Working as a media buyer on the accounts of some of the world’s best-known brands, David had grown frustrated by the inflexibility and general lack of campaign planning inherent in UK advertising back then. To put it simply, both talent and money were going to waste.
Meanwhile, digital media was beginning to break out of its chrysalis – bringing with it a host of tantalising new possibilities for smaller businesses as the millennium loomed. Change was coming, right? Well…
Network agencies – the likes of whom held a vice-like grip on the industry – were cumbersome in their efforts to move away from the lazy, ‘off-the-shelf’ package deals that exclusively benefited brands with the biggest pockets (despite a growing shift in client expectations). They were too bloated; too set in their ways. Something had to give.
David, along with friends Oliver Durkin and Ben Livingstone, envisioned a future where flexible media buying coalesced with ‘hands-on’, tech-powered planning to democratise the advertising industry and widen accessibility for start-ups, challenger brands and local businesses.
Led by this belief, they invested everything they had into establishing Guerillascope. This gave us the freedom to implement several innovations in the industry.
Namely, by working directly with the raw BARB data, we were able to identify additional value for our clients. We also measured the regionality of digital TV stations, which, for example, enabled us to pick channels with a natural skew towards the more expensive London audience.
We also realised the BARB panel wasn’t designed to accurately measure audiences below 10,000 viewers. We therefore began reporting the number of zero-rated spots available on each channel and in each day-part. These spots were essentially free, consequently providing our clients with significant additional value on those channels. Typically, 50% of all spots are reported by BARB as having zero viewers.
This methodology soon evolved into Viewing Figures, which for the first time allowed advertisers to evaluate the performance of specific TV spots via a secure online portal. This was a revelation back in 2004: suddenly, brands no longer had to take an agency’s word as proof of effectiveness – they could see it for themselves. No longer did we have to rely on real-time Google Analytics data alone to demonstrate the immediate effect of TV airtime on web traffic and branded search!
This unsurprisingly evoked antipathy from some quarters of the industry. Noses were knocked out of joint and feathers ruffled.
Indeed, anyone who says starting a business from scratch is easy is either engaging in some PR brinkmanship, or exceptionally lucky. For David, Ben and Oliver, life as business owners began in a flat above a shop on Clapham High Street. Every penny was vital, every new business win a milestone. Progress is rarely linear, as any founder will tell you.
It was only in 2012, in fact, that the agency was able to develop a truly robust structure; led by David, Jay Bhatt and, in particular, Jade Stanley, Guerillascope channelled the experiences of those early years into future-proofing the company and equipping it with the tools necessary for growth.
The reality in those earliest days was that we were a minnow swimming against convention, fighting the good fight for businesses that didn’t have huge budgets to splash on packages that weren’t compatible with their specific, fast-evolving needs.
Yet it was this conviction in our purpose – allied with our ability to measure the performance of specific spots and the lowering of entry costs for TV driven by the explosion in digital stations – that started attracting advertisers new to television. Instead of scrapping over existing advertisers, we were growing the market; and in fulfilling this founding vision, we became popular with the UK’s major TV sales houses. Relationships built back then remain strong to this day.
What truly mattered to us, however – and this remains the case today – was the sense of excitement when businesses saw for themselves the results of this refreshingly accountable, line-by-line approach to planning and buying.
Fast-forward to the here and now and you’ll find a Guerillascope that in many ways looks and acts the same as it did twenty years ago. The entrepreneurial zeal that fuelled growth in those early years remains intact – as too, does our focus on flexibility, transparency and proactivity.
Consistency has indeed always been important to us. Our culture is underpinned by an ability to retain staff over a long period of time and help them develop – both professionally and personally – in an open, inclusive environment. Implementing a one-month interview process, which essentially ensures every member of the team has a say on new hires, the company prides itself on the fact that we see each other as friends more than colleagues. We’re blessed to have several members of the team who are approaching their tenth anniversaries at Guerillascope, while others are edging towards twenty!
But of course, successful businesses hiss at any notion of stagnation. We’re constantly seeking ways of driving the company forward – an instinct that, over the past few years, has resulted in a seamless evolution from TV specialist into a full-service media agency. This broadening of expertise allows us to apply our core values to every media buy, regardless of channel – and extract maximum value through a carefully honed formula of testing, learning and optimisation.
We believe every business has a responsibility to its people and the planet. The future is uncertain, but one thread of consistency is our commitment to being active participants in the drive for positive change. If this sounds like you, then we’d love to make you part of our story as we move into this brave new world.