It’s like playing the most advanced level of advertising Tetris, while balancing on a tightrope (of client needs vs. available resources) and doing it against a large countdown clock, as deadlines loom. Why would anyone want this seemingly impossible role? We spoke to our Creative Services Director, Tom, to find out why he’s a sucker for this unique form of punishment, and also why it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs in the agency.
1. Tell us a little bit about your role and what you see as your most important responsibility?
I’m responsible for the day-to-day running and the workloads of the Studio / Creative Teams, which isn’t quite as simple as colouring in the boxes on the Resource Schedule. It involves reviewing the new work that’s coming in and aligning these new briefs to internal skillsets, whilst also progressing the work that’s live and moving it through the studio in the most efficient manner. Basically, I’m a professional plate spinner!
I’d say my biggest responsibility is looking after the wider team and making sure they have all the support and time that they need, which can be challenging at times. So, lots of asking what, when and why? (The latter being an important behaviour for us here at TMG).
2. How do you balance the demands of managing creative projects with the needs of your team members, and what strategies have you found to be most effective?
I don’t think there’s a singular strategy to managing creative projects, they’re all demanding and challenging in different ways. But an open and honest approach to each project is the best way. For me, supporting the collective team and adopting an ‘in it together’ approach is really important, and I believe it’s also one of Maverick’s biggest strengths. Projects and timelines are always moving, which can be stressful and make for hectic moments, so being able to keep work flowing through in a calm and helpful way is key… and having a sense of humour is handy too.
3. How do you measure the success of the studio?
From a business perspective success is having happy clients and getting great feedback from them. From a personal point of view, it’s having a happy motivated team. There have been some challenging times and tough projects, but the ability and willingness of the team to push on and deliver consistently (with a smile on their face) is success to me.
4. How did you get into Creative Services? And what advice would you give to anyone getting into the industry?
I kind of fell into it in all honesty. I started fresh out of college at an exhibition and photo studio, when retouching was done by hand with an actual airbrush! Here I learnt about retouching, OOH graphics and signage as well traditional design, I then moved to a publishing house, where i managed the ad design and production teams, delivering work to 4 international print publications. Their deadlines were very strict, which was a great lesson. After 8 years there I moved to an Employer Branding Agency in London as the Deputy Studio Manager. I was there for 11 years and worked on some big brands across all mediums, soaking up everything I could, felt like every day was a school day.
As I grew within my role, I took on more responsibility and found natural gaps, which needed filling and improving. Towards the end of my time there, I was managing the whole process – I had traffic managers, artworkers, creatives, designers, copywriters, freelancers, and client service teams, all turning to me when projects needed help. So, it almost became a natural progression to the job I do at Maverick today.
So, my advice for those that are just starting in their career would be… pay attention, listen to how others do things, ask loads of questions, and learn as many skills and processes as possible. Because being able to understand what processes are needed, and how something is done, gives you the best understanding of the day-to-day timings and demands. Knowledge is most definitely power!
5. What initially drew you to Maverick, and what has kept you here?
I knew Clair (our Head of Talent) from my previous agency and reached out to her when I saw that The Maverick Group were looking to fill a position. I then met Chris (our Managing Director) and after a 3-hour interview with Chris, Ross (one of TMG’s Business Directors) and Jamie Bell (our ECD), I walked away feeling that there were lots of good things happening in the business and loads of ways I could help make a positive impact.
We have come so far over the last 3 years, but I still feel there’s more ground to cover and more ways that I can help move Maverick forward. They say every day is a school day, and that’s true for me and as clichéd as it may sound, the people, culture and family vibe at Maverick gives me a great feeling. As Troy Bolton once said “we really are all in it together” (blame my 2 daughters for subjecting me to all High School musical films on repeat).
6. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role, and how do you work to overcome them?
Fitting everything in, like a constantly moving and evolving jigsaw puzzle is a challenge. But luckily the Client Service teams are super flexible and patient, while the Creative & Studio teams have my back, and always go the extra mile.
And Owen (our CEO), Chris and Gaya (our Finance Director) are very accommodating with my requests for additional help. And luckily Holly (our Creative Services Manager) has joined the team which helps massively on the workload.
Another challenge is making sure the team have enough time to breathe and keep their creative juices topped up.
7. What do you consider to be the most important traits for success in a creative marketing agency, and how do you cultivate that in your team?
Never being afraid to get it wrong or to try. Believing in yourself, being able to take feedback (good and bad) and come back again and again! Surrounding yourself with people who have different skill sets, ways of thinking and are great at what they do – and most importantly, not being afraid to celebrate it.
8. How do you foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork among your team members, and what role do you think that plays in the success of your studio?
Being able to walk the walk helps. If the team know that I understand their struggles and frustrations, then together we can figure things out. The team boasts vast experience and varied skillsets, plus they’re such a great bunch that they are only too happy to share their knowledge with everyone.
9. Looking ahead, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for the marketing industry, and how do you plan to position your studio to meet those challenges and take advantage of those opportunities?
The biggest challenge is probably the rapid emergence of AI in the creative space. For sure this is an amazing development, which offers a lot of new challenges and possibilities, so it’s important to embrace it and learn how best to maximise these opportunities for our clients. But for now, I’m not sure AI can match the personal and human touch that the Maverick Team provide.
So, that’s Tom – our fearless creative services lead and time management extraordinaire; retoucher turned resource jigsaw guru, he ensures we always deliver top-notch work, to deadline and to budget.