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#GettingToKnow Daniel Collins and his rocket ship to creative glory

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Daniel Collins is an award-winning content with other 7 years of experience in the industry. Currently Strategy Director at Rocket (specialist kids, youth and parent business) and Co-Founder of The Howl Creative (content creation for entertainment and music brands), Daniel has sat on multiple award panels from CMA to Social Day, featured on industry podcasts and spoke at marketing events for the IAB.

Daniel is also a content creator in his spare time writing and producing music that has been used for commercial purposes by everyone from Sky Sports to the BBC But that’s only scratching the surface of what this uniquely creative soul has to offer. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

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Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?

Being Strategy Director for a leading independent marketing agency means being agile is extremely important. Every day is not the same, whether it’s working on the leading Children’s book release to creating TikTok strategies for London Dungeons, it’s always varied in kids' marketing. My ‘typical’ day includes:

  • Leading the senior management team, conducting 1-2-1’s, development plans and having a positive impact on individual and company culture.
  • Lead the communications across key clients, ensuring we are offering advice, insight and innovation to their campaigns.
  • Speak with marketing professionals in a range of industries that want to best find out how to engage a youth, parent and children audience.
  • Network with other agency owners, marketing professionals and media owners within our specialist space.
  • Ensure we are delivering creative campaigns that match our brand values here at Rocket, whilst ensuring our client's objectives are being met.
  • Work on exciting new proposals with the team and make sure everyone has their content marketing idea discussed.
  • Identify key areas of improvement and innovation within Rocket and our key clients.
  • Implement and drive our company's value proposition and vision forward, ensuring this is at the core of our day-to-day communications and campaigns.
  • Work with our finance team to ensure that all the unglamorous business management elements get sorted!

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?

Getting into the industry was tough for me, I’ve always had a passion for marketing and advertising but when I was trying to break into the industry it wasn’t very accessible. I did not come from the most economically stable background and I applied to countless internships (unpaid mostly) where I finally managed to get a few weeks with BBH.

Unfortunately, it was unpaid and I was travelling into London and with other bills to pay it was unsustainable for me. The dream was not over and I pride myself on resilience in getting through. I managed to get a job in recruitment to pay the bills and continued to take my annual leave to develop my marketing and advertising experience with internships.

This enabled me to get a job at an independent media agency called Media Managers, although this was a 3-hour round commute, it was my first glance at my dream career, so I took it and worked for 3 years across multiple media channels and was the greatest foundation to running an agency I could’ve asked for.

Due to my personal challenge at entry level for the industry, I now want to change this and currently mentor Queen Mary University and WYK Digital to give students from lower socio-economic backgrounds experience in our advertising industry.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

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Creativity has always been running through my veins, having found music in my early teens I was obsessed with how a form of media can have such an impact on people. Not only that, when I was growing up it was the birth of social media and to think now our roles in social marketing did not exist 25 years ago is amazing.

It’s those key movements and shifts in pop culture that really got me thinking about marketing, whether it’s the movement of Punk (counter-culture) or the launch of MySpace (internet culture), marketing is always at the heart of it, either new technology or a new perception of culture.

What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

Biggest win: Our recent awards for the work with ‘The London Dungeon and Brook Charity’ in 2022. We won the Best Partnership award at the Performance Marketing Awards (PMAs) and the International Content Marketing Awards in 2022. It was a proud moment for me to see all the team's hard work and creativity be recognised on the big stage.

Biggest loss: Joining one of the ‘big agencies’ where It didn’t click for me and felt like part of a production line with very little creative challenge - it could be classed as my biggest win as I left this role for Rocket.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

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Rory Sutherland (VC, Ogilvy) is definitely instrumental in being a figurehead of inspiration in the creative industry. I remember first watching his TED Talk in 2014, ‘Life lessons from an ad man’ and his approach really resonated with me on how advertising adds value to a product by changing our perception, rather than the product itself.

Since then I’ve been lucky enough to see him talk live on a number of his other books and podcasts like ‘Alchemy’ and ‘Hacking the Unconscious. With any new brief or creative positioning, we always like to take that step back and see how we can change perceptions with our ideas.

If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?

Don’t think you’ll be a rockstar overnight - it took me until my late twenties to go on my first UK tour and get international/national radio play. Just enjoy having no responsibilities for a little bit longer.

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

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I’d like to think I’d be a full-time musician or working in a recording studio somewhere.

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

I want our industry to become more accessible for entry-level roles. I’m so inspired by some of the talents that I’ve mentored, and I feel that if we are able to create more accessible paths in our industry this talent can flourish.

What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?

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Stay curious, and always ask the question why. My team (if reading this) will most likely roll their eyes, but it’s true. Every brief, ask yourself ‘why am I suggesting this’ or ‘why should we do this channel’ it’s so easy to get caught up in the flow and sometimes it’s important to take a step back.

Storytelling is important. In a world where we have all the targeting at our fingertips, I’ve seen advertisers get lazy. Remember content marketing is about storytelling and with the targeting you have the ability to serve personalised stories through your content. We all can see through lazy marketing now so be creative, innovative, and personal.

What are your top tips for other creative leaders?

Delegate with confidence: This is one of the most important things you can do as a creative leader, have that confidence in your team. Delegating a project is tough, however, by you letting go and trusting your team their creativity will flourish. In addition, it will help your workload and fundamentally your enjoyment and passion for what you do.

Collaboration: Network with other leaders in the industry or for that fact other industries. I’ve been part of a network called 20:40 which is for future leaders from all other industries. This has helped me diviersfy strategies because i’ve got to know about different approaches. Network and collaboration can seem daunting but the more you share the more your skills will sharpen.

When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?

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Proactivity: Within Rocket I really like it when any team member has a passion for something, this could be an industry, channel, creativity or idea. When someone is proactive about something it shows passion and it really helps other team members become confident in sharing ideas.

This year our team were proactive about setting up the first TikTok BookTok Creator House and they pitched a proactive idea to the client which was an industry first. This got signed off and later went on to win awards. It’s this type of proactivity that matters the most to me, shows how we will always push the boundaries of marketing.

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

As mentioned above, anything by Rory Sutherland!

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