Of the many anecdotes I use to colour my conversations at Dare, one I have repeated a good few times is that I didn’t know what planning was when I interviewed to join the planning team. My interviews with Mark Bell and the venerable John Owen confirmed to me that planning seemed an interesting home for my then-discipline of Information Architecture. 9 years down the line I leave Dare this week having helped develop a new discipline in Experience Planning and to define a skill set and methodology that is admired by our peers and directly responsible for some remarkable behaviour change stories and commercial returns.
Knowing so little back then about agency life and the heritage of Dare and its DNA embarrasses me in hindsight, but it’s not unique. Reading Jeremy’s last post at BBH Labs it’s apparent that going in green isn’t such a bad thing. Dare’s recruitment policy was once summed up as being about finding people who were Good and Nice. It didn’t always work out that way, of course, but the overwhelming majority of people that walked through the doors at Great Titchfield Street, New Cavendish Street and recently at Tabernacle and Rosebery Avenue, have been the kind of talent you enjoy working with and learn quickly from. I hope, in some way, I’ve paid it back along the way.
Dare’s new direction, a direction I co-authored in December 2016 is absolutely right for its continued success. As Digital Design Engineers I am convinced that clients, press, partners, and employees will be talking about some exceptional work coming out of the 4th floor in the months to come. Work which, I’m proud to say, will have started its life in the research, analysis and creative applied-psychology of the Experience Planning team I leave behind; a team now solely in the immensely capable charge of Roz Thomas and, once again, Mark.
In the first years of my time at Dare we made banners and microsites, ideas that worked. We told the story of BMW’s efficient dynamics, Jonny Watson and Dan Harrison showed the world the capability of Bravia TV through the missions of James Bond, deployed a roving LiveGuy for Vodafone when 3G was barely a thing we. Gavin Bell and a swelling social planning team pumped up space hoppers with tweets for Sony Ericsson. Mark Hastings and I changed the way people bought investments with Standard Life, Rob & Dip created the world’s most successful branded app – for a while most Americans thought Barclaycard made waterslide games. Times changed and we grew hard and fast, site builds got bigger: Premier Inn, Sony Ericsson. These weren’t £20k campaigns they were major Ux and design jobs. We went after ATL work, we developed apps for London 2012, Race for Life, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Clarkson. TV ads started coming out for PHE, powered by smart behaviour thinking from the likes of Nick Hirst or Go Compare with Andy Nairn’s noble but controversial attempt to kill off Gio.
More changes in ownership and leadership, the dawning realisation that the mergers weren’t bearing fruit and some sterling work still came out of the shop. Suddenly we’re knee deep in site re-architecture and builds for Post Office, EE, Investec, Aviva. Digital transformation and Experience Planning defined the agency in the pre-Oliver era and the pitches rolled in week after week all seeking the same transformative digital thinking. In the Oliver era, Dare continues to deliver for Hakkasan, parkrun, Barclays, Nike, EE, Vision Express. Along the way sure we misfired with countless strategic visions and too many misguided pitches, we etched our values into OSB wall panels and floor tiles but couldn’t always get our investors, staff or the press to believe it.
In truth, what made Dare the kind of place I stayed at for 9 years was not written on the floor or presented at the end of year reviews. It was everything we did together in work, in the pub, on email lists, and in the parks, cafes, restaurants, trains, taxis and planes to client offices. Almost every moment was great, or if it wasn’t fun it was purposeful, intelligent, creative and we held each other to the same exacting standards. It was, it is, 3PF, Dare Run, The Gavins, Dare Folk, The Nook at Dare, The Lukin, the Ship, Knowing Me Knowing You, Dare FC, First Thursday, The Pipe and Slippers, The Crow’s Nest.
I stayed late many many nights. I watched designers work and rework their designs to be as sharp as a pin. I wrote and rewrote deck after deck until it felt perfect. I tested, tweaked and fettled with developers and our experience team to make interfaces that felt effortless, exciting and memorable. In my last weeks at Dare I worked with as talented and energetic a team as any I have done, a team in the new era that’s even leaner, better equipped and faster. A team of perfectionists with a work ethic that saw us deliver a suite of user experience documentation, functional specifications and remarkable designs that prove that, right now, there are few places capable of the kind of quality and thinking that Dare produces at its best.
Still over 2 years away from relinquishing their ‘Digital Agency of the Decade‘ title, I wouldn’t be in the least bit embarrassed at continuing to trade on that heritage whilst having considerable confidence that there is, under Michael Olaye’s watch, plenty more great work to come.
