Meet our Director of Creative Services

With our recent announcement of the exciting expansion of our creative division, we could not wait to get beneath the bonnet and learn about the journey our new team have been on and what really makes their creative minds tick. We caught up with Phil Dean, MBA's new Director of Creative Services and founder of Certain Ltd.

Phil, welcome to the MBA family! Can you give us a little taste of what we can expect to see from Certain?

Big things I hope! We are very excited to be let loose on some of MBA’s clients and show them what Certain can do for them. We are already having some very promising discussions and we’re only a month in!

That's great! What was it that drove your decision and attracted you to join forces with MBA? 

We were keen to partner with a complimentary business that allowed us to offer our entire creative package at scale. MBA has fantastic mature relationships with great brands, and I could ‘Certainly’ (excuse the pun) see our services completing the picture and becoming the heart of MBA’s extended offering.

Tell us a bit about your journey and how you came about founding Certain. 

In 2014, my wife and I moved to London from Leeds for a bit of adventure! I’ve worked for various agencies over the years and finally decided that I wanted to establish my own agency and do things the way I wanted. I surrounded myself with great people, which is the secret to success in agency world.

We roll our sleeves up and get on with it. We create and we make, move quickly, making decisions based on instinct and experience. We are bold, purposeful and our work is never the same.

You mention that you have worked for agencies in the past, but how did you land yourself in the industry in the first place? 

I started life as a graphic designer, back when that meant getting your hands covered in ink and marker pens and, consequently, I’ve always loved the creative process — from initial concept through to the finished thing.

Frustration led to me eventually getting in front of clients, which I firmly believe is invaluable experience for any designer. I really enjoyed the progression of creating the work and then selling it in. Little did I know then what that would lead to.

You say it was frustration that led you to getting up close and personal with clients, but how has the experience kept you there? 

I love the diversity of the clients we deal with and how you go down the rabbit hole and get fully immersed in the most randomly enjoyable way. There is no other way to do it either, you have to fully engage with a business to do great work for them and grow the account.

As a young graphic designer who did you look up to and who influenced your approach? 

Creative role models would have to be famous designers like Saul Bass or Alan Fletcher, who set the ideas bar very high indeed. I love what Jony Ive did at Apple with his incredible product design. I’m usually more interested in other sectors and people who have innovated and completely changed the game. Steve Jobs would be a great example of someone who relentlessly pursued his goal at all costs.

And what would you say is the thing you are most proud of achieving in your career? 

Moving to London and building Certain from scratch, alongside a great team of people. We have won awards over the years and whilst it’s nice to get the recognition, it’s seeing amazing creative work going out of the door for our clients that really makes me smile.

Can you recall a specific project you were really excited to be working on? 

Our first proper big job at Certain was an on-air branding exercise for Sky Arts, Sky One and Sky Atlantic. It was a serious piece of work to deliver for a fledgling agency, but we all rolled up our sleeves and delivered the work, on time.

If you hadn't taken this career path, what would've been your dream job? 

I am doing my dream job! My day job is running an agency in London, the best city in the world for creativity. And in my spare time (what little I have) I’m an urban sketcher.

What advice would you give to someone looking to embark on a career in creative services? 

Go to art college or university and learn about stuff. There is a logic to getting into creative industries early, but I think people that have come from a wider creative education background bring more to the table and are therefore more attractive to agencies.

What have you found to be a common challenge clients have asked you to help them address? 

That is a really hard question, because every challenge for us is different. But the general theme of most briefs is about how to articulate brands effectively to all audiences, using the right channels and delivery methods.

2020 as we all know has been a challenging year! What do you think we can expect from 2021? 

Covid has made a big impression on the creative industry. Over the past 12 months we have seen agencies having to adapt to the new normal of remote working and creative collaboration. Creativity is all about working together as a team to deliver great work and remote working is a major challenge. I would expect this to continue where practical, but I see face to face collaboration will be the big trend for creatives. I also think the working from home scenario has fundamentally shifted the dial on client relationships, making them more informal and relaxed. The bubble has been pricked and I see a continuation of this when we’re back in the workplace.

Any pearls of wisdom you would like to share with anyone looking to make use of a creative agency? 

Do your homework. Understand their work and their ethos and meet them early on in the process, get to know them because fit is everything. Most agencies are comparable in terms of the work they do – but it all ultimately comes down to the chemistry between client and agency.

I think lastly, what better way to close off this introduction then for you to sum up what creativity means to you. 

Creativity for me is about solving problems and adding value. It’s about delivering tangible results and enabling real change!

If you would like to learn more about how we can help bolster your teams or compliment your existing agencies with our creative capabilities give us a call on 0208 376 4300 or contact us at Phil and the team would be happy to help.