When Tag hired Andria Vidler as its EMEA CEO, it signalled their intentions as a business. While adapting to the new reality of Covid-19, the production powerhouse has also been busy repositioning itself and overhauling the business model to better leverage the creative talent within it and meet the needs of clients in the content age. Andria is someone who gets the evolving media landscape. She’s worked at the BBC, Emap, Bauer Media, EMI Records and, until last year, was the CEO of Centaur Media (home of titles like Creative Review and MarketingWeek, as well as pitch consultants OysterCatchers).
In the ad industry, media and production have traditionally been kept at arm’s length but Andria has brought her understanding of the wider (and ever-changing) media landscape to bear as she has shepherded Tag through its levelling up. Having said all that, the world of production is not new territory for Andria – in fact, it’s in her blood. Her own father ran a production company.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Andria to find out about her vision for Tag, the industry issues she’s hoping to tackle and responding to Covid-19.
LBB> As a child your Dad ran a production company – growing up did you get much chance to see that world and did you imagine following in his footsteps when you were younger?
Andria> As a kid, I’d always love coming up to London with Dad and I’d help out whenever I could. I remember how exciting it was as a teenager, getting to know Wardour Street, and the brilliant feeling when I became confident navigating Broadwick Street and Berwick Street!
I was incredibly fortunate to be exposed to the creative industries at such a young age. I also used to work with my uncle who was creative director and one of the founders of PincusVidlerArtherFitgerald and then creative director at BBDO. That exposure, at a formative stage in my life, undoubtedly established a vision of what sort of jobs and careers were possible.
LBB> You’ve got a really impressive CV of leadership roles where you’ve turned companies and brands around. I was super surprised to hear that you haven’t been motivated by a sense of personal ambition necessarily – so what has motivated and driven you along your career and career choices?
Andria> I feel so grateful because I believe I have had some of the best roles in the world. As a result, I’m not usually thinking about ‘what’s next for me’ because I’m so focused on the day to day - working flat out and throwing myself all in to support my clients and my colleagues in a job that I love.
The one move I really did plan was my decision to complete an MBA a few years back, alongside my role at the time. It was a game-changing career move for me, and I am exceptionally grateful to the BBC for supporting that decision and making it possible.
LBB> How did you first end up working towards leadership positions? And how have you cultivated your leadership style and skills along the way? Did you have a clear idea of the kind of leader you wanted to be (or didn’t want to be) or has it been something that has evolved over time?
Andria> My first senior leadership role was as MD of Capital Radio. I had the knowledge and confidence of the MBA behind me, but I probably learnt most from watching how Richard Park made the business tick and how Courtney, head of security, was the man who was really in the know!
I believe that business strategy is only part of business success and that its execution is critical. That is why I enjoy reading, listening, and watching other operators and how they deliver, and I’ve been privileged to have worked with and learnt from some great female role models – people like Jenny Abramsky, Liz Forgan, Sue Farr, Jane Mccann.
I have always valued a straight-forward, honest and transparent approach from my bosses, so treating others with the respect and integrity, as I would wish to be treated, is really important.
LBB> What advice would you give to people making their first initial moves into management and leadership roles?
Andria> Be true to yourself.
LBB> What’s been your proudest achievement in terms of helping a brand or business achieve its potential?
Andria> A big strength of mine is seeing potential in something. That’s what I felt when I joined EMI, and I am so proud of the work we did to turn that business around and support the launch of so much talent. For example, I knew we had something special the first time I heard Emeli Sandé sing. Seeing her career take off during her time at EMI was special.
LBB> At Centaur you did a lot to evolve the business and reframe it beyond a traditional media business model – what were the big challenges you had to tackle and what insights or experiences from that process have really stayed with you?
Andria> Breaking free of the constraints of that ‘traditional’ model was key. Strengthening our ability to provide insight was a big part of this, and we massively upped the business intelligence part of our business and focus on marketing data. Secondly, running events was hugely successful. Using our power as a convener meant we could bring together an incredible roster of experts from across industries. That really added value to our offer.
LBB> What first attracted you to Tag’s proposition?
Andria> I was attracted to Tag because I recognised immediately its potential. I saw that Tag has incredibly talented production specialists across all marketing productions services, from retail to digital. It also has global scale. These two factors are incredibly valuable when we consider the realities of marketing production today, a landscape of complexity where content needs to work for many markets and for many channels - there are 50 recognised channels now! That is not an easy objective to achieve, but what I could see is that Tag offers an end-to-end service, under one roof, from creative all the way through to sourcing. This subsequently gives clients a coordinated approach where nothing is working in silo but as part of one team.
