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Having a niche, an area of expertise as a Creative

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Within the Creative Recruitment Sector, we notice the importance and advantage of having specific industry or market knowledge more and more. Carving out your own niche, becoming an expert within a specific area or sector (beyond Creative, think “financial services, charity, technology etc.”) doesn’t mean backing yourself into a corner, it can work to your advantage – it’s a trait in demand today.

To drill a bit deeper, we caught up with Nick Holmes, Strategy Director at Different Kettle. We asked him about this importance and his own niche.

ADLIB: What would you define as your “niche”? What’s your specific knowledge that differentiates you from other Creatives?

Nick Holmes: For nearly 20 years I have specialised in the charity sector. In fact, I tend to think of myself as fundraiser first, nowadays, and copywriter/creative director second.

ADLIB: What has been your career journey so far, leading you to this niche in particular?

Nick Holmes: I started as a trainee agency TV producer working on brands like Bass Beer, McCain Frozen Foods and Reckitt and Colman. I quickly realised I would rather be writing my own ideas instead of making other people’s, so I went right back to the bottom of the ladder as a copywriter. I got a break at DDB which was then one of London’s best creative agencies and I worked on VW, the COI, Trebor and others. After a stint at assorted above and through the line (remember those?) agencies, I moved out of London and was offered the position of creative director at a direct marketing agency that specialised in charities.

They wanted me to help develop commercial clients – but, like poacher turned gamekeeper, I discovered a love of the charity sector. So when I set up Different Kettle, I knew that was the sector I wanted to dedicate ourselves to.

ADLIB: Why do you think “having a niche” is in such high demand?

Nick Holmes: It’s actually not something I’m entirely comfortable with or approving of. If you genuinely understand marketing, as a good creative must, you should be able to apply your skills to any medium and any sector.

I think the rise of digital has led to a lot of people coming into marketing and comms from a technical rather than a marketing background. So we see lots of specialist digital agencies – SEO, PPC, social etc. Many of them are rooted in technical knowledge of their niche, and marketing comes second.

I work the other way round. Get the core marketing strategy and creative right and then apply it to the appropriate channels and delivery mechanisms to achieve the objectives.

The other thing is client thinking. Some clients look at an agency’s portfolio and if they don’t see their sector or their type of project reflected there, they don’t appoint. So agencies end up getting more of the work they have already done and less of the work they haven’t. So in those instances, going niche isn’t such a conscious choice. But then I guess there are people and agencies like us who have chosen a specific sector or discipline because we love it. And it is certainly the case in the charity sector, that it demands a particular understanding. If I was a charity client, I would hesitate to appoint an agency that has no experience of working with charities.

ADLIB: If Creatives don’t currently have a niche of their own, but would like to ‘carve’ one – what is your recommendation to get started?

Nick Holmes: If you’re going to go that way, make sure you’re consciously choosing a niche for yourself because it’s what you love doing – and not that you’re being forced into one that you might later like to get out of.

And when it comes to your own creative thinking, never confuse niche with narrow. You should never want to limit your creative thinking.

This piece previously appeared on the ADLIB Blog.

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