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Member Spotlight: facing change with Steve Frith and TCC

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For those who believe in greatness from small beginnings, TC Communication's story is certainly worth hearing. Born 35 years ago as a husband-and-wife team, TCC now works with some of the biggest brands in the world, including O2, Mizuno and Samsung.

Three decades feel like a pretty long time, and they have more than a few stories to tell about how the industry changed since the advent of the digital age.

We sat down for a chat with senior art director Steve Frith to discuss past dreams, new hopes and the future of the creative industry.

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Where are you from and how did you get into the industry?

We’re TCC – we started out 35 years ago as husband and wife team renting desk space in Farnborough. Back then, we were working mostly in property marketing. Now we’ve got a new home in Ascot, there’s 35 of us and we’re working with some of the biggest brands in the world, like O2, Mizuno and Samsung.

Explain your creative style and process

We’re an agency that focuses on brand performance, which means that our creative style can bend and tailor to whatever will benefit the brand and brief sitting in front of us… but our process always remains the same. Over the last 35 years, we’ve crafted four steps to transform how a brand is seen by its customers, increasing awareness, footfall, sales and profitability.

Those steps start with a process of discovery to establish clear objectives that are informed by the brand, as well as its environment. The next step determines our strategy, to show ‘what could be’ as opposed to ‘what is’, which informs our creative delivery based on brilliant basics. And we always finish with a phase of evaluation, analysing our work, identifying our learnings and applying them to the next phase or the next brief to make sure our work gets better every single time. 

How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Where do we even start? Ditching drawing boards for Apple Macs was a big one, but that feels like a long time ago now. More recently, our digital team is growing in number and strength all the time, which is a reflection of just how critical technology is now. Whether it's social media, data insights, mobile optimisation or online marketing, they’re increasingly at the heart of how our creative work unfolds. 

The world is changing at a perpetual pace, but those that are open-minded and humble enough to be agile will see a world of opportunity open up.

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If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?

Retail footfall has been in decline and shops need to fight harder for their share of the attention and, more importantly, sales.

Unfortunately, that’s led to ‘creative’ solutions that just try to paper over the cracks and sell hard to customers when they even get a whiff of the store; “take 2 for the price of none”, “miss this and miss out”, just aren’t going to cut it… especially when you can almost definitely get it cheaper online.

Experiential in-store can stransform the undecided into the totally convinced

We want brands to understand that creating showstopping moments through experiential in-store can transform the undecided into the totally convinced. Memorable experiences are what’s going to stimulate conversations and give you the opportunity to sell. Return on investment and investment in experience mutually exclusive. In fact, quite the contrary.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

We’re all voracious creators, but just as importantly, we’re all voracious consumers too. We’re always recommending films, TV shows, books, and articles to each other, and constantly sharing pieces of industry news, as well as best-in-class pieces of work.

It’s all about keeping your fingers on the pulse, ears to the ground and surrounding yourself with people who love to be inspired and love to inspire in equal measure. The possibility of creating world-class creative every day is enough to motivate anyone.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Well, we’re all very different types of people… which is one of the great things about TCC. So, we’d all probably be doing very different things, and all probably have very different ideas of where we’d all be.

Tim Leney, our Managing Director, is certain he’d be a professional golfer, our Creative Director, Matt Rowland is adamant he’d be writing screen plays and our Group Account Director, Dawn Nottley would still be wining and dining…just in the Mediterranean instead.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

Aside from being spotlighted on Creative Pool?! Honestly, we’ve had so many highlights. Award-winning work and pitch wins spring to mind, of course.

But, we’re celebrating 35 years of TCC this year, so we’ve been doing some reflection in general. And what’s struck us has been our ability to always embrace evolution and look to move with the times, rather than push against them. It’s led to some incredibly prosperous relationships with clients that have stood the test of time and now sees us as a stronger agency than ever before.

How do you recharge away from the office?

Well… as a team, we’re all fans of the local watering holes, as all agencies are. But we’ve also been known to frequent Topgolf, take on Tough Mudder courses, host curry nights and compete in bake-offs!

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What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives in the industry who are looking for commissions?

It comes back to what we were saying earlier about motivation; it’s all too easy to become disengaged as an aspiring creative. You’re looking for a foot in the door and that’s not always forthcoming.

Stay inspired, stay hungry and remember why you’re a creative. Take every pushback and every criticism in good faith, and use it to improve your work. We promise it will be pay off.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

That we, as an industry, don’t let instant gratification and reaction for the sake of reaction water down our creative. Even instant wins and social listening require thought and strategy. They all feed into the bigger picture and grander narrative. And, therefore, there is always always the opportunity to be more creative.

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