By Bill Bennett, Senior Agency Partner at The Ozone Project
Back in 2017, Credos, the Advertising Association’s think tank, highlighted that while London may be the global flag bearer for the country’s creative reputation, almost 6 in 10 of the UK’s advertising workforce is actually based outside of the M25. Advertising and media is certainly big business in ‘the regions’, with the past few years seeing major growth in investment, expertise and demand.
And at the heart of that growth is Manchester – the Capital of the North – which in the last decade has seen the BBC set-up a new home in MediaCityUK, new independents such as Love Sugar Science and Running Total Media appear on the agency landscape, and ‘new economy’ brands – such as AO.com, MoneySuperMarket, Boohoo, Missguided, I Saw it First and On the Beach – all calling Manchester home. Heck, even the latest series of Channel 4’s First Dates has been filmed here!
It’s therefore no coincidence that The Ozone Project has virtually opened the doors of its Manchester office, and there are a number of key reasons our premium publisher alliance is investing in the opportunities the region presents.
Digital challenges are universal
As highlighted by last year’s ISBA PwC report into programmatic transparency, there are a number of persistent issues – from transparency to brand safety – that continue to cast a shadow over digital advertising. These challenges are universal to pretty much every advertiser and agency, regardless of their size or where they’re based geographically. As Ozone was created to counter these problems with highly effective solutions delivered in trusted, premium environments, it’s vital to get face-to-face with our customers in the north to offer a better alternative for their digital advertising.
Closer relationships create a better future
We fundamentally believe in the power of bringing advertisers and content creators – in Ozone’s case premium publishers – closer together to create an advertising ecosystem that puts the interests of those who control the consumer relationships at its heart. Establishing this type of relationship requires deeper collaboration and bespoke ways of working with advertisers and their agencies – being ‘on the ground’ with our regional partners will certainly help accelerate these partnerships.
It’s easier to break the conventional approach
There’s often a very different, arguably more experimental, mindset found in smaller businesses, something that I have certainly experienced first hand with the agencies and advertisers I have worked with in the Manchester area. Quite often they’re more willing to do things differently than a more established business, and while we see working with Ozone as a way that can only deliver better digital outcomes, it still requires our customers to stop and question what they’re doing, reevaluate their options and put the delivery of real business results at the forefront of every conversation.
Greater agility accelerates action
Outside of London, and across the advertiser and agency world, there is generally a greater ability to move quicker and do things in a way that might prove more cumbersome for some larger organisations. As the latest investment in the Ozone platform is focused on quickly growing the ways our customers can work with us, I’m certain that the overwhelming positivity that has greeted our formal ‘arrival’ in Manchester will be matched with speedy collaborations with key partners across the region.
Representation across the nation
While around 80% of the UK’s population is based outside of London, c.85% of the nation’s media spend is still controlled by London agencies. When WPP announced plans for a new base with room for 800 people in Manchester, country manager Karen Blackett cited bursting out of the London bubble to improve diversity as a key reason behind the move. Mirroring this, Ozone is incredibly well-positioned to help advertisers and agencies reach great diversity in audience with an unparalleled 99% of the UK’s adult online population visiting our high attention environments each month.
Be right in the thick of it
The vibrancy of the Manchester media and advertising industry means things are changing all the time and opportunities can be easily missed if you’re not present in the market. Like any business, the more you know about your customers and their specific challenges, the more you can help and benefit them. Our agency and advertiser clients expect us to be here, and while the last ten months have shown us that a lot of work can be done from home, there really is no substitute for physical, face-to-face time (not FaceTime!) in a sector so heavily built on relationships and collaboration.
The opportunity for Ozone in Manchester and the north is matched by an appetite from both agencies and advertisers to continue to be smarter and better than before. And just like the First Dates team, we’re excited to see how our new relationships develop – it’s just a shame it might be a good few months yet before we sit down with our clients at a restaurant table!