Market research agency Spark was founded in 2007 and has offices in Leeds, London and Dublin.
It was set up by Justin Healy and Julie Angus, and works on a range of consumer, business and social research projects for clients. Alongside Crunch, Lucre, Ponderosa, Boxharry, Videmus, Evolution and Unicom, it forms part of the Audience Collective.
Sectors Spark serves include entertainment, finance, FMCG, and health and wellbeing, delivering strategic insights for the businesses it works with.
We found out how a recent week in Justin’s life looked.
I start Mondays at about 7:30am with a quick flick through the morning’s headlines on several news apps as well as Twitter. Recently the news has been so hard-hitting, – with firstly COVID, followed by Ukraine – that it’s a habit I’m trying to break.
A quick scan of Slack to see if anything important needs my immediate attention and I’m up. I know it’s a nice lazy start but, as you’ll see, it’s about as lazy as the week gets.
My teenage twins leave to catch their bus shortly afterwards, leaving just the one child still in bed. I extract him from his slumber, make sure he gets ready and – having had breakfast together – I take him to school in the local village. We live perched on the side of the Wild Atlantic Way so on a pleasant weather day it’s a great place to be.
I drop my son at school, walk the dog, and make it back to my home office. Monday for me is all about setting the tone for the week. As Audience Collective now has offices in so many locations, it’s important that we catch up and make sure we are all on the same page early in the week.
My first meeting every week is a walk-and-talk heads up meeting with other senior members of the Audience team. That’s then followed with a similar walk and talk meeting with the Spark team.
By 11am I am back in the office with 10,000 steps done. The sweet satisfaction of a Garmin Buzz already achieved! The rest of the day involves various trading meetings across the Collective as well as a couple of my 1-to-1s. These are all via Zoom (how did we cope without it?).
I finish at about 6:30pm on Mondays as, for my sins, I’m pretty heavily involved in our local rugby club. On Monday evenings I train the under-11s. Last week it was rucking technique. I love this time of the week – it’s great to see the kids develop and get so much fun out of it.
The remainder of the day is family time before retiring with an enjoyable book. Current Read is Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’, although I tend to have three books on the go at any one stage. Lights out at 11:50pm.
Tuesday is a busier day as I am usually travelling. This means getting out of the door at 5:30am to make it to the airport on time for a flight at approximately 8:30am. I typically find my way to Leeds or London but, as the months go by and Audience Collective grows, the list of destinations gets longer.
We recently planted our flag in both Dubai and Los Angeles, and will soon open in Sydney, Australia – the sun never sets on Audience. One of my primary jobs is ensuring we get the best service for our clients by making sure they get access to the right people in the right agency.
You might meet Audience Collective via Spark, but perhaps you need a chat with our PR guys – it’s just trying to lighten the client burden. We have lots of great specialists who are always happy to have a chat.
I arrive at the office – Leeds feels like a home away from home by now. I love to catch up with the team there and get under the bonnet of what they are working on.
I am still a Marketing Exec at heart, and I love working on brand challenges. A nice juicy segmentation? Count me in!
I know it may sound trite, but I genuinely am enthusiastic about marketing and feel very fortunate to have studied and worked in it for the last almost 30 years – where does the time go?!
Lunch is a miso broth in Kirkgate Market and a walk around the city – usually accompanied by someone from Spark or another team within Audience. I like to walk and talk.
The afternoon is filled with new business conversations or knee deep in financials depending on the time of the month. That evening I head out into Leeds for some food and a catch-up with clients or colleagues. Leeds is a great city to socialise in, in my opinion. Back to base – lights out at about 11pm.
I jump up and get to the office early, well – just – before 8am. I like the peace and quiet before everyone arrives and it allows me to get myself mentally ready for the day.
I’ll spend about 15 minutes listening to a YouTube video of my man, Tony Robbins. After that I’m ready to walk through walls.
