Experiential Marketing Agency | Creative Director

by Julian Briggs on 14/08/2018 0 comments
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Creative Agency Recruitment | Pyramid Resource Solutions

The recruitment of a Creative Director, for a boutique experiential agency, who would support & facilitate the founders retirement exit…

The recruitment of a Creative Director, for a boutique experiential agency, who would support & facilitate the founders retirement exit…

This assignment combined several areas of our expertise, including succession planning and senior appointments. We were engaged by the Founder, and Managing Director, of a boutique experiential marketing agency, to recruit a Creative Director. Capable of not just the creative direction and output of the agency, but also the running of it.

Most recruitment case studies paint a picture of a smooth, perfectly executed assignment. Whilst I’d love to tell you nothing ever goes wrong, it would be a lie. This assignment had more than its fair share of hiccups!

Experiential Marketing Agency | Creative Director


This was a new client win. Having researched the experiential marketing agency, selecting them as a prospective client of interest, we wrote to introduce ourselves. Consequently adding the agency, and Managing Director, to our database. Following our introduction letter the Managing Director began receiving our occasional marketing.

After a few communications from us, the MD was impressed by the multi-disciplined talent profiles featured in our communications. In short, he called to find out more about us, and also to discuss his recruitment requirements.

The MD wanted to recruit a Creative Director. However, during our discussions, it was apparent his requirements were more than just recruiting a Creative Director. He also wanted to retire. As a result the MD wanted the new Creative Director to help formulate his retirement exit strategy. First of all to take over the day to running of the agency. Additionally, the possibility to take over the ownership in the future. Alternatively, trade it on, building up the agency, for future sale.

Experiential Marketing Agency | background

The Experiential marketing agency had been founded by the Managing Director over thirty years before. He’d established it as a leading experiential marketing and communications agency. Operating from their studio in Shoreditch, London, the agency serviced an international client base.

The creative agency were recognised for cutting edge, creative design, as well as delivery and management of experiential marketing and brand activation campaigns. Offering a turnkey service for Exhibition, Events, Visitor Attraction and Branded Environments. The agency’s services included conceptual design, technical design, specification of materials and finishes. They also managed the entire process post design. This included evaluation, selection and management of manufacturing and installation contractors. Project managing the activation, including installation and post install management.

At the time of our engagement, the agency turned over c£2M. They had a creative team of eight, plus freelancers. They also had several administration support staff. In the past the agency had been bigger. Both in terms of turnover and headcount. However, the Owner had scaled the agency down in recent years. This was due to his pending retirement.

In summary the Owner had created a sound platform, for the new creative director to take over, and grow the agency again.


First of all the owner and I had preliminary phone consultations, before arranging a meeting at the agency’s Shoreditch studio. Struggling to get our diaries to sync, we eventually found a date. The meeting was booked for several weeks in advance.

In our haste to get a date in the diary, neither of us realised we’d arranged the meeting for the opening day of the London, Olympics.

Creative Agency Recruitment | Pyramid Resource Solutions

“I’m much better at recruitment than I am at time keeping!”

I arrived two hours late! Worse still I’d been stuck on the underground, unable to call to warn I’d been delayed. At least until I was back above ground.

After apologising for being so late. Joking I’m much better at recruitment than I am at time keeping. Luckily the owner saw the funny side and was totally understanding.

We continued our discussions, formulating the brief and discussing how we’d approach the assignment. Providing input to help mould the owners thoughts, we discussed his options for exiting the business. This was vitally important to clarify. It would form part of our brief, influence our search requirements and the qualification of possible candidates.

During a break, I was given a tour of the studio, and the opportunity to chat with some of the creative team. This was great, and helped me get good insight into the studio setup, and the agency’s culture.

Finally the owner and I went back into our meeting, finalised the brief, candidate specification and our terms of engagement.


The owner had had previous dealings with the so called leading players of creative recruitment. Those, who unlike us, are based locally in London. Hower the owner felt the majority of recruitment agencies talk about the amount of candidates on their database. In his opinion, he felt these agencies recruitment strategies relied on advertising or passing candidates popping in for a chat.

