Sammy Mansourpour chats about industry changes, the biggest challenges facing agencies today, and how agency life may look in the future.

Sammy started his post-graduate career as a company man, working across Europe as a marketing manager for a multinational conglomerate. Working side by side with Saatchi & Saatchi and AMV it wasn’t too long before agency life called. Leaving to join a fledging digital agency during the dotcom boom served the thrills and spills only small fast growing companies can provide. A few years later and after a 2-year stint with Rapier, London’s agency of the decade, Sammy launched AgencyUK, a new kind of advertising firm built around the digital consumer. In 2010 Sammy was elected to the CBI SW Board.

On a personal level Sammy is a keen sportsman and was a former European Tae-Kwon-Do champion. Sammy has two young children and strives to fit in other passions such as snowboarding, mountain biking, cars & motorbikes whenever family life allows.


What experiences have been pivotal in shaping your career path?

I found my competitive drive and ambitious nature fitted well with agency life. I have a distinct fear of failure, which I see as a drawback. To be a valued member in an agency team you can never rest on your laurels and have to constantly question convention. Being competitive helps me to keep up with my team, and for AUK to stay ahead of the game.


In three words how would your colleagues describe you?

Ambitious, Uncompromising, Keen (*based on a “4:30 on a Friday” poll around the office).


Which changes in the industry have been most dramatic in your eyes?

One of the biggest changes, which people don’t really talk about, is the lack of classic education and training for young people first entering the industry.

Maybe it’s because the pace of innovation is too fast, marketing teams are learning on the job, or there’s simply been too deep a cut in investment, particularly since 2008? Maybe it’s because many young people today are looking for portfolio careers and therefore more instant gratification in their role more quickly gathered by learning on the job?

Either way, people used to arrive with a marketing degree in hand and immediately embark on a CIM or trade body qualification. Today many are lucky to get a half-day handover.

A major factor is the reality that marketing communications is a much more complex discipline. The onset of big data, more rapid changes in human behaviour based on technological evolution, and the infinitely more complex relationships people have with their peers and wider communities online, causes to disrupt the neatly conditioned campaign plans brands have pedalled for two decades. Marketers and their agencies have to innovate in order to disrupt their market and gain a share of voice. Competition is thicker and a bigger budget doesn’t guarantee success.


What advice would you give to people considering entering the industry?

Be curious. Richer life experiences will help you better identify with different audiences. They will enable you to find context in the work that you do and the people you deal with. It will mean that you get more excited about the briefs and the brands. It will mean that you will be able to add exponential value for your clients and your employer. So get out there, explore the world, try new things, seek variety and spend your money on making memories.


In your view, what are the biggest challenges currently facing the industry?

One reality is that campaign results are certainly less easy to predict and that presents challenges for strategists and creative teams.

It’s certainly harder for brands to regularly garner their audience’s attention. But the flood gates for trying new approaches are open. Challenger brands can make rapid ascents by being clever, relevant and disruptive. And they can try it all out at the same time. The world is a smaller place, so isolating and testing new markets is far easier.


What support from the government or industry bodies would be most beneficial?

The governments R&D Tax Credits have worked wonders. They enable smaller companies to compete and business leaders to take chances.

Industry bodies today are deeply challenged. Keeping up with the speed of technological change is difficult, even for those at the forefront. So Trade Associations and the like should look to influence the education system and training establishments to better identify these future wants and needs.

But few are making progress in a talent-starved millennium. We need many more people for the jobs of tomorrow and our industry can’t find them fast enough. Industry bodies must help promote our industry to better attract talent. We’re all now competing against global tech giants and Uber rich start-ups.


In twenty years’ time what is the single biggest change you would expect to see in your industry sector?

If I could predict that I’d be the Wolf of Wall Street! It’s logical that more of what we do will be automated. Human endeavour in manual administration will probably bottom out. However, like cream, I believe creativity will rise to the top. Once driven out as an agency commodity, it is the last hope for our industry. Because it can never be automated it will be the difference between successful relevant brands and mediocrity. Creativity will again define our agency’s reputation and we will bask in the talent of the people that deliver it.


Sammy Mansourpour was interviewed by Ben Vickers, Partner, Colloco Search

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