Agency interview with Paul Bridgeman, Vocal’s COO

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Paul Bridgeman, COO of Vocal was featured in the agency edition of Business Plus magazine, offering his thoughts on the future of digital, ideation, creativity and innovation.

See the full interview below:

PAUL BRIDGEMAN
Vocal

When Vocal was established about five years ago, it was definitely considered a digital agency. “We identified social media and mobile as key growth areas in Ireland and immersed ourselves in delivering this work for our partners.” says Paul Bridgeman, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

But things have changed in recent years. “Creativity and ideation has always been at the heart of our business and bringing creative strategy and concept development to our clients became more and more important.” explains Bridgeman. “Despite our strong heritage and perception in the market as though we were seen as guys for doing social media, web and app projects, our core strength lay in creativity. We identified the needs of our clients and built a strong team to deliver their needs. We know ideas are the cogs of any business, and that’s the direction we have taken with the business.”

Vocal’s clients include BMW, Mini, Dulux, Total Produce and Europcar in Ireland, Westfield shopping centre in London and Dutch software company Uniface. Bridgeman joined the company in April 2013. His previous experience was with head of automotive and healthcare at Google and working in New Zealand for Harvey Norman and a digital agency down there.

Under Bridgeman’s direction, Vocal has been moving up the value chain, becoming involved with the client even before the marketing brief is written. “Traditionally, in the Mad Men style of doing things, the client team would sit around a table, with their team and write a brief about something they required to solve a problem. They’d send that brief over to the agency, and the agency would come back with the big idea. We think that big idea is really important, and all kind of business success is based around that big idea, whether that idea is a product, a mindset, an advertising campaign, anything at all.

“We like to work with clients from the start, however, to help them figure out what the problem is rather than just being reactive to their brief. We learn the full DNA of our partner’s business to work with them on carving the brief. The solution may be a creative idea, a sales strategy or an approach to business. A response will always require it is still about that big idea and that’s what we try to focus on but understanding the problem is key before that creative process starts. If the idea doesn’t work scrawled on the back of an envelope the back of an envelope, it’s not going to work in a huge digital environment.”

In Bridgeman’s view, companies should be thinking about innovation rather than fixating on their digital presence. “Are we talking about websites, mobile phones, banner ads? Where does digital start and end? Innovation is about bringing creative thinking to the table, things like online experiences that can be matched offline or bringing that digital environment to a physical place.”

He adds that digital services are still a core Vocal offering and he expects a lot of digital growth in the future, albeit as part of integrated strategies that are both above the line and below the line. In this sense, with account wins like Europcar the digital upstart is moving into the full service ad agency territory.

Interview by Doug Casey. To read more, pick up the June edition of Business Plus.