Having first been impressed by the range of talent featured in our marketing communications. Above all, the MD liked our proactive approach to sourcing talent.

In contrast to other recruitment agencies, what the owner liked about our approach, was we talk about sourcing the best talent for the role. Using proactive talent attraction and acquisition strategies. Rather than just offering the best talent on our database.

As such we were engaged to run a full search, integrating head hunting alongside all other recruitment methods.

Creative Director | recruitment brief

The Owner / MD fulfilled the role of Creative Director. Therefore to retire he needed to find his replacement. As a result he needed to recruit a creative, with 2d and 3d design capability, to direct the creative team. They also needed to be capable of taking on the running and management of the agency. And possibly have the desire and means to purchase it in the future.

The Creative Director brief required a multi disciplinary conceptual designer. As Creative Director they would be responsible for all creative output, client services, and growing the agency’s sales revenue.

It was imperative that candidates were innovative. Both in terms of creativity and use of technology, materials and products, to create bespoke high spec solutions. The creative director would need to be strong on 3d and 2d design. They’d also need solid technical understanding of design and build processes.

Additionally potential candidates needed to be business savvy. Capable of the commercial aspects of running an agency.

Finally we’d also need to screen, and qualify, candidates for the potential future purchase of the agency and / or their willingness to grow the business and sell it in the future.

The assignment

Most recruitment case studies tell the story of a smooth, perfectly executed assignment. Whilst I’d love to tell you that nothing ever goes wrong, it would be a lie.

Recruitment is a complex process. When you’re working with people, situations beyond your control can occur. Our recruitment process is designed to foresee and minimise risk. 99% of the time it’s effective. However, sometimes you can only control the controllables. People have minds. They also have lives outside of work, and external influences. As a result, occasionally, despite all best efforts, a spanner gets thrown into the works. As I’ve already intermated, this assignment hit more than its fair share of complications along the way.

To summarise, the first candidate we sourced was perfect. Experienced in branded environments, museum, exhibition and other design disciplines. The owner loved them and discussions progressed to the early stages of an offer. However, we were aware that the candidate had applied for an MA. They thought the odds of being accepted were slim. Needless to say, they were successful and could not decline their MA opportunity. As a result, this ruled them out of the Creative Director role.

The search continued.

We went back to the drawing board and continued our search. Head hunting another potential candidate from a competitor of the agency, we thought we’d found the solution. Lighting doesn’t strike twice, right?

Unlike previously, we were caught unaware. At the offer stage, whilst negotiations were underway, out of the blue the candidate was made an offer they couldn’t refuse. A senior position at a large agency, and the opportunity to relocate to the APAC region.

“All went very well on Friday and I have made the offer. There is also the very genuine wish for there to be the opportunity of a management buy out should (name removed) prove as successful as I believe he could be. Many thanks for all your help Julian”


As a general rule our recruitment assignments run smoothly. If they didn’t I wouldn’t be writing about the issues faced in this assignment. I would have written the case study, excluding the first two candidates from the story, and just skip to our success. However during the recruitment process, sometimes curveballs are thrown in. First of all I believe in honesty. Secondly I’d like to think this demonstrates our commitment to delivering results for our clients. If at first we don’t succeed we’ll try, try and try again.

In the space of five months, from initial brief to the start date of the new creative director, we had sourced several candidates for interview and three candidates that were offered the position. Had things worked out differently with the first candidate, we would have have delivered results within weeks.

This assignment was more than just the recruitment of a creative director. When you factor in three offers, the first two of which didn’t go the distance, and a three months notice period for the one that did. Whilst it wasn’t perfect, I think this assignment was worthy of a case study.

To conclude the Creative Director joined, built up the agency over four years. Rather than forming an MBO he and the founder successfully sold the business to a larger agency.

This was the desired outcome for the owner and therefore success.

*NB. This case study has been updated and reposted.

If you’d like to find out more about us or discuss your own requirements, feel free to get in touch

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