother agency brand which has gone from strength to strength over the last 26 years.

Famously, the office has photographs of the team’s mothers in its entrance and the agency is known for its iconic work for clients such as KFC, Ikea, and Uber to name a few. But what makes Mother such a successful agency and its brand so iconic?

For the independent creative company, it’s all about creating a place which attracts the next generation of talent and the next generation of clients but also makes the next generation proud by harnessing the power of creativity to create a better world.

The best thing an agency brand can be is something that people are clear on

Katie Elliott, Managing Director at Mother London

Hear all about how the agency got to where it is today and its plans for the future, as well as Katie's top tips for other agency leaders on what she believes to make a strong agency brand.

Power of agency brand interview series

As the agency landscape continues to shift, change and get more complex and the industry grapples with a state of permacrisis, we set out to distil the power of agency brands: why every agency should dedicate time to building up their brand to cut through the noise, win big and just how they can go about building it.

As part of this, we’ve been chatting to some of the top agencies in the industry to get their thoughts, insight and future plans. Our own Stephanie Nattu has interviewed agency leaders about their own approach to building a strong agency brand, why they personally think it’s important to build up their brands, which other agency brands they admire and more.

You can visit the Power of Agency Brand hub here to check out the other interviews.

Interview transcript

Steph: Hi, welcome to the agency brand interview with Katie Elliott, Managing Director of Mother. Thank you so much for joining me.

Katie: Thank you for having me here, at Mother.

Steph: so, to kick things off just briefly tell us about your agency brand and your proposition

Katie: Sure, so Mother is 26 years old, an independent creative company. For a long time we had a very singular and simple proposition, which was all about making our Mothers proud and there are lots of brilliant anecdotes as to why Mother was called Mother but the one that was true was essentially that we all showed up to work every day, to make work and to behave in a way that would make our Mothers proud, and when you walk into reception, which you guys did earlier, you will have seen all of the pictures of our Mothers on the wall looking down on us making sure every day that we're doing just that. That was a brilliant north star for the business for, sort of 25 years, but a few years ago Robert, one of our Founders, sat down and had a conversation about what the next 25 years of Mother should look like and what the north star of the business moving forwards in terms of where we wanted to be, what we wanted to work to look like, what kind of creative company we wanted to be, what would need to be to allow us to achieve those ambitions and we made one very small change word wise to the proposition. But that has been a huge change to our business overall and that is a shift from making our Mothers proud to making our children proud.

We're still absolutely interested in making our Mothers proud every day by the way but making our children proud is all about thinking about the next chapter and the next generation of Mother. So make our children proud is all about looking forwards and it has given us a framework to think about how we transform every part of our business to be a place that attracts, the next generation of talent and the next generation of clients and also to think about how we push our work to be its absolute inspiring best for all the brilliant partners that we're incredibly lucky to work with now.

Steph: What makes your agency brand unique in three words?

Katie: I'm going to cheat this bit if that's all right, I'm going to talk about three things not three words. So we have a thing here that we call the trinity and when I say the words they won't feel that unique in and of themselves but it's about how they come together as a value system with a certain behaviours and the trinity is make the best work we possibly can, have fun, make a living always in that order. That has existed ever since this business started out 26 years ago, make the best work we possibly can. That possibly is incredibly important, that is about looking at the challenge and the ask on the table, sitting around it with our clients understanding all of the context, the ambitions, the constraints, the practicalities of what it is we need to do to create incredible work together that's going to be effective.

Have fun is not just about parties, have fun is about how we create truly honest, open, collaborative working relationships with our clients that also enable us all to hold hands and double down together when things get challenging or things get tough.

And make a living is making a living not a killing, that's all about a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, of course, but we always think about what is the very best answer for the challenge on the table first and then kind of work through the trinity in that order. I think the thing that is unique about the trinity is it has never changed in terms of what it stands for as a value set, as a behaviour set but what it means for the business now, it changes every year.

Steph: Why is it important to build and continue to strengthen your agency brand?

Katie: I think fundamentally we want this to be a place where clients and people come to make the work of their lives to solve incredible challenges with creativity whatever shape or form that might take and building a brand is one of the most important ways for us to attract both. So to attract clients with incredible modern, interesting problems that we jump out of bed every day and today of course to solve but also to attract the next generation of talent and to bring those two things together. You can't do that if your brand is not a beacon for creativity, for the things that you think are important, for the kinds of problems that you would like to solve in partnership with guides and people. So you know the brand is the simplest shortcut to making this an incredible place that people want to come and do things.

Steph: In your opinion what makes an agency brand strong?

Katie: I think it is something that lives and breathes every day in everything that you do, that shows up in your work, that shows up in your culture, that most fundamentally shows up and is embraced by and made better by people that work in the business. The worst thing an agency brand can do or be is something that just sits in a creds deck and only gets talked about in a chemistry meeting. The best thing an agency brand can be is something that people are clear on from a values and behaviour's perspective and has that consistency that ensures we all know where we're going and where we want to get to but then also people feel empowered to take hold of, to channel new meaning, energy, creativity, initiative, innovation into and that your agency brand is able to evolve and move with the pace of culture and creativity whilst also staying true to its core values, what you as a business ultimately have set out to do.

Steph: How important are ESG Frameworks when thinking about building an agency brand?

Katie: If we were to think about what an ESG framework looks like at Mother that is make our children proud. So make our children proud is a program and a framework that exists across every single mother office, we talked a little bit earlier about what make our children proud is: make our children proud is about how we create a place that attracts the next generation of talent, that attracts the next generation of brilliant clients, brands and problems but then also thinks more broadly about the power of creativity to create a better world for the next generation and what that looks like within the things that we are able to influence as a kind of creative company and the things that we're able to sort of touch and be a part of.

Make our children proud has four pillars, so our work, our friends, our family and our world and underneath each of those pillars is a program of different initiatives some within local offices, some shared within different offices which focus on every part of what perhaps a more traditional ESG framework would enhance the normal corporate organization so whether that's looking at sustainability through the lens of our operations or how we partner with clients or whether that's our global diversity equity and inclusion program Kindred, which exists in every office.