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The female-founded production agency that pushes social boundaries | #CompanySpotlight

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Be The Fox is a production agency who works with Samsung, Huggies and Bulldog. Diana Ellis-Hill, ex BBC, who now is Co-Founder and Director at Be The Fox, is passionate about creative that challenge stereotypes, empowerment for women and offer real representation in categories often overlooked such as automotive, healthcare and FMCG. 

Diana started her career making documentaries at the BBC, including the BAFTA award-winning Horizon and the RTS award-winning Wonders of the Universe. She chalked up 12 years' experience before making the leap into the world of brand content and setting up the female-founded creative content agency Be The Fox, with Megan Price.

Diana now combines her deep editorial and storytelling experience with high-end production values to make authentic, memorable films for brands that are built on compelling narratives to drive maximum audience engagement. She has also been heavily involved with creative work around London Pride this year.

To learn more about the agency and how it was able to thrive in an incredibly competitive market with zero external investment, we spoke with Diana about everything from her background in documentary filmmaking to the future of the creative industries.

How was your company born and where are you based?

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We were born after Meg (my co-founder) and I met while working at the BBC on the BAFTA-award winning documentary series Horizon. I came from a documentary background and Meg had been working in features, formats and comedy TV.

She convinced me that brands would be the new broadcasters and she was right. We started making social films for brands and over the last nine years have expanded to be a full-service creative agency – always with film at its heart. We are based in Brighton.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

We scaled the company with no external investment, so we’ve always had to hire as the company’s turnover grew. This has meant we haven’t always had a huge resource available when each new project comes in.

We have to judge whether the new business is an upward trend or an outlier and it isn’t always obvious! I think we have been more cautious than others, but that has probably stood us in good stead during these uncertain times.

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

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Early on we were making content for Samsung through their agency Cheil Worldwide, when the creatives came up with an idea for an Advertiser Funded Programme for Samsung. The team at Cheil knew we had a background in TV and asked if we could get a show made and broadcast.

Bringing together our extensive network of connections in TV we were able to develop a format and get a prime-time commission on Sky 1 for The One’s To Watch from Samsung Launching People, which featured Idris Elba, Paloma Faith, Rankin and Gizzi Erskine – as well as overseeing all elements of casting, production and delivery.

It was a huge achievement with incredible results for Samsung – and even a Broadcast Award shortlist for Best AFP.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

In 2022 we created work that pushed social boundaries with brands like Hertility and we believe next year we will tackle more social issues, breaking stereotypes, and challenging preconceptions through creative work. Fortune favours the brave, and we are starting to see more brands being brave and seeing the reward from consumers.

Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?

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When we get a new creative brief, we bring the whole team together to brainstorm. Whether they are a creative, a social strategist, or a junior editor, we feel that multiple different perspectives lead to unique work that cuts through. We ensure our team have diverse perspectives and our process is inclusive and non-hierarchical.

With the prominence of new platforms and features, we find different members of the team might have a key insight that others wouldn’t have, due to where they spend their time on social or the subgroups and interests that they have.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

We have a weekly ‘Foxy Finds’ where everyone in the company submits some creative that they’ve loved that week. We share them round the team, then share the top three with our clients for some inspiration!

Making a difference with our work keeps us motivated too, our recent experiential campaign for the St Martin’s Lane Hotel for Pride involved every single member of the team on the shoot, through the edit and at the event and made a difference to the LGBTQI+ community we are very much a part of.

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

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Covid 19 has meant we’ve had to remain agile. We’ve had to re-work our process multiple times to ensure we can still work under the physical circumstances as well as the financial ones. We have been lucky enough to continue to grow during covid and I think that is because our business is about creative problem solving for our clients, so we have just applied it to ourselves.

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

We love agencies who are doing things differently. Not just the creative work, but how the agency works. Our heroes are agencies like Joan Creative and Mojo Supermarket – ensuring diversity in the team and shaking up the industry rules and standards, to create exceptional work.

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

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Collaborate with other small agencies who specialise in compatible skills. It means you can have a wider offering for your clients, while keeping your overheads low and prices competitive. We have learnt that being open and sharing knowledge with others definitely pays back when you need expertise and advice!

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

We reach out to companies who share a similar ethos to us as we find these are more likely to lead to projects. If we have made similar work beforehand, that helps, so we send relevant work to decision makers and ask if we can share more of our work and services with them.

Referrals and repeat business are a large part of our turnover, so ensuring our clients are happy with our work is incredibly important to our on-going growth.

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

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We love it when the creative work we produce makes an impact and we are so proud of the brands we work with and the messages we deliver. I hope that the industry keeps being brave and uses the platform we have to share positive messages that change perceptions and inspire people.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

We are members of the Female Founders Scale Up programme through Creative Enterprise, which offers mentoring and business advice to women-owned screen-based creative companies. We have also just been accepted onto the Creative Enterprise investment Accelerator- Evolve. 

There are lots of opportunities and resources for creative businesses here: https://www.wearecreative.uk/support/creative-enterprise

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