meet the MD
What it's like to be MD of NCA: "We're building something new"
Meet New Commercial Arts' first managing director Hannah White
14 February 2023
When Hannah White became the first managing director of New Commercial Arts in January this year, the appointment was a clear signal of NCA's ambitions for 2023.
White has stepped up at the young independent agency just as it turbo charges into an exciting new business melee (the agency recently resigned its Halifax account to give it the chance to work with Nationwide) and transitions from start-up to proven established business. It's going to be a very busy year for the agency that turns three this Spring and White is more than ready for the ride.
She joined the agency 18 months ago from Lucky Generals after a stint in New York as client partner where she helped set up the new office. At NCA she's been overseeing the Halifax and Vodafone accounts and driving new business. Previous roles at The&Partnership and Brothers & Sisters, spanning strategy and account management, helped hone her business nous and NCA co-founder James Murphy says she has "that rare combination of strategic, creative and street smarts".
So what's is really like being the first MD of NCA?
Creative Salon: You are NCA's first MD, having previously been its sole managing partner. How has your role changed?
Hannah White: It’s more time spent on the big opportunities and inevitably the challenges when they arise. And I now occasionally get asked to write in industry publications and have a fancy black and white power pose photo.
What are your prime responsibilities?
I work across lots of client business including Halifax and Vodafone, as well as looking after new business.
You've spent most of your career working for independently-owned agencies. Is there a reason?
At the start of my career, smaller agencies with more agile ways of working immediately appealed. I liked the idea of being able to have more impact versus being swallowed up by a big network. As I’ve continued on, the autonomy independent agencies affords has been continually motivating.
How has NCA changed since you joined nearly two years ago?
In short, we’ve grown in all sorts of ways. Over the time I’ve been at NCA we’ve gone from 30 to 75 people, winning accounts like Paramount+, Nando’s, Alzheimer’s Society, Peugeot and Tu. Along with making some of our most exciting work during this time, we moved into our first permanent space in London (we already have a studio in Glasgow) and developed new ways of working that bring together communications and customer experience seamlessly.
And what are your ambitions for where it goes next?
I’d like to see us continuing to grow while keeping what makes us NCA - a collaborative group of people with brilliantly different skills. We’re not bogged down with a legacy of process - we can work quickly and bring a wide range of skillsets together to get to bigger and better ideas.
Did you always want to work in advertising and if so why?
I always loved writing - possibly making me a frustrated copywriter - and so wanted to be a journalist. I gave work experience a go, but found the job quite isolating; it’s an obvious comment, but I was sitting at a desk writing by myself. So I wrote off to other jobs in “media” and got a two week placement at CHI & Partners [now The&Partnership]. I loved the environment, even with all the many competitor reviews.
What do you enjoy most about NCA?
Two things: First and foremost the people; sitting and talking about ideas with this talented bunch of people is an absolute pleasure. Secondly being part of building something new - not just a new agency, but a new model that brings together communications and customer experience - has been a challenge and a big motivation.
Describe your typical day?
We’re fully flexibly at NCA, so I often start by taking a few calls from home. I’m a big fan of our office in Warren Street, so most days I come in for meetings… and the snacks (shout out to Rosie & Audrey for catering to my 400 allergies). Days are usually a mix of client meetings, writing decks, and sitting on sofas talking about whether our next idea should feature an animated pig or dog.
What piece of work are you most proud of from your career to date?
The Paramount+ launch campaign ‘A Mountain of Entertainment’ - an amazing agency and client team effort. Re-creating the other side of Paramount mountain with nine celebrities including Uma Thurman, and shooting in London, LA and Snowdonia, was one of the most complex productions we’ve ever worked on. The campaign has now run in over 15 markets after brilliant domestic results.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to join the industry?
It doesn’t matter what you love - TikTok, a new brand, an old brand, a TV ad, an app experience - but be ready to talk about it and why you love it. There is nothing more exciting than talking to someone, particularly someone new to the industry, who brings their own excitement into the room.