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Showing London just what the South East is made of

19th November 2014

By Wayne Hall

At Impact we’ve recently been voted one of Design Week’s Top 100 UK Creative Agencies for the ninth consecutive year. In my time, few South East agencies have even appeared on the list, yet alone stayed on it this long, so it’s an accolade we’re incredibly proud of.

For me as Managing Director it’s a real tribute to the team we’ve put together here. And yet I still ask myself: is it of any real value to my business, or just glitter?

It’s easy to be skeptical. All industries have their awards, and while winning is always nice, some awards really aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. At the same time, when you have a long-established awards list, run by a respected publication, and some of the most respected names in the businesses take time to enter, you’d be naïve not to attach any real value to it.

So last week, I asked my colleagues what it meant to them to be working for a Top 100 Agency. Was it just self-satisfaction, or did it really signify something to them?

The message was loud, clear and instant: all felt a real sense of pride in working for a business consistently recognised for its ability. The fact that they didn’t have to be working in London to be working with a quality team was also high on the agenda.

There was more. They clearly understood the benefits to existing and new clients, in terms of credibility and professionalism; the reassurance of knowing they’re dealing with a company recognised by its peers for excellence. And these are crucial business strengths when you’re looking to extend your reach into the wider UK market – because creativity on its own simply isn’t enough.

For marketing directors in many larger organisations, including a South East agency on the pitch-list is often seen as a risky option. Whoever’s chosen must deliver results, no questions asked, and London agencies are widely – though not always correctly – regarded as being more capable and ‘safer’ than those based out-of-town. In fact, location is still frequently the deciding factor between two agencies who are equal in all other ways.

For us, this is where being a consistent Top 100 Agency really makes a difference. It alleviates that concern and, together with our portfolio of current clients, opens up doors that may otherwise remain closed.

The major strategic and creative pitches we’ve recently made – and won – for Butlin’s, St George plc and Silverstone Park are just three examples. These are all large, highly commercial businesses, with justly high expectations of the agencies they choose as partners.

The fact that we held Top 100 status from our industry’s journal of record was more than enough to get us on the pitch list. Once we presented, these companies had no further trouble in awarding the work to us – even though we were competing against celebrated London agencies every time.

So as far as Impact is concerned, awards definitely have their place and can genuinely help our business on many levels. More generally, if you’re looking not merely to punch above your weight, but show prospective clients you’re actually part of that class, awards can be as valuable as the work you produce in a pitch situation, because they’re a direct reflection of who you are as a business.

With a new year on the horizon, perhaps it’s time to see what awards your industry is going to be presenting in 2015, and think about taking part. Not as a vanity exercise, or to inflate egos within the business (although a big win’s effects on morale and engagement should never be underestimated). Rather, see it as an opportunity to assess your business’s performance objectively; see it from a judging panel’s point of view.

That’s a valuable exercise in itself. Then consider how a win or nomination could give you an edge with your current customers, prospects and competitors. Just by entering, you’ll be showing London, and the wider UK, there’s more to the South East than the capital. And once you’ve tasted success, you’ll never want to go back.