the showcase 2023

Striving to be the GOAT: Pablo's 2023

It kicked off the year being named Campaign's Independent Agency of the Year 2022 and more was to follow

By creative salon

It's an agency that always seems to be having too much fun. An agency that is making mischief. All while continuing to win pitches, collect awards and be decent, generous people that are hugely talented and big-hearted. Founding partner Gareth Mercer; Mark Sng, partner and chief strategy officer; ECD Dan Watts; and joint MDs Harriet Knight and Hannah Penn and their crew had a full-throttle 2023.

The agency won its first global piece of business with the Flora appointment following a pitch; bolstered its creative offering with the creation of a Creative Council and investment in creative talent; and Mercer ticked off his goal of the agency winning Independent Agency of the Year at the Campaign Awards. We asked him about the rest of his year.

Gareth Mercer, founder, on Pablo's 2023:

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Creative. Entrepreneurial. Fun.

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

Winning Independent Agency of the Year and Global Independent Agency of the Year are huge highlights for us. The reason for this is simple. It gives us an external yardstick for our progress and forces us to examine all the facets of our agency.

The latter has also brought with it a lot of global interest and as such we have grown tremendously in that area. Winning 5 new accounts that stretch beyond the UK, in as many months.

The focus for 2023 has been clear for us and will continue into 2024. Stretching and innovating our creative offering and spending as much time gaining an unfair share of humble people with market leading talent to get behind it.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

It's been a hard year for so many people. We are proud that the brands that we work for have used creativity to get ahead of their respective marketplaces. We continue to be backed by extraordinary marketeers who have worked with us to change the face of their categories and to lead it with confidence.

Some huge creative highlights for us include Flora “Skip the Cow”, Icelandair “Easy to stop, hard to leave”,Secret Escapes, Dr. Pepper “Be more weird”, Deliveroo hyperlocal restaurants campaign for “All on your doorstep", DFS latest what's your thing campaign and work for National Art Pass that used EEG headsets to monitor people's experience via their brainwaves; to mention but a few! It feels like the bar has continued to rise.

It's also been exciting to welcome some new creative partners, and to get the creative council firing. We are all so excited about the impact this is having.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

Balance and focus. In the creative world we too often hunger for peer attention and jump from one thing to the next like windscreen wipers. Pablo has a solid plan. We are very intentional about our growth, pace and ensuring we are creatively led. As agencies progress and more people want to work with them/for them, maintaining your focus is everything.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

The work. We have some fantastic stuff in development. We can't wait for the world to clap eyes on it and see how it responds. Beyond that we want to push the boundaries again and hit our next level with consistency.

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

There seems to be real momentum when it comes to surprising work at the moment. A focus back on ideas and creativity. Feeling giddy about what's possible. Things like AI have helped not hindered that. I’ll be greedy here and say we’d like that focus to grow more and I’d like to see new faces leading the charge, surprising our respective audiences with what they can do.

Creative Salon on Pablo's 2023:

Being named the Gold Winner in the Campaign UK Agency of the Year 2022 Awards category will have satisfied Gareth Mercer and his team but, never one to rest on his laurels, will have pushed him on to achieve more in 2023.

Certainly there were so notable hires - Pablo hired Dan Norris and Ray Shaughnessy, former executive creative directors at McCann London, as managing creative directors. Norris and Shaughnessy are part of the shop’s recently formed Creative Council, a creative management team that “discusses, improves and debates” all the work going through the agency and is headed by Watts. Pablo's investment in creative talent also included Will Bingham and Victoria Daltrey from Mother as creative group heads.

Gina Hood was promoted to the agency's first head of growth, a move that adds responsibility for driving new business to her role as client partner. There were also some satisfying wins - most notably Flora which handed it its global creative account following a competitive pitch. Playing on the global stage elevated Pablo to a whole new level. Its first work was for the plant-based butter alternative, having initially been appointed on a project basis. The agency also won P&O Cruises at the very beginning of the year.

Elsewhere Mercer (and partner Ben Kay) were able to show their passion for all things rugby with a campaign timed to coincide with the Rugby World Cup in France, a campaign for the Cabinet Office rebranded the UK as “The audacious Kingdom”, or “Les Royaume des audacieux”, part of the UK government’s “Great Britain & Northern Ireland” campaign.

For DFS it took customers on a surreal journey to find the perfect sofa in the latest chapter of its ‘What’s Your Thing?’ brand platform. It followed a woman on a surreal journey of inspiration, through rooms and landscapes showcasing a diverse range of other people’s ‘things’.

And Pablo's partnership with Deliveroo culminated in its Christmas 2023 ad that celebrates that at that time of year, our behaviour around food changes right the way through to Christmas as we enjoy our own festive food rituals.

With other campaigns for advertisers ranging from AJ Bell to Iceland via Visit Britain, Pablo showed in 2023 that it can turn its hand to any sector.

The agency also rounded off the year in December by launching the 'Pablo Living Wage', guaranteeing all full-time staff a minimum annual salary of £30,000 next year. This is in a bid to tackle both the diversity crisis in advertising and soften the cost-of-living impact for junior staff.

Creative Salon Says: The arrival of Ray and Dan provide yet more bench-strength to chief creative officer Dan Watts' team. It's been gratifying to see the agency operate over a wide range of advertisers across different sectors, always coming up with diverse creative and strategic solutions. And with the arrival of Flora its global ambitions are now full steam ahead. Watch out world - Gareth Mercer and his Pablo crew are coming.


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.