It’s a funny age, 15. Veteran status for a horse. Awkward adolescence for a human (memories of my children’s 15th parties are dominated by tears and smuggled vodka to a soundtrack of I Predict A Riot). But what about a business?
Well, it’s not just Red Bee turning 15. YouTube was launched a month after us and let’s just admit that we haven’t had quite as big an impact on the world. But so many other businesses have come and gone in that time, including creative agencies in our tough core sector of TV and media. In this virus-ravaged year, survival alone feels a worthy achievement.
Looking back over the past 15 years, how is it possible to sum them up? Which memories burn brightest? Certainly not the years when our P&L delivered the biggest numbers. Or the projects with the biggest budgets. Or even the five years in a row when we were awarded Promax Europe’s Agency of the Year.
No, the memories that linger are of individual moments of magic that come along to reward a team of talented people, bonded by a strong culture and working their socks off in pursuit of shared creative ambitions.
Pitching to the Chinese state broadcaster in a converted hotel that had once harboured Western journalists covering Tiananmen Square to find that two pigtailed professors from the Beijing Academy of Fine Art had been brought in to judge our 2008 Olympics design work. (They loved it).
Aileen and Charlie travelling overnight from Miami Beach straight to our team Christmas bash after pitching to Telemundo, a project we were 100/1 outsiders to win. And the whoop of joy from the pitch team when the clients called in the first week of January to tell us the good news. (Nothing like winning a major pitch in the first week of the year).
Rising early one frosty February morning to join the 7 am online training session with Olympic gold medal winners we orchestrated to support Nissan’s sponsorship, confident that Bharat and the team would ensure that all the multiple live streams would run flawlessly. (They did). And, a few months later, witnessing the joyous reactions of Team GB superstars when they realised they had been pranked by Nissan’s “sponsorship team,” aka two comedy actors we had hired to lure them in front of our hidden cameras.
The smile of recognition on Peter Fincham’s face in his BBC One days when we showed how the channel’s best brand identities had always been based on a circle and why our swimming hippos were the right creative solution to decide a 14-way pitch. With an 11-year lifespan producing more than 50 idents and multiple show tie-ins and topical animations, our “circles” identity enjoyed a longevity that will be difficult to match.
Christopher’s live calligraphy demonstration captivating a client team for a Tokyo Olympics project and illustrating why a major global rival’s logo was laughable to his Japanese mother.
The gathering of Europe’s public service broadcasters in beautiful Ljubljana that gave Red Bee the green light to work with them on a campaign with the noble but almost impossible goal of building a pan-European movement in support of public service media.
The President of FC Barcelona’s firm handshake in the boardroom at Camp Nou after he signed off on our audio-visual design system based on the club’s unique style of play.
And, last but not least, my conversation with David Abraham in his early days as CEO at UKTV when he was a tad hesitant to approve our recommended new channel name, Dave, in case people thought he had named it after himself. To his credit, he got it, supported it and possibly the best ever case study of a TV brand relaunch was born.
These are just a few of my strongest personal memories of 15 glorious, turbulent, unpredictable years. Everyone else in the team will have their own, as will the many Red Bee alumni who are now out there forging dazzling careers around the world in TV, media and beyond. And that’s an important point in itself. There are no prizes for saying this and I’m far from the first to say it, but a creative agency depends totally, utterly and indubitably on its people. And, at Red Bee, we have been lucky to have worked with many of our industry’s finest, smartest and nicest – sometimes for a few, fleeting years and, in some cases, for all our 15 years.
There’s one final magic moment to mention and it happened just a few days before writing this post. The launch of the “spreading the rainbow” work we created for Kurt Geiger. Why this project? Because it’s our most recent, because it’s for a brand we had never worked with before, because it was commissioned by a client who had loved working with Red Bee in a previous role and because she challenged us to take both ourselves and her brand into new creative territory. Creative agencies should be fueled by productive paranoia to recognise that the most recent and next projects are always the most important
And that’s a fitting place to end. We’re proud of everything we have achieved since the launch of Red Bee 15 years ago. Really, so, so proud. But I know we all have the mindset of an awkward adolescent: still unsure of quite where we fit in the world and anxious for self-improvement. I don’t know what next year will bring, let alone the next 15, but I know the team will keep trying to be the smartest, nicest people we can be and keep aiming for more of those magic moments.
Now, where’s that Kaiser Chiefs playlist?