the showcase 2022

New creative leadership and a focus on staff wellbeing: Atomic's 2022

Distinctive creative highlights and new key hires bode well for 2023

By creative salon

Atomic celebrated its tenth anniversary this year with a refresh of its creative leadership team and the arrival of a new new-business and marketing director to move things up a gear.

It also moved into new premises in Farringdon as it's ambition expanded. It's chief executive, Jon Goulding, gave us a rundown of the agency's year.

Jon Goulding, Atomic's chief executive, on its 2022

What three words would you use to describe 2022?

Cathartic, Exciting, Revolutionary

Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

It was a big year for Atomic. Post pandemic we started to execute our big change plan to accelerate our growth. Proper investment in new creative leadership and talent was top of the list. Ewan Patterson coming on board as our Creative Non-Exec Director was a great signal of our intent followed by the appointment of John Cherry from Mother as our brilliant new ECD was a real coup. Working closely with Katy Sumption our social activation ECD, I’m super excited by what they’ll be able to achieve together next year.

We launched some great work for our clients this year including winning Campaign Ad of the Day for Papa John’s and marketing campaign of the year at the QSR awards, as well as coveted industry awards such as the Marketing Society business transformation award for Homebase and an accolade in the super tough integrated category at Creative Circle for Heycar.

A new building, new proposition and new branding gave tonnes of new energy to the team not least because we’ve been able to meaningfully create a space that people want to spend time which we all know is the magic but intangible extra ingredient for creativity. Something we know a lot of agencies are struggling with.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. But the agency leadership team have been superb this year. We have big creative ambitions for the agency but like all creative business endeavours it requires clear vision, drive, hard work, stamina and not settling for second best just because it’s quicker, easier and less disruptive to do so. With so much change this year and tough economic times, they’ve shown amazing resilience and drive throughout the year, and now from January we have the creative leadership to help reward that dedication.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

I’m sure like a lot of agencies, managing the pressure of a third year of economic crisis inflicted upon you by factors out of your control is not easy and it’s hard to get people to ‘go again’. And certainly not easy trying to help people improve their mental wellbeing in the process. This time around there’s genuine impact on managing sky rocketing costs at home for our staff. We’ve recently launched our 10-point plan to help our staff through this period. No agency can wave a magic wand, but we’ve got some meaningful ways to help all team members get through the tough economic times.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

Accelerated growth despite the economic downturn. Independent agency success fortunately is not beholden to economic trends. Our proposition of Brand Building in the Age of Performance has never been more relevant for clients and by being creatively disruptive with it, we’ll find growth in all sorts of places.

And it’s our creative product that will be at the forefront of that growth and I’m super excited about what the new leadership can bring. We may be 10 years old this year, but Jan 1st does really feel like a new Day 1.

And what one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

I think in general I’d love for industry commentators to start talking the whole industry up a lot more. There are so many exciting, creative, fast growth parts of our industry even if it’s not in agencies that were the growth machines of yester decade. If we started to hero and support the broader talent that are driving the growth in the industry at large, there would be a very different story to get behind. You’d see this industry being driven by entrepreneurial, diverse, creative talent that don’t need wider industry recognition to be successful but imagine what could happen if they got a little more airtime.

Creative Salon on Atomic's 2022

Atomic London didn’t rush to replace one of its ECDs, Dave Henderson, when he announced that he would be leaving at the beginning of the year. Instead it drafted in the respected Ewan Patterson as a non-exec creative to work alongside Katy Sumption, before selecting Mother’s John Cherry as his full-time replacement.

It was a typically considered move by the thoughtful chief executive Jon Goulding, and one that is designed to combine Cherry’s extensive brand advertising (his credits include the Cannes gold Lion winning “Smooth Originals" for Stella Artois) experience with Sumption’s expertise in performance marketing.

This marriage of brand building in the age of performance has held the agency in good stead – its creative highlights of 2022 included the return of the brand character Miles for East Midland Railways, a celebratory 25th anniversary campaign for founding client Star Alliance and some distinctive, modern campaigns for Heycar and Papa John’s.

Creative Salon Says: Having reached its tenth anniversary, Atomic’s schtick of marrying brand and performance looks more relevant than other – particularly as the two budget pots will have to work harder in what looks like an economically challenging year. And with its creative leadership in place, enhanced by the presence of the seasoned Ewan Patterson, and Victoria Sinclair ensconced as the new-business and marketing director, the agency can power ahead with its new business effort.


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