Prolific North Awards: Meet the Large Digital Agency of the Year 2019

David Prior's picture

Last year's Prolific North Awards was a successful one for Dept, who beat off strong competition to take home the Large Digital Agency of the Year award.

The Manchester agency's innovative digital work was celebrated in front of 700 people at the Victoria Warehouse.

This year's event is now open for entries, with the winners to be announced at a gala dinner on September 8th at The Point, Lancashire County Cricket Club.

Twelve months on, we've gone back to Dept to ask them to reflect on winning the award.

We spoke to Brian Robinson, Managing Director of Dept in the UK - see his answers below.

Inside Dept's Manchester office

Which campaigns or work helped make you Large Digital Agency of the Year?

In our entry, we outlined the innovative work our team is doing to merge creativity, data and technology to accelerate our clients’ digital reality.

We work with a huge range of organisations, from global enterprises through to local brands. From driving operational efficiencies with digital technology, through to launching brand campaigns and building ecommerce platforms, our multi-disciplined teams have the scalability and depth of experience to solve our client’s challenges, no matter how complex, whilst producing best-in-class, award-winning solutions.

For example, we developed a Sitecore-powered site and app for Formula-E that enables spectators to play an active role in the race’s outcome by boosting their favourite driver’s racing car through an online voting system during the race. This ‘FanBoost’ grants more horsepower by the number of fans a driver has.

In the creative field, we worked with global fashion retailer Lyst in conceptualising their campaign, ‘Find your Fashion DNA’ into an interactive quiz. The structure and narrative of the quiz were cleverly designed to compel users, prevent drop-offs and encourage social sharing. Using relatable, scenario-led questions with enticing microinteractions, Lyst was able to effectively gather lifestyle-oriented data to generate a better understanding of its users, based on their preferences.

Launching new websites, apps and campaigns are the cornerstone of the agency, it demonstrates our capabilities as a team, but for many clients it’s just the beginning of our partnership as their business continues to digitally transform alongside us.

Ascot is one of our longest-standing creative clients, and we’re proud to be part of the reinvention of its brand. Likewise, our long term partnership with Triumph Motorcycles has seen the brand continue to evolve its digital reality, pushing innovation and driving new customer experiences with personalisation, bike configuration tools and new ecommerce experiences.

Dept in Manchester

How proud were you to win the award?

Winning the Large Digital Agency award was a very proud moment for Dept. As a relatively new name in the UK digital scene, winning the award really indicated that we have a place on the map now. It’s extremely motivating to be recognised by the industry for driving innovation,delivering great results for our clients, and creating a company culture that our Depsters are proud to be part of.

Describe what made you a winning agency.

Dept is ‘large enough to cope, but small enough to care’, which sets us aside from some of the other global players in the sector. We all come from small agency roots and, despite our rapid growth, we’re determined not to morph into another corporate conglomerate.

  • Culture? At the heart of our ambition is our dedication to delivering the very best for our clients and our people. Our employees’ (‘aka ‘Depsters’) constant pursuit for digital innovation drives both our agency and our clients’ businesses, forward. We ensure they always feel engaged and rewarded with unrivalled perks and personal development opportunities. Open and fluid lines of communicating ensure our staff are empowered in their roles and provided with tailored opportunities to succeed. We believe in the concept of working smarter not harder, and the importance of taking time for teambuilding, as well as celebrating our achievements on both a local and global scale.
  • Approach? We utilise our full service expertise in multi-functional teams, with everyone aligned and working towards delivering the very best solution. Technology is often the enabler for our solutions, and we have partnerships with leading technology providers including Salesforce, Sitecore, Episerver, SDL, commercetools and Contentful. Having solid experience and expertise in how to maximise our clients investment in technology is vital.
  • Big projects? The Manchester team works with national and global brands, including Triumph Motorcycles, Johnson Matthey, Adidas, Ascot Racecourse, Playstation and O2, on projects ranging from creative brand campaigns, through to complex technology implementations. What makes Dept stand out, is our strength in multiple disciplines.We can solve complex business problems with digital technology, from opening up new revenue streams, to streamlining operational costs and digitising legacy processes (the more complex the better, as we like to flex our tech muscles). But we’re also an award-winning creative agency, launching brands both big and small. We can bring ideas to life, whether the desire is to scale up, pivot from B2B and D2C, or expand into new territories or business markets.
Inside the studio at Dept

What has happened in the meantime since winning Large Digital Agency of the Year?

Winning the Large Digital Agency of the Year Award with Prolific North set the stage for some big milestones. Dept has become more widely recognised regionally but also nationally, scooping awards for both our project work and agency. We won some fantastic new clients, including the London Marathon, and continued to grow the team and opened a new office in Leeds.

Shortly after that we moved into our new UK HQ in Bridgewater House. Uniting our teams that were previously spread across the city into one hub. The open floorplan authentically nurtures idea-sharing by encouraging casually collides within different departments. Having the space to collaborate, to concentrate, to experiment and to share ideas; all of this creates a happy, focused, innovative and motivated workforce.

Bridgewater House offered a blank canvas with an opportunity to make our new office completely our own. Our space is set-up for teams to easily come together, as well as welcome clients to partner with us. Dept’s start-of-the-art meeting rooms, hot-desking pods and brainstorming nooks accommodate a variety of work styles.

This award signifies Dept’s imprint in Manchester and expresses our commitment to using our scale and expertise to uplift northern England’s reputation as a global hub for design and technology. Additional actions following the achievement, are as follows:

We were the Digital City Champions at the 2020 Digital City Festival, and were ecstatic to have won the Large Digital Company of the Year at the Digital City Awards.

We open our space up in industry groups and regularly host meetups and events, aiming to share knowledge and strengthen the industry locally. Last year, over 1000 people from across the Manchester digital scene attended our free events.

Dept has signed on to be an ambassador with the Manchester Digital Futures programme; committed to sustaining a future for the Greater Manchester digital and creative sector through actively developing the region’s talent pipeline.

Dept partnered with Manchester homeless charity Coffee4Craig to provide a full brand refresh and new website, pro bono.

What advice would you give to people hoping to win a Prolific North Award this year?

Be authentic when sharing the story of your agency and the work that you’re undergoing. By being open and honest about what the business has trialled; explaining worked well and also what didn’t go to plan, you give the judges a better understanding of how the agency has reached the position it’s at now, whilst demonstrating resilience to various situations.

When writing the entry itself, think carefully about the categories you wish to enter. Then, relay how you stand out in a concise and straightforward way without too much jargon. Try not to leave it to the last minute, and give it the attention it warrants with input from various parts of the business to effectively communicate what makes your agency or project unique.

If possible, please provide a brief profile of Dept and feel free to shout about some of the best things about the agency and its other points of pride.

Hi, we are Dept - an international digital agency with over 1,500 experienced thinkers and makers working in 27 offices across 13 countries in Europe and the Americas. One agency uniting creativity, technology, and data. Helping our clients reinvent & accelerate their digital reality by creating experiences that people want and businesses need.

Dept is a truly integrated digital agency with the manpower, drive and expertise to collaborate with the world’s most recognisable brands. Our clients benefit from working with a single agency for all of their digital requirements, from strategy to technology development and implementation, through to data intelligence, UX design to digital marketing, and QA to ongoing consultancy and support.

Our UK key clients include Sony PlayStation, O2, Triumph Motorcycles, Formula-E, Bourne Leisure, Ann Summers and Johnson Matthey.