I’m going to struggle to name all the amazing people who made all this happen but here goes an attempt to name check a lot of you:
Mark Collier, John Bartle and Board and management team variously including Lee Wright, Leigh Thomas, John Owen, Toby Horry, Claire Hynes, Gal Bell, Nadya Powell, Stephen Morgan, Richard Neish, Fergus Adam, Jamal Cassim, Perninder Dhadwar, Mark Cramphorn.
A creative, copywriting and design heritage exemplified by Flo Heiss, Laura J-B, Suki Rai, Ben Lloyd, Steve Whittington, James Warfield, Dan Viveros, Dennis Christensen, Ron Siemerink, Michelle Charlton, Dan Bray, Kerry Roper, Charlie Phipps, Matt Firth, Kit Hoang, Jonny Goodall, Luke Stenzhorn, Matt Henry, Mark Gardner, Matt Bolton, Stuart Peddie, Vass Alexiou, Ian Fooks, Eduardo, Kit Suman, Pat McCaren, Jon Long, Emma Lawson, Carina Martin, Nicky P, Rammo, J-P, Matt, Jake & Ig, Woods and H’Bone, Watson & Harrison, Rob & Dip, Fergus Jackson, Spike & Steve.
A technical and production capability in Jake Morris, Ilya, Alex Matthews, Perry Nightingale, Charlie Perrins, Larry Naman, Massi Vallascas, Davide, Nick Marais, Al Prater, Jimmy, Marko, Martin Bakewell, Ian Clement, Will Lear, Jade Bisram, Barney Voss, Joe Holland, Lisa Mestig, Claire Badhams, Amy Chalkley, George Ryan, John Brombley, Anna Leapman, Phil Wright, Nina Lewis, Freya Page, Jasper Squier
HR and support from Kim Woolner, Lou Jackson, Natalie Chomin, Gemma Popejoy, Harry P, Keith, Emily Macfarlane, Stuart Martin, Rebecca Owen, Marni, Kate Campbell, Jonathan Williams, Belinda.
Client management tekkers from Leigh and Nadya, Liza Durge, Al Bowers, Matt Law, Rebecca Saunders, Jamal Cassim, Josh Harris, Mizzy Lees, Emma Bennett, Asa Skogstrom, Mark Hastings, Muscles, Lucy Doubleday, Rox, Gav Bell, Mark Evans, Melis Ongun, Alex Smith, Lexi Cherniavsky, Ruth Feltham, Katherine Lathwell, Vanessa Juby, Nathan McKean, Hannah Hilbery, Elizabeth Butterworth, Tamara Bennett, CJT, Mel Parris, Alanna Southgate, Mark Beesley, Liza Wostman, Lee McGuffie, Rohan Nayee.
Strategists like Andy Nairn, Toby Horry, Nick Emmel, Nick Hirst, Ben Gallagher, Jonathan Cheek, Christa Patrylak, Elaine Miller, Naomi Dunne, Rachel Hatton, Rachel Pearson, Stefano, James Filmer, Alistair Owen, Hugh de Winton, John Haywood, Sarah Isaacs, Laura Visick, Oscar, Matt Robinson, John Spinks, Will Lion, Damola, Amy Whittaker, Lydia Jones, Hayley Sivner, Laura Scoffin, Helen Lawrence, Jasmin Griffiths, Katy Woodrow-Hill
And finally, my faultless Experience Planners. Roz Thomas, Anna Dahlstrom, Tom Harle, Paul Mason, Julia Dean, Tom Belt, Sam Belt, Jack Payne, Fred Gulliford, Natalie King, Sabrina Laxmanalal, Martina Costello, Richard Blair, Aarti Dodhia, Conor Fallon, Hannah Mearns, Kate Redfern, Isabel Perry, Rachel Jones, Naomi Desalegene, Alex Musson, Phil Verheul, Tom Saldanha, Rachel Farrar, Vanita Tanna, Payal Mithani Every single one of which I would happily work with again.
As Jurassic Park rolls into Toto’s Africa and I pack away my Uncle Joe’s mint balls and china bull I’ll stop reading this chapter, because until I do, I’ll not start my next.
Some of these visuals by Flo.
Apologies to anyone I’ve missed. In 9 years I have worked with several hundred of you, forgive me if my recall game is not strong!