7 questions in 7 minutes: Meet our CEO

We all look at our boss and admire them for the work they put in – the fact that they seem to respond to emails at 2am, 5am and 2pm (that’s just on a Saturday). We acknowledge that they seamlessly tackle any challenge put in front of them, with what appears to be the simplest solution. What we often don’t pay attention to, is the road that brought them to this point. The fact that every success, every failure and every person they’ve worked with has moulded their decision-making abilities.

CEO of Rave and JWI, John Wilford gave us the opportunity to sit down with him and ask seven questions. We wanted to understand where his love of marketing came from, who fuelled his ambition, and what his plans are for the future. But we uncovered much more…

How did you get into a career in marketing?

I started my career in corporate planning working on mergers and acquisitions in Spain, France and Turkey in the building products sector. Most corporate planners are accountants, so I was focused on the marketing and post-merger integration. So, when a line marketing role came up for Redland Bricks, I made the leap.

What was your first year in business like?

The year 2000 was scary and fun in equal measure. I was encouraged by IRWIN Tools to set up my own agency, which I did with a colleague and close friend, Darryl Canham. So, we made the plunge, but IRWIN then placed the work with a Manchester based agency and we had no clients! We then implemented a fax broadcast (that shows how old I am!) and we won Donaldsons, JLT and Universal Salvage. We won IRWIN the following year and have worked with them ever since, through three different owners and seven generations of marketing department.

Who inspires you the most?

The text book answer would be some leading light in business or advertising. But no. I’m inspired by my late grandmother, Molly. She was a matriarch. Intelligent, determined and focused. She didn’t suffer fools and always had an opinion. Born in a different time and circumstances, she could have been a captain of industry or even Prime Minister. I’m always thinking…”what would Molly think?”

What’s the best campaign you’ve ever worked on and why?

The Cube by Electrolux was an amazing campaign. It was an experiential event that lasted 6 months – a glass restaurant on Royal Festival Hall in London. I got to meet famous people, eat amazing food, make friends with world-renowned chefs, drink fine wine and generate a PR value of more than £6 million.

Why do you think the industry has moved from ‘advertising agencies’ to ‘full service marketing agencies’?

When Rave started, we were a pure creative ad agency. Press ads, TV, radio. But the world has moved on. Fewer people consume traditional advertising and ways to reach audiences have undergone a fundamental shift with the rise of digital and social media. Content has become paramount and agencies have responded to this new world. Having said this, ideas and creative thinking are still vitally important and too often ignored in the race for Google rankings. Creative campaigns are still as important today as they were in the pre-digital age.

Do you think brands understand the need for a well thought-out marketing strategy?

Yes. Brands and marketers do generally understand that strategy is important, but often this is crowded out by the short term demands of their business. Some brands have been slow to embrace digital marketing by being focused on the day-to-day, and have paid the price. Equally digital marketing has enabled small companies to punch above their weight. Having a strategy, with clear aims is very important, but equally important is the ability to recognise change and respond to it.

What are your plans for the next five years?

My ambition is to grow the business both in the UK and the Middle East. I’d like to launch a new office in London to win some of the juicy advertising accounts, and perhaps even look to North America.

We had 30 seconds left, so we asked John for his top three tips for the next generation…

What are your top three tips for the next generation of marketers and advertisers?

  1. Be enthusiastic about your company and brand all of the time.
  2. Remember the enemy isn’t your boss, the jobsworth in procurement nor the colleague your jockeying for position with. It’s your competitors.
  3. Change happens, all of the time. Embrace it.

I think the key takeaway from this is the value we should place on other people’s experiences. Most CEO’s read a book a week. John is no different. They do this to understand other’s experiences. If you haven’t experienced something yourself, chances are – someone else has. Talk to your line manager, talk to your CEO, talk to your new Exec – they’ve all experienced something that you could draw upon in years to come.

To find out more about what we do and how our experience in marketing and advertising across the UK and Middle East can benefit you don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email jwilford@rave-communications.com or call 01675 467 462/ 07748 114444.