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CreativeRace’s new Director on moving to Yorkshire and the agency’s consultancy driven strategy

Victoria Aspinall, Strategy Director at CreativeRace

CreativeRace’s new Strategy Director Victoria Aspinall on joining the agency, moving to Yorkshire from London and how the agency is embracing a consultancy mindset.

“We’re at a really exciting time,” she told Prolific North, as she revealed the Leeds-based integrated marketing agency’s marketing consulting strategy, which is set to launch soon.

Back in December, the agency appointed Victoria Aspinall to lead the development of the agency’s strategic proposition – and she is keen to highlight how it will evolve the agency’s offering.

Prior to joining the agency, she worked at Deloitte as a management consultant. “I’ve had a very squiggly career which was a great grounding in strategy,” she said, “but after a few years I realised I really missed that customer-focus.”

With a passion for discovering what drives people’s behaviour, she jumped over to the marketing world and “never looked back”.

Spending most of her career based in London, she has worked with global and independent agencies with her most recent role based at global growth consultancy Clear, which is part of creative company M&C Saatchi.

While she is currently commuting from London up to CreativeRace’s Leeds office, she is set to make the move up to the North for good in March.

With relatives living in Manchester and her partner’s family based in Leeds, her decision to move up to the North was one that was both personal and professional.

“Aside from the role, there is an energy to the region,” she explained, “I think there’s a huge amount of energy coming from the North but Leeds is probably the hub of it.

“That dynamic growing agency scene is something that is really exciting to be a part of, so being a part of that at the start of that journey is something that was really appealing,” she said.

The “energy and genuine passion” of CreativeRace is what steered her towards joining the agency as she found the “ambitions and the growth trajectory of the business” to be compelling.

The team at CreativeRace.
The team at CreativeRace.

Consultancy mindset with data and insight at its heart

Delving into the debate between consultancies vs agencies, she outlined the new strategy of the agency is to move towards a more consultative approach in how it provides advice to clients.

“You’re seeing this real merger of the two sides where both have realised that actually there’s things we can learn from the other way,” she explained.

The agency works with a range of clients for various brands in different sectors including Greggs and ASDA.

In a bid to take a deeper dive into its work and relationships with clients, she said it is propelling the agency to “act more as consultants”.

“It is quite refreshing. It’s a different way of doing things,” she explained.

To do this, she said “really digging” into a brief and utilising tools and technologies to comb through data “pulling out the insights” for clients is what drives results and impact.

“You have got to have that rigorous consultancy mindset which is grounded in data and insight at the heart,” she added, with the agency’s own proposition “data and insights led”.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to deliver brilliant creative output that’s really backed by that rigorous strategic thinking,” she explained.

Whether it’s diving into brand, performance or a communications strategy, it is all about “getting under the skin” of the needs of clients to be able to offer “considered and thoughtful advice” to drive impact.

“That is where the next evolution is particularly for CreativeRace but also I think we will see a lot of agencies going in that direction.”

Expanding role of CMOs and evolving marketing strategy

Pointing to the existing marketing landscape, she explained the agency’s new consultancy mindset is further cemented by the expanding role of Chief Marketing Officers (CMO).

The responsibilities managed by CMOs and marketing departments have “really expanded” from their traditional outlook and are becoming “much more increasingly concerned with broader business aims”.

From now overseeing anything from growth, business, culture and shareholder impact – their role has started to merge with more of a consultancy outlook which has “affected where the demand is for clients”.

She is keen to cement the agency’s proposition with its wider brand strategy, business strategy and marketing strategy by helping clients, CMOs and marketing teams “across the whole journey rather than one end”.

CreativeRace team
CreativeRace team.

“Marketing strategy will always be at our core, that is what we do and that is what we do best, but it’s also using all those tools that we mentioned about data and insight,” she said.

The agency is keen to strive towards more of a focus on working to “help clients with those really messy, meaty, knotty business and brand problems as well”.

“Whether its a CMO for a massive global business or a family run start-up that’s looking to scale up – the challenges are often quite consistent,” she said.

She said the agency will be shifting towards helping clients not just with marketing but with further ambitions and goals from brand strategy to how it can help with product innovation.

“It’s about taking everything we’ve got and just pointing it in different directions to help clients with what’s on their mind,” she said.

Emerging technologies, 2022 and beyond

“Very much on the radar” at CreativeRace is the “massive surge” in emerging technologies, she said.

Brands are increasingly seeking to “become more inventive” with technology, from enhancing QR codes to working with behavioural science to explore how technology “can encourage” or “nudge” consumers.

She said while the agency has not had any specific conversations with brands on the use of NFTs, “that’s not to say that we haven’t got thoughts on how to best use NFTs and what it means for brands”.

“We are keeping a close eye on it,” she said, as the agency is embracing new initiatives.

“We’re at a really exciting time,” she said, “we are investing a lot in the business”.

The agency also appointed Tori Lorence as Client Services Director in December – with the pair tasked with helping the agency with its ambitions to invest, support and encourage creative talent in the region.

One of the initiatives already announced, is the agency’s partnership with Channel 4, aimed at supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Yorkshire into creative careers.

The agency will be one of a number of Leeds-based companies offering eight-week work placements as part of the new initiative, offering training and support to the young participants.

It comes at an ideal time for the agency as she explained it has a “brilliant leadership team of pace, so we’ve got lots of great minds, great people coming in”.

“Hopefully we will see over the course of this year really cementing our proposition, what we stand for, doubling down on that and real growth,” she explained.

Looking towards the future, she hopes there will be more work with “great clients, great challenges and a lot of fun!”

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