Russ Lidstone, CEO Euro RSCG London: Our biggest priority is creating ideas that deliver effectiveness and a return on investment

Creativity, Digital & Media, Marketing

Travelling to work by tube, listening to iPod, catch up with the press, read emails, check Twitter, then client meetings, internal meetings, pitch reviews and finance budget meetings but also catching up with the team. These are only a few thing Russ Lidstone has on his daily agenda. But, also, as he mentions, “no two days are the same and that’s what makes my job the best job in the world”.

Russ Lidstone is CEO of Euro RSCG London and started his career as planner at McCann-Erickson in 1992, working on a range of accounts, including Sega.  In 1995, he changed agencies and started working for  Butterfield Day Devito Hockney , where he worked for accounts such as multi-award winning Harley-Davidson, The Guardian and Sainsbury’s. 

From 1998 to 2003, he worked in agencies such as HHCL and Partners, than Lowe (where he worked on Tesco account and won, as Head of Planning, awards including such as Advertiser of the Year, IPA Effectiveness, AME Effectiveness, Campaign Press, D&AD Creative and Marketing Society Effectiveness) and JWT. In 2006, Russ Lidstone joined Euro RSCG as Chief Strategy Officer, becoming agency’s CEO in 2008.

After winning a new accolade for Dulux and just before the start of this year’s edition of Cannes Lions, where he is member of the inaugural jury of Creative Effectiveness Lions, Russ found some time to answer a few questions for

About Euro RSCG, clients, inspiring people and the usual business day

1. How does it feel when your creative works are appreciated all over the world? (I am talking here about Dulux, which just got accolades at Clio). Do you expect some Lions for Dulux campaign?

It’s a great feeling when your work is appreciated by the business community, peers and consumers around the world. It is very nice for our work to be recognized, but the really lovely thing is that we’re winning awards for Dulux “walls” a range of categories from viral, to PR, to social media and integrated – as well as advertising and craft. Perhaps the most satisfying is TED “Ads worth spreading” because this was on the basis that the content and idea has value.

Our biggest priority is creating ideas that deliver effectiveness and a return on investment, but if they win awards as well then that’s a nice bonus!

Find the 2 minute director’s cut of Dulux “walls”
2. Your agency is one of the most renowned agencies in the advertising world and you have a very appealing roster of clients. What do the clients look for when they come to you?

I think clients work with us for a number of reasons…

Great ideas, integrated delivery with digital at the core, excellent strategic thinking, best in class execution and production, commercial results and a decent team of people…

Of course multi-national clients such as RB (Reckitt Benckiser) need us to have a very strong network and global reach (we are part of 233 offices worldwide in 75 markets), whilst local clients such as Comet need us to be highly attuned to our home market.

I believe that as the communications world becomes more complex the fact that we are uniquely integrated with all disciplines under one roof and one P&L means we can deliver cost and operational efficiencies, but more importantly ensure that a client’s marketing communications is joined up and complimentary. Ultimately I’m lucky to run an agency full of talented and nice people and I think clients and prospective clients recognize that.

3. What do you have to do to inspire people? What’s the secret? (I saw you’re on the UK 100 most inspirational creative leaders, so i do think there must be some secrets there ;))

I don’t think there’s a secret.  My job is to try to get the best out of the people in our agency, so I try to treat people as I wish to be treated – with respect, honesty and humility and I try to demonstrate through action how important it is to do a good job. This is a personal as well as a professional thing (I personally hate making mistakes and I hate losing!)

I think it’s also important that people working with me see me leading from the front and trying to do the right thing. I try my best, work hard and try to recognize where I can add value for people and clients. But as much as we work hard, I believe we should also enjoy what we do – that’s why I like us to have a laugh and a few beers every now and again.

4. Can you tell me how your work day looks alike?

Well every day is different of course – for example today I spent the day in Berlin where I attended our Euro RSCG Global Management Meeting.
When I’m not travelling I try where possible to have breakfast with my family and get to the office by 8am. I travel to the office on the tube which enables me to listen to my IPod, catch up on the press, read my e mails and have a look on twitter. I get a lot of my news content from twitter in the morning and end of the day (@russlidstone)

Much of my day is taken up by client meetings, internal meetings and reviews, pitch reviews, finance budget meetings, catch ups with members of my leadership team, and business directors. I generally leave the office at 8pm unless I have a client dinner and I always try to go to the gym twice a week (keeps me sane!). But no two days are the same and that’s what makes my job the best job in the world.

New advertising world, digital and strategy

5. What do you think about the new advertising world? Did the proportion of media used in campaigns modified? What is the mix of media you prefer for your campaigns?

The advertising landscape is more challenging yet more exciting than ever. Every day sees new developments in what’s possible for us as professional communicators. The channel mix is changing significantly – but this means that more than ever, there is a need for great ideas and great content.

As a uniquely integrated agency, at Euro RSCG London we don’t have a preference on the media mix – but because we offer PR, search, digital, above the line, social and digital all on one P&L (not hampered by traditional group cost structures and models.) The benefit of this is that we can offer the best solution for the client’s objectives. With channel strategy at the heart of our agency, we look at the best channels and mix of channels or competencies for the job.

6. How much is now digital in a campaign? How does digital help an agency to better express its ideas?

Today “digital” is not really that easy to define – it is a channel that pervades all aspects of the marketing communications landscape and that’s why it’s at the core of our agency – not some kind of bolt-on. A greater proportion of marketing communications spend is going into all aspects of digital and in many ways it’s a start point for the development of our ideas now –  whether they be advertising, CRM, PR, search or social media related.

There are many exciting aspects of “digital” including are the increased opportunities to create and disseminate long from narrative such as our new Chivas Regal 25 film through to monitoring and engagement across social media channels. This is why we have invested significantly in bleeding edge technology and best in class talent for our full service social media capability the Cupola Lab.

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7. What about strategy? How important is for an agency to have a strong strategical approach?

As a former planner I think it’s critical. But aside from what I think, I know that clients value strong thinking and want it at the heart of our offering for them.

On competitions’ criteria and what do you need to do to prove creative effectiveness

8. What are the criteria an agency should take in consideration when it aims to compete in international competitions? How is Euro RSCG London deciding which works are to be submitted in festivals?

Great ideas, well executed with an interesting and effective use of channels. Mick Mahoney our ECD has very high standards so we only enter work we believe has a chance of doing well.

9. You’re going to be a member in the inaugural Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness Jury. What do you expect to see as a juror?

Well it’s going to be interesting for sure. We’ve already done some preliminary judging to derive a short-list from approximately 140 papers and there are some very good cases in the 35 or so papers that I’ve read so far, but there is also some room for improvement. I think the big thing I, and my fellow judges will be looking for, will be a demonstrable impact – not only in terms of consumer reaction on social channels, but shifts in brand metrics and most importantly real evidence of commercial effect. It will not be enough to assert results and the papers that do well will isolate the impact of communications versus other factors e.g. distribution – but also show a strong return on investment for the client.