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The Power of Culture


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about internal culture, why it’s important, and how to create one that isn’t oppressive or false, that genuinely encourages people to develop their skills and nurtures a sense of belonging.

Everywhere I’ve worked has felt different, but one place stands out. I first started work at JWT in 1989 and it still has a cultural hold over me. I feel proud every time that I read about them in the industry news and feel immediately bonded to people when we discover a JWT connection, and I suppose this is testament to the strength of the culture. They were the masters of it, allowing each market to express themselves but within clearly defined boundaries. Each office had a commodore (because it is important that people eat together), the whole agency celebrated every time there was a new business triumph. They always had the best Christmas Parties …in January. They trained us to within an inch of our lives, as an international unit, so we knew and respected our peers in each market. Interestingly, a large group of ex-JWT’ers still get together every Christmas for a reunion. It’s an unmissable part of our social calendar.

So I suppose it’s only natural that I am keen to create an internal culture within Initiative that also stands the test of time. There has been some change over the past few years, not just with us as an organisation but with the industry in general, and it feels like we are now heading into a period of stability.

The aftermath of the recession has landed us in a good place. If you have visited our offices then you will have noticed an undeniable energy (If you haven’t please do… we are ready and waiting with tea, cake and an inspiring place to charge your laptop, phone and brain). We feel like a start-up but with the confidence of a globally established organisation. And that makes us quite unique in the media world.

FAST, BRAVE, DECISIVE and SIMPLE has become our mantra and it is helping to define not just the way we work – and the people we employ – but the clients we win and enjoy working with.

Internally, we want people to know that they are making a difference to our client’s businesses. We are stripping away bureaucracy, focusing on results, forcing people out of their comfort zones and asking them to take responsibility far earlier than they would in bigger organisations. But, importantly, we are making sure they don’t feel like they are being cast adrift. We have one of the most experienced senior teams in the business working collaboratively alongside the rest of the agency.

From a client perspective, where we do the best work and see the most opportunity are those for whom media is business-critical. Clients like Tesco, match.com and Quorn, whose media can be directly linked through to their sales through smart analytics, that are integrated into the planning process across the year, and used to optimise their media plans to help them reach their difficult business targets. These are clients who are fast to market, are brave and challenging, make decisions rather than sit on fences, and who demand simplicity.

The next six months promise to be exciting and challenging in equal measure. But I know that by working together, our enormous reserves of energy and enthusiasm, and our commitment to each other, will usher in a new fruitful and prosperous chapter for us all at Initiative.