Mark Stringer, CEO of PrettyGreen, explains the agency’s Year Zero focus and why it didn’t make a song and dance of its 10th anniversary.
When I look back over the past 10 years, am I proud? Absolutely.
Do I think we’ve achieved everything as an agency that I thought we would? Absolutely not!
It’s one of my big flaws. Nothing’s ever enough, no matter how many wins, how many accolades, it’s never enough. We could have and should have achieved more.
It’s what drives me, it’s what keeps me awake at night and the energy that I personally harness to try and maintain the agency’s momentum, to evolve and remain fresh.
And it’s partly that sense of nothing being good enough as to why I wasn’t interested in celebrating what we had achieved, alongside the truth that clients don’t choose their agencies because of how old they are, the birthday party they held, or the “we are 10” marketing collateral they sent.
Plus most of our staff weren’t with the agency 10 years ago (some of them were still at primary school), therefore it didn’t really mean anything for them.
I was much more interested in trying to use it as something that everyone could get behind for the next 10 years. Something that could be celebrated as a bit of a mantra or philosophy to build on.
The “Year Zero” mindset
From this mindset, something called “Year Zero” was born.
Over 10 years we’ve built up a wealth of experience with our team, an amazing portfolio of work, alongside an amazing array of clients (Nando’s John Lewis, Audible, Nintendo, Virgin, Under Armour and Red Bull to name but a few).
But therein lies the danger. There’s a tendency to become bureaucratic, even lazy and fat. To have moved away from the very essence that drove the PrettyGreen in the early days.
In those first few days and months when we were based in Red Bull’s office and we were beginning to embark on this crazy journey, we had some pretty simple rules:
- Anything’s possible – no matter how impossible it seems. Be invincible, even as the underdog. Fight because you believe in it, and don’t worry about how small you are. You have more right than anyone else to own it.
- Cut through it – move at lightning speed and have a fleet of foot soldiers (no bullshit, no hierarchy, no layers). Get the team round one table and cut to the chase. Take the client with you on your amazing journey. But get shit done.
- The small things matter – care passionately about the small things for ourselves and our clients. Whether that’s the welcome pack for a new member of staff, or remembering a client’s birthday.
- Love them for who they are – work with clients because you genuinely like being with them, don’t worry about the money, it will come. Clients aren’t about collecting logos on a page, it’s about doing work that gives you a sense of achievement.
- Stand and deliver – focus on delivering exceptional work that you’re proud of. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, don’t worry about anything other than delivering work that you think is amazing and exciting.
- Have some style and grace – it’s not about winning. It’s about how you play. Rise up above the industry politics and bullshit and act with integrity because you care about the people around you. You can’t win every time, but you can try, and when you lose or draw, know you’ve done it in a way which enables you to sleep at night.
- Recruit people for the perfect Christmas lunch – would you want to sit next to them at our staff Christmas dinner? If not, get them out the room quickly. But also recruit people who compliment you, are different, and bring something to the party. After all, clones are quite boring.
- Seek out life defining moments – we’re in marketing for God’s sake! That gives us permission to do things most of our friends can only dream of. If we don’t dream of conquering the world when we’re young and naive, when can you?
How Year Zero drives the business
Now we ask the following questions and we drive our business accordingly:
- Are we behaving like we’re in Year Zero?
- What would we do in Year Zero?
- What makes us feel like it’s not Year Zero?
It’s become an exciting and forward thinking ideal, and something that’s not just about marking a moment in time.
Welcome to Year Zero.