Dark Horses



Simon joined Keir Mather, Founder of Neon Bridge, and Louise Johnson, CEO of PR agency Fuse at AdWeek Europe 2019 to discuss how he and Louise “left their egos at the door” to create a bespoke agency model. In July last year, Louise and Simon put aside outdated agency politics to join forces and create an open-minded and truly integrated model of work that better services clients.

Keeping the client at the heart of the concept was key for both Louise and Simon. Separately, Fuse and Dark Horses were leaders in their respective offerings – an industry-leading sports activation service and a world-class creative agency - but collaboratively they saw an exciting opportunity to better serve a longstanding Fuse client with a genuinely integrated offering. This new model allows the client to tap into their diverse range of talent, and crucially, to flex this talent. The client sits at the heart of the work – literally, in the Dark Horses office – removing any tedious administrative and logistical issues whilst increasing transparency, understanding and collaboration. The client sees what they are paying for; they see the work, they see the struggles and they celebrate the wins as a team. In return, the agency gains an invaluable insight into their clients business.

What started as Nissan United Sport (NUS), the hybrid team of Dark Horses, Fuse and Nissan employees working jointly on Nissan’s global sports communications brief, has evolved into an increasingly successful partnership now servicing four clients and counting. Primacy of the client, cultural alignment and a “stick to your strengths” mentality were the cornerstones of the Dark Horses-Fuse partnership at its inceptions and the key contributors for its success.

A complete alignment of cultural and leadership values are also important in the partnership, both agencies value a flatline structure with people at the core. Louise and Simon understand the duty of care they have to their own teams and businesses before entering into a third-party partnership. This respect for their workforce led them to hire an external MD, to ensure that the team were both happy they were maintaining their individual agency identity alongside coming together in a new capacity as NUS. Talent retention rates and recent employee feedback are testament to the venture’s success, with the teams feeling that this style of hybrid working gave them a ‘new lease of life’ and opportunities to collaborate in a way that didn’t exist before.

And how do they ensure one doesn’t “eat the others lunch”? A fundamental belief is ‘sticking to your strengths’. Louise and Simon have a complete understanding that a complimentary skill set is what makes their client offering unique. With a clear outline of responsibilities, there is a genuine respect for every individual offering to the team, which not only fiercely protects the creative process, it also allows teams to check and challenge each other - the result being great work and a happy client.

Listen at http://europe.advertisingweek.com/watch/-dark-horses-semniar-2019-03-20-1330#pXS1c8TIzXXjYT76.99