What got me into marketing: Commercial Director

First off. Let me say straight away I didn’t have any desire to work in marketing. Didn’t cross my mind once. Sorry. When I was 16 and working my summer job rescuing sunken rowing boats on Hull’s East Park boating lake, I didn’t stop and think “Not to worry, one day I’ll be swanning into glamorous Don Draper style pitches, presenting a mic drop deck and then swanning out leaving jaws gaping in my wake…” Well, Don Draper didn’t exist back then, otherwise maybe I would have actually been thinking that.

From A Levels to adventures abroad

Anyway. I was always interested in Art & Design at school and they were probably the only subjects that I genuinely thrived in. I loved painting and enjoyed making stuff. Lots of my colleagues are probably thinking “Really?!” right now. I was rubbish at exams and traditional academic subjects – my attention span didn’t really suit it. Lots of my colleagues are totally agreeing with me now as they know what I’m like in long meetings.

After my A Levels, I saw an ad in the Hull Daily Mail advertising a Print Management course at Manchester Metropolitan University (Poly to the older readers) and decided to apply. After a few years of stereotypical student partying, I somehow managed to graduate and moved back home to decide what was next.

Turns out what was next was a year in America. First with Camp America in New Jersey, which me and a couple of mates left early in a blaze of glory (and leaving a small trail of devastation in our wake, a story for another day that) to tour the East Coast and get up to all kinds of, when I look back now, pretty ridiculous things. Eventually we settled in Queens, New York and spent a few months working in delis and waitering at weddings. We also went for a ‘soccer’ trial at a big New York University and were offered fully paid scholarships. We genuinely felt like superstars and were invited to meet the Dean of the college in his huge lakeside mansion. That was it, we’d made it!… Then we found out training was at 6:30am and decided it wasn’t for us. One of the only real regrets I’ve had in my life. After a few more months, I decided it was time to go home and head back to Hull. I mean, you would, wouldn’t you?

Starting out in print

I applied for a job in the newspaper which had originally advertised the Manchester Met course and spent the next two years working in reprographics. Basically, my role was to help build the pages – for all you youngsters out there, these pages were made by piecing together loads of different stories and pictures from paper called Bromide, like a big jigsaw. None of this computer business. In fact, I remember the day the newspaper first brought in desktop publishing and Apple Macs – a whole skillset was redundant overnight. Sad times, but that’s progress, I guess.

My boss then moved to Leeds to work in the sports division of The Press Association (PA Sport) and asked if I fancied a job there. It looked pretty exciting working purely on sport and I moved to Leeds to live with a couple of other mates from Hull. As it’s the next big city from my motherland, you get lots of us Humbersiders here in Leeds.

I spent a few years working purely in sport media, which was really fun and I got to attend loads of great sporting events. But PA decided to relocate to swanky new offices in Howden, which I didn’t fancy as I was enjoying Leeds, so I started looking for a new job. I’d started to get a little tired of working when sport is shown (evenings and weekends), so felt it was time for a change anyway.

Intro to marketing

I saw a few jobs advertised and went for a series of interviews for totally random roles, a sure sign I still had no real idea what I wanted to be. One of the places I went for an interview at looked pretty interesting, I liked the people and I thought “Right, let’s see what this Account Manager lark is all about.” My career in marketing had begun. Accidentally really.

I spent a while working on the Argos catalogue account, in the days when they’d print millions and millions of the things, before I started to get itchy feet again. I was headhunted by a small agency called Ripe Design. They had a pool table and a really cool agency culture. It was probably then that I decided I actually wanted to work in marketing and started to take it more seriously. I had eight great years at Ripe, learning a huge amount about advertising and marketing before eventually becoming MD. We genuinely produced some amazing work, far beyond our humble size and location, and I met many really talented people, some of whom I’m pleased to say I still work with now.

My finest hour at Ripe was when we found ourselves on a pitch list against Saatchi and Saatchi in Abu Dhabi. How on earth an agency of 20 people in Leeds found themselves in this situation was crazy. We won the pitch (what!?) which I still consider one of the greatest achievements in my career, and then spent a couple of years working on all kinds of glamorous projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the time it was all really taking off. Great fun.

Finding HOME

Eventually, I decided it was time for another change and after trying a couple of different roles, ended up back in an agency that felt more like Ripe had done. Smaller, with a great culture and producing brilliant work. The agency was called McGrath O’Toole and eventually became McGrath Rainey Laird (see what we did there? Why are so many agencies in the creative industry less than creative with their names?). Fast forward a few years and we started talking to Dave at HOME – after another year of discussions MRL decided to become part of HOME’s big happy family.

Six and a half years later and I’ve never really looked back. I’ve only stayed in one other place as long as I have here at HOME and that place also had what we have here, which is much harder to do with so many Homies. I guess what’s important to me is a great culture, exciting work, brilliant, talented people (both clients and colleagues) and a sense of freedom to do what you think is right, even when it might not be the easy choice. Oh, and there has to be plenty of time for a good laugh outside of the role too. I insist on this!

So, back to the original question. What got me into marketing? It seems to be a random series of often bizarre and exciting events unconnected to marketing in any way whatsoever. But I’m glad I got here.

Written by:

Sam Rainey Commercial Director


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