More fundamentally, though, Holly believes there’s a real advantage to regional location in terms of culture and insight. “Many clients are seeing the advantage of having people outside of London because they’re in less of a bubble,” she explains.
England has long suffered from a North-South divide, with the two halves economically, socially and culturally different. But rural agricultural regions don’t share the Southern prosperous stereotypes; these rural areas carry their own social stigmas of aging populations, a disconnection from urban trends, and perceived educational shortfalls.
These albeit outdated impressions are hard to shift. But an exodus from London, adoption of remote working technology and flexible working practices has narrowed the distance in a way a motorway couldn’t. And heralds the biggest shift in perceptions of where talent resides.
It’s not just agency people relocated; it’s client-side too.
“More and more brands are being called upon to be relevant to every consumer, rather than just those within the M25. But I know this from being in London myself; it can be quite hard. You have to rely on insights and research to really get an idea of what that audience is, rather than living and directly experiencing life in the regions.
“It’s not loads of people with the same ideas, in one big echo chamber. It’s an environment where there’s space for different viewpoints, and you’re actually really connected to grass roots.”
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t great talent in the capital – what it really means, is that it isn’t exclusively in London anymore. “You can still have a career in the creative industry, work for big brands, still deliver the same exceptional standards from the regions – and brands have more options, and a more competitive marketplace with that diversity in agency locations.”
Scotland’s Leith agency has long been demonstrating this fact, notably with its Irn Bru advertising. From the East of England, we’re creating award-winning work including this Sainsbury Centre advert, and work with clients including Adnams, and Virgin Wines.
Connected with the community
The mental health crisis has created another case for the countryside. “The creative industry had a terrible reputation for work-life balance, and Covid really created a shift – not just for this industry, but for everyone. It’s time that our industry took work-life balance and mental health seriously and I see a shift to a more flexible and regional-based way of working as a positive step in the right direction.”
Norwich City Football club’s viral mental health video is both a topical example, and a demonstration of the great work happening in the regions.
So while the age of the big London agency may not be dead, it’s certainly waning. As clients open their eyes to the wealth of creativity thriving in regional agencies, we’re seeing a seismic shift that challenges preconceived notions about where innovation and excellence reside.
And the future promises a more decentralised and diverse creative landscape, where the most creative minds are not (or perceived to be) confined to a single postcode.