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As part of The Drum Network’s mission to share our members’ expertise with the wider world, we’re happy to present the latest in a series of our 10 questions with... series, this time featuring insights from Jamie Tinsley, group chief executive officer at Spark.

What was your first-ever job?

It was a long time ago… in a customer service role at a premier print, packaging and creative business in Lancashire. This gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn about the very fabric of the business, all aspects of the supply chain from initial brand concept and design to structural engineering of the packaging, estimating for value production and ultimately manufacturing. After all that hard work, being able to see a product our teams helped launch was the icing on the cake.

Close to 30 years on, I feel very fortunate to still be part of that path to purchase journey. And now, whether it be a huge digital and physical outdoor advertising for Netflix or those very special packaging and retail displays for Disney, that overwhelming feeling of excitement being a critical launch partner to brands remains.

What is one piece of tech you can’t live without?

I don’t think any of us could live without access and connectivity to the good old smartphone, especially now during this pandemic. Digital access has been a lifeline for many.

That said, having gone from constant business travel to now being ‘home office’ based and the newly blurred lines of ‘living at work’, my tech of choice is Sonos and the ability to stream my music in every room – and to be able turn the volume down in rooms occupied by my two daughters when it just gets too much.

Which industry buzzword annoys you the most?

Right now it would have to be ‘the new normal’. The truth is, we are always evolving, nothing is nor has ever been ‘normal’, we just adapt, we change, we learn, we prosper and we move on. The only thing now that has become considerably more apparent is that ‘crave for convenience’ and the overwhelming need for ‘time flexibility’.

So, if a clear positive to come from today’s challenges and the ever-evolving times we now live in is a new level of flexibility, increased convenience and a considerably enhanced path to improved sustainability, it really does have my vote.

What recently caught your attention on social media?

The ‘Weetabix and beans’ viral campaign definitely caught my attention as it did for many millions of others. Anything that can strike a balance between creativity and believability while provoking healthy debate is a sure-fire winner.

But what resonated most was how it visually represented our business’s attitude and approach. At Spark, we live and breath doing things differently to make a real difference for our clients. Reaching into the ’too hard’ bucket is our daily mantra. Many of our employees (including myself) dove into the Weetabix and beans combo challenge – it’s true, the pictures are posted on my LinkedIn page. Even tastier with a poached egg and lashings of brown sauce… you should try it.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

This remains to be the privilege and pleasure that comes with leadership; seeing those people in and around the businesses I have been involved in really grow, develop their skills and tackle new and even greater challenges than they ever thought possible. Being passionate about engagement and the health, safety and wellbeing of all those in our organisation, it remains incumbent on all of us to stay laser-focused on safety and wellbeing.

We need to give people encouragement and the ‘safe space’ for creative thinking, risk-taking and open communication. We should all be thankful that the ‘command and control’ style of leadership prevalent in my early years in business is absolutely long gone. Today, our ability to embrace diversity, inclusion, risk-taking and communicating regularly, enables individuals and teams to adapt far quicker in a safe and productive environment.

 What poster did you have on your walls as a teenager?

My aspirational poster as a teenager was a Porsche promotional advert. It told me that Porsche had spent years developing a great race car… so I could have fun driving to work. As a young teenager, I didn’t have a driving licence at the time nor a job that I could actually drive to. But that poster and the dream I had to own that Porsche car remained; and now I do, and have the experience of driving that Porsche to work, it always serves to remind me that hard work, dedication and a focus on what really matters does indeed pay off.  

What, in marketing, needs to change right now?

We all know that the pandemic has accelerated fundamental and irreversible shifts in consumer behaviour. We also know we have to ‘build back better’ with a clear focus on sustainability – how quickly can brands truly adapt to talk directly and consistently to their customers in a digital-first environment will be test enough for most. Can these businesses really deliver brand consistency and a level of efficiency at both global and local levels? If not, market erosion is inevitable for them.

Our responsibility as agencies, as a collective, is to have the ultimate aim to be disruptive, be seen as innovators, extol the virtues of sustainability and help our clients transform at warp speed. This is why I am so very proud of everybody at Spark. Their continued passion and drive to be brands’ launch partners in a digital-first environment is exemplary.  

What is your favourite ever film/album/book?

Sure, a popular choice;

Shawshank Redemption. Sure, a popular choice, but ’why?’ I hear you ask. (As if it needed a why.)

For me, this film underlines the overwhelming need for hope and the craving for a safe environment. The thirst for freedom is clear for all to see. It is the epitome of ultimate resilience, and the profit of change is palpable. Throughout this film the prosperity that comes with true diversity is clear. And finally, that deep and meaningful engagement always wins through.

Ring any bells regarding the ongoing challenges of today and the inevitable opportunities that this brings? For those brave enough to embrace it, an irrepressible outcome will be created.

What industry events can you not afford to miss?

A clear benefit in the world of today is that we just don’t have to miss any critical events right now. Technology has enabled everyone to join them virtually and from home. But personally, I really do long for the return of true ’face-to-face engagement’, the ultimate energy that is created and the groundswell of innovation and creativity that personal contact and group collaboration always shapes. This is one the Zoom aficionados will never be able to fix, ever.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Focus on the ‘big rocks’. Your own big rocks, and your business’s big rocks. And differentiate the truly important from the merely urgent. Dealing with what really matters, tackling the big-ticket items and avoiding unnecessary distractions has and does stand the test of time.