I’ve recently started using a Remarkable2 Notebook and well, if you know, you know. They are an excellent way of organising the week and having everything ready at your fingertips. I review the day ahead and prep what needs prepping.
Typically, this involves some client desk research ahead of a client meeting; some internal documents being written ahead of our internal board meetings or cross-agency catch ups or working on some of the Sparkies’ own performance plans.
I am immensely proud of the agency that we have created at Spark. When Julie and I set it up in 2007, we were adamant that we would be better than the rest, one step ahead and I can honestly say that with the help of all our Audience Collective colleagues we have achieved that. Then again, I may be very biased!
I leave the office at about 3pm to do the return leg. This usually means a listen to the David McWilliams podcast – it’s economics but accessible – followed by Desert Island Discs, my guilty pleasure. Home by 8pm. I pick my eldest up from rugby by 8:30pm then back to see what I have missed whilst I’ve been away.
Thursday is typically spent working from home and is a combination of Audience Collective meetings, client meetings and planning sessions.
It’s my least active day and usually results in a solid 700 steps having started work at 8:30am and finished around 6:30pm; usually with a call into the LA team before I finish up. 700 steps? That’s what dogs are for though, isn’t it?
I take Indy, our loyal and daft Border Collie for a decent walk along the seafront. He loves it and it helps to get me out of my head. My wife may accompany me if she is not off at pottery class or perhaps the kids will decide it’s a good idea.
Either way, rain or shine, the walk is good. As anyone reading this who has kids, will testify it is times like these that we can really get to know them best.
I love asking my youngest questions such as: “If a spaceship arrived in your class and had to zoom one person up to space, who would you like it to be? Why is that?” Or for the older ones: “What was a great thing that happened to someone else in your class today?” Indirect questions that always yield results.
I know I am blessed with my lot though. We head home and usually tuck into a box set. As a family, we’ve nearly finished watching the complete Friends series. The kids seem to get as much fun out of it as we do, and it raises some issues quite subtly which is great.
My wife and I might watch something after that – perhaps with a glass of wine – but I try to avoid any alcohol Monday to Thursday, building credits to be spent at the weekend! The last thing we watched was Inventing Anna on Netflix. Once you get over her accent it is quite good – she was very much a Frank Abagnale Junior character from Catch Me If You Can. Bed by 11:30pm.
I like to bring the energy on a Friday, so that the weekend just feels better. However, I avoid most meetings.
I will turn off Slack and Outlook and work on whatever projects or plans I’m cooking up. As a team we try to avoid meetings after 4pm on any day of the week and we all want to be done and dusted by 3pm on a Friday, and home doing whatever makes us happy.
It doesn’t always work out that way of course but we do try, so please don’t ask us for a meeting Friday afternoon. During the summer, Friday afternoon is for golf. I think it is a legal requirement!
I live very close to a nice links course so I’ll meet the same lads I’ve been playing with for years and we will head out for 18 and a pint in the 19th afterwards.
I find you can achieve an awful lot Monday to Thursday if you know you’re playing golf on Friday afternoon. One day I’ll get to be good at the game too – I’ve been saying this for years!
It’s really the banter and banal chat that you can only have with real mates that works for me here. Very little work talk.
Friday evening is directed by the family but usually entails a decent curry, beer and – depending on the time of year – a movie or a walk on the beach.
At the weekend I might as well place a Dad’s taxi plate on my car. I coach rugby again and I may get to see Connacht play but other than that it is driving kids to discos, matches and mates’ houses. It’s exhausting but I wouldn’t have it any other way. One day I’ll look back and miss it so for now I just get on with it.
Spark has been on a mission to use true understanding of human behaviour to drive consumer insight for 15 years now. As part of the Audience Collective, we get the opportunity to take that mission global and with some seriously talented and likeable sidekicks. Some day I’ll sit back and reflect on the journey, where we got to and how – but for now the marketing geek in me just wants in and wants more.