Mark Stringer, founder and CEO of PrettyGreen, discusses why he set up his own agency, how it’s evolved over the past 10 years and reveals their most memorable campaign.
What made you want to set up PrettyGreen?
There’s a point in your life when you realise you don’t want a boss and that means you really only have one option, start your own business – or be an incredibly dysfunctional employee – and I’ve always wanted to run my own company, it was something that I always knew I was going to do from my early teens.
So when someone like Red Bull is asking you to set up an agency, alongside other people asking you to sit on a board, or be a non-exec, you have to embrace the opportunity and it felt like it was time to create a business to enable me to do all of the things that I had dreamed of doing.
Why did you choose to specialise in entertainment, sport and lifestyle PR?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent my whole career in these three arenas, and it just feels so natural to focus on growing a business around your passion points.
To be able to walk into a meeting with a client, and have both empathy, passion and experience enables you to build real trust and a connection with that client. They want and need you to be additive, to offer strategic counsel, but also to be able to deliver exciting campaigns that you create together.
What is the key thing PrettyGreen does which differentiates it from other agencies?
Although we’re a PR agency, our lens has always been different to most other agencies.
We have always been incredibly integrated in our thinking and delivery, which means that although you have a very sharp media lens for output, you need to have an incredibly strong strategic, insight and data-driven business model.
It’s not just about delivering some lovely coverage, it’s about starting at what the business problem is we’re trying to solve, and then building a plan and campaign around it.
How has the agency changed over the past 10 years?
I think we’ve naturally evolved as the marketing landscape has with social, influencers and digital being much more part and parcel of what we do.
But the area of our business where I’ve been a huge shift is in our consultancy and thinking. The planning and insights teams ability to really drive the brand agenda, to sit and lead at the top table. It’s not just about delivering creative campaigns, its about solving big strategic problems for our clients business with our creative outputs.
I’m forever sitting in meetings and am blown away by how our team use data and research to find a creative space for our clients, when historically it was all based on intuition.
What is the agency’s key focus when looking to solve problems for clients?
If you asked most marketing people to describe their agency of the future, it wouldn’t be an ad agency or media agency, it would be a PR agency.
The ability to create campaigns that truly get people talking, that tap into cultural zeitgeists or even create their own, to work with media, to be able to “boost it”, to be able to create advocacy programmes, work with influencers, deliver brand experiences and create and capture content that uses media in an authentic way. They are the problems that we’re solving for clients.
How to you look to demonstrate the ROI of your work?
We use the AMEC framework, but Jessica Hargreaves, our group MD, is chair of the experiential council looking to create standardised ROI frameworks for the industry, so we believe we’re helping lead a more robust industry.
After all, a PrettyGreen is an old £1 note, so for us it’s always about the money and demonstrating a return. The industry continues to shoot itself in the foot, hands and head, by not focusing on the commercial returns we deliver for clients.
Finally, what’s been PrettyGreen’s most memorable campaign?
It’s like being asked your favourite song, or album, so difficult. There’s an incredibly long list of work that I’m so proud that the agency has been involved in and I’m always grateful that people believe in us.
But, probably the early Red Bull projects as they gave us “wiings”, notably Robbie Maddison backflipping over Tower Bridge. As someone who has lived in London for so long, it was truly a life defining moment, alongside Stratos.
I remember so clearly the first time I was told that there was this project where Felix wanted to go to the edge of space in a balloon and do a jump which would see him breaking the sound barrier. Who doesn’t love being involved in a project like that (even if it did take four years).