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International Small Agency of the Year, Silver: Mr. President

London Shop Seeks to be 'Faster, Fresher, More Fun'

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Laura Jordan Bambach, Claire Hynes, Nick Emmel
Laura Jordan Bambach, Claire Hynes, Nick Emmel Credit: Nick Howe

For an agency of only 35 people, four-year-old Mr. President is punching above its weight in the U.K. advertising market.

Clients include Unilever's Prestige Brands and Maille Mustard; L'Oreal's The Body Shop, Virgin Trains; NBC Universal; Global (the U.K.'s largest commercial radio company); and online gambling enterprise Bet Victor -- many of them won in pitches against big London agencies.

Mr. President has a digital heritage -- founders Claire Hynes and Nick Emmel met while working at MDC Partners' Dare -- but its creative aspirations are wider-ranging.

Creative partner Laura Jordan Bambach, who joined the agency (also from Dare) a year after launch, is a key player in the agency's ambitions.

Her talk at the innovation portion of this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, "Can you be faster, fresher, better, more fun?" sums up Mr. President's approach, focusing on a conviction that the best work comes out of "happy accidents," and that data shouldn't be allowed to suck creativity out of the industry by choosing ROI over brand love.

While the agency is growing steadily -- staff numbers are up from 30 to 35 in the last year, and revenues are projected to reach $4.2m in 2016, up from $3.9m in 2015 and $3.4m in 2014 -- growth isn't the main objective.

Ms. Hynes said, "In growth there is momentum and energy and it galvanizes you, but we aren't looking to grow too much. We have a nimble core that we flex up and down."

The agency is 50-50 male and female, with all staff owning a stake in the company. Ms. Jordan Bambach said, "People here are treated like adults. If you are ten minutes late, nobody bats an eyelid. If you are sick, you go home, and if you are training for a marathon, you go and do that ... Everyone here is amazing and, because we are a small team, no one gets to hide under a bushel. Everyone is pulling their weight."

For founding client Bacardi (now consolidated into BBDO), Mr. President brought fame to the Bacardi Triangle music festival by getting pop star Ellie Goulding to challenge notorious festival crasher Marcus Haney to gain illegal entry to Bacardi's festival, held on a remote Caribbean island. His antics -- including dodging the Puerto Rican police -- were recorded and spread around the internet.

For L'Oreal's Body Shop, a multilingual Christmas spot had people singing "Jingle Bells" as they showered, while a Mother's Day film featured royal look-alikes treating the Queen to breakfast in bed, interrupted by rebel royal Prince Harry still up partying from the night before.

Unilever's Maille Mustard asked Mr. President to turn one-time in-store shoppers into regular buyers online. The agency came up with the Maison Maille Discovery Spoon, which uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to enable customers to electronically record the mustards they like best and create a valuable digital relationship with the brand.

And finally, where does the name come from? "We're a small agency but we wanted a big name," Ms. Hynes said. "We work with clients who, like presidents, want to change things and to leave a legacy."

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