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My Biggest Lesson: Kit Rowcliffe

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Kit Rowcliffe on championing your team and celebrating what makes it different

My Biggest Lesson: Kit Rowcliffe

Managing partner Kit joined the burgeoning team at Hot Icarus in early 2021. Charged with bringing a fresh approach to the studio’s industry outlook, his focus is on developing and maintaining how it stands out from the crowd, as well as growing relationships with new and existing partners alike. Sitting at the intersection of Creative and Production, Hot Icarus has recently completed work for the likes of adidas, Foot Locker, Otrium, Seat CUPRA and Aston Martin. 

‘What is your biggest lesson?’

When answering that question, I became acutely aware of serving up ‘knowledge’ from my own experience through some sort of conceited ‘let me learn you a thing or two young man’ filter. It didn’t sound like me. What image should I be trying to create? To try and replicate what a wise old ad exec might say to his mentee? I would rather keep quiet. The truth is, I haven’t been in the advertising industry for 30 years, with the scars to prove it. But that’s sort of the point. None of our team have. And whilst there are certainly times I wouldn’t mind a few more grey hairs to lend me wisdom, I also believe that’s what makes us… us. So, I decided instead that a whistle stop tour of why we started and how we operate was the logical way to draw out the best of what I’ve learnt in my journey to date.

As a team, it dawned on us quickly that we wouldn’t get very far trying to mimic what’s already out there. We also knew that really wasn’t why people were starting to come to us anyway. Our partners were coming to us for a fresh studio experience. 

It felt quite counter intuitive to celebrate that at first. We thought to ourselves, if we’re on the more youthful side of agency life and there’s not many of us listed on the website, will that make us look amateur in some way? But we decided to embrace it, instead leaning into our authentic identity as a hungry collective of talented, multi-disciplinary creatives. As a result, we have been able to stand on our own two feet and offer a different perspective to brave brands looking for a new outlook post pandemic that, whilst we would be naïve to think is totally unique to us, can be hard to find. 

We also found these clients wanted similar things: open collaboration vs. heavy process, holistic thinking vs baton passing between departments, a shared passion in what they were aiming to accomplish vs. the most readily available resource; and, of course, the elusive and tricky to price - creativity. 

Underpinning everything, we like to think we have a not-so-secret superpower. One hard to come by when you operate at a scale that demands a lot of bums on seats, all spread across various client scope. We call it ‘building the perfect room’*. And by that we mean connecting our customers to the next wave of jaw-dropping creative talent currently changing the way creativity is harnessed globally. We don’t need a recruiter to find them, we don’t need to put up an ad on our LinkedIn or Twitter to draw them in. They are woven into the way we operate as a business and the network grows organically. What I find even more exciting are the doors that opens into a rich and exciting vein of energetic, diverse personalities, which in turn enables us to make at least a partial stride toward a powerful but often hackneyed claim – the ability to tap into culture. Positive changes in which it seems are led, more often than not, by that very same wave of innovative, energetic up and comers we’re dying to rub shoulders with.  

Our network exists of a wide array of people from all walks of life, bringing all kinds of talent into the room for us; many of whom are established creative studio owners or entrepreneurs themselves. Something we’re not only proud of from a personal perspective but that we feel strengthens our offering enormously. The mindset being, if you want the most driven and creative people on your brief – surely a team made up almost exclusively of founders and entrepreneurs isn’t a bad start?

We approach each project with a blank canvas and only the essentials when it comes to team and process, before building the perfect room around the brief. It’s important to us that we can offer our clients flexibility and unshackled collaboration that stretches beyond being available for a phone call out of hours. And, for the most part, I believe our clients enjoy that style of working as opposed to closed agency meetings that can rely on big reveal moments to wow and amaze the client before taking the project back behind closed doors. Of course, we’ve had our fair share of blunders along the way, and there are certainly some that prefer the more traditional approach – but in those cases we simply aren’t well matched… and that’s fine. 

So, what are the lessons in all of this? For me there’s two that stand out: the first is to back yourself to be yourself. I believe it’s the key reason we’ve been able to grow. The other is to always trust the talent in the room. They are the greatest asset we have, and I am humbled on a weekly basis by the solutions our network come up with; irrespective of if it’s strategic, conceptual, or logistical. They just need the framework to do what they do best.

Afterall, our industry will always be subjective but if it starts from a position of authenticity and empowerment then we believe great work will get done. 

*I should caveat that we aren’t the first people to use that term, but we sure as hell love it.

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Hot Icarus, Wed, 20 Jul 2022 09:16:48 GMT