LBB> You said something great during our chat – that you wanted to turn Tag into a company that Steve Parish would both be really jealous of and really proud of at the same time. How do you intend to do that and what are the key areas that you and the Tag team are working on?
Andria> In terms of making Steve Parish proud, we’ve had some great client wins recently which reflects what we want to achieve for clients in terms of bringing together the many facets of their marketing production. For example, we have recently been appointed by GSK for a global instruction working with them to create a new production model which will deliver data-driven content at speed across all their platforms. We believe that this new model will shape the industry moving forward and it’s very exciting to have Tag at the heart of that development.
In terms of our key areas of focus, our aim is to be the preferred partner for brands and agencies to turn their creative ideas into effective campaigns and commercial success. As part of this objective we want to continue to empower Tag’s people to be advisers, planners and creators so they can help brands execute brilliant campaigns in any market, across any channel.
To ensure our services are easily understood and easy to access for our clients we have made three changes.
We have united the production teams across Tag EMEA and Tag India to bring clients scale and depth of service capability internationally, across print, digital, moving image, CGI, packaging, shopper, sourcing and project management.
We have brought together our production specialists and previous acquisitions to form Tag Collective Arts, which offers clients a comprehensive range of specialist creative capabilities.
We have also formed Tag Sourcing Network to help provide the goods and services needed to produce offline marketing materials from complex retail installations, to the facilities to print and deliver direct mail strategies.
LBB> You’ve come to Tag from a company that has some well-respected marketing and creative titles in its portfolio – I imagine that’s given you some really useful insight and perspective into how you’d like Tag to be perceived and portrayed. What are your aims on that front?
Andria> Something I’d really like to tackle is this outdated and unfair perception that creative production is an unsexy, functional part of the marketing industry machine. Smart creative production is an essential part of any marketing plan and is increasingly rising up the CMO agenda as budgets get slimmer and the pressure for content to perform remains high.
We have an enormous amount of creativity in our business, with leaders and teams delivering high-end content every day to help clients take big budget marketing concepts and cut them for every conceivable channel and market. That’s not easy! It takes a huge amount of work and insight, which we deliver on every day alongside, and often in partnership with, the biggest creative agencies.
LBB> And, of course, you ended up joining Tag during a period of disruption that no one could have predicted – how have you dealt with that?
Andria> Many leaders go into their first hundred days on the job with a plan for what they want to accomplish. Safe to say that, since starting in January, I’ve had to reshape a lot of those plans as a result of Covid-19!
But what CV-19 has shown is the incredible strength and capabilities of our team. We moved overnight to a model where we were relying much more on re-editing, animation, CGI and VFX in our work to help clients deliver content when in-person shoots were impossible. It brought to the fore the important role creative production can play in helping advise clients in the face of these very practical and business-critical challenges.
LBB> What changes within the business do you think lockdown has accelerated?
Andria> Our top to toe communication is radically different post-Covid. We now have monthly town halls across EMEA and our teams in India, which means I’m having direct conversations with around 1400 of our employees on a much more regular basis than ever before.
On the client side, we saw brands change their spend and allocation of spend as soon as lockdown occurred. Tag has become much more agile as a result. To deliver reliably for our clients we needed to work and flex more quickly than ever before. Also, working from home has allowed us to unlock the international levels of expertise in our business, linking our teams like never before one Tag team from Mexico to Bangkok, from Chennai to Australia.
LBB> You’re really passionate about supporting mums coming back to work (or I’d assume anyone coming back after a period off, for example caring for older relatives). Why do you think it’s been relatively neglected on the post and VFX side of the industry? And how can businesses help enable returners – both in terms of supporting their family commitments and also help get returners up to speed with changes in technology and platforms?
Andria> Having a work-life balance isn’t a nice to have, it’s essential. Businesses absolutely have to invest in a full re-induction programme to make sure staff are welcomed back to teams effectively. This is even more true in light of Covid-19, where things have changed so dramatically and quickly.
On the point about technology, working from home in many ways helps free up time from commuting and other quirks of office life. But I’m also very conscious that it can erode those work life boundaries and can put additional pressures on people who are caring for relatives or have childcare commitments. Just because VFX can be done from home, doesn’t mean employees should be up working at ungodly hours. It’s on us as leaders and managers to set the right example.
LBB> More broadly, what other issues would you like to see the production and post world address?
Andria> Sustainability has to remain at the top of the agenda. At Tag, we’re looking inward to make sure we’re doing everything we can to minimise our own footprint, and we also have an important role to play advising clients to help them reach their sustainability objectives. Our sustainability experts sit at the heart of our sourcing offer, and we are consistently and proactively suggesting greener innovations to help our clients minimise their impact on the environment when it comes to their marketing collateral.