Nick Cummins (left), creative partner at The
Royals believes our industry needs more agencies, and next week at
AdFest 2019, he's giving a talk explaining his passion for start-ups,
and why it is easier to start an agency from scratch rather than change
an old agency.
Cummins has started two independent advertising
agencies in Australia - Sputnik Agency and The Royals - and both have
grown to become multi-award-winning, culture-led businesses. He sold his
first agency to a white-collar criminal who ended up in a Columbian
prison charged with fraud - one of many anecdotes he'll share at AdFest
His career spans 30 years in both traditional and
digital agencies. Since launching The Royals seven years ago as creative
partner, it's grown into an agency of over 80 people across Sydney and
Q> The Royals has a very distinctive mission: to be
the most interested agency in the world. How did you arrive at that
mission and what impact does it have on the work you create for clients?
to be the most interested agency in the world is a huge part of our
culture. It is something I think our industry has lost along the way. I
love the legends of great advertising people from the '60s going out to
factories interviewing the makers of a product to get a better
understanding of how to market it.
So being interested in our clients' businesses, products and consumers
is nothing new but incredibly important. But 'most interested' goes
beyond that - it is a healthy interest in pop culture, community
sentiment, platforms and channels that we can use to make connections
with our audience. Finding people who are personally 'most interested'
helps our business and our clients' businesses immensely.
Q> Do you really think the world needs more advertising agencies? Why is this the topic of your ADFEST session?
of course the world doesn't need more advertising agencies, but I
believe our industry desperately does. I also believe if new vibrant
creative, intelligent, businesses pop up and flourish with people who
come to work to solve problems in new ways, we may find some of them
might just help solve some of the problems our world faces today.
Q> Can you tell us a little about The Royals - what was your vision seven years ago at launch, and have you stayed true to it?
a business is easy, sticking to it is difficult. For us, starting The
Royals began with a conversation at the pub about what kind of agency we
felt Australia needed at the time. I went home that night and told my
wife I was going to start another business and we would probably have to
sell the house. She is very supportive, my wife.
Our vision was
to create an agency that sat between large multinationals that are good
at strategy and storytelling and digital shops that are great at
understanding new platforms and technologies. So we started collecting
the kinds of people who get modern communications and we are still
collecting them today.
Yes, I believe we have stayed true to our
vision. We try to look at the agency as an operating system. We are
constantly making updates and improvements and I think being independent
makes that easy. We don't have to ask New York for approval to change a
process or try something different. It helps us avoid falling into the
trap of just doing things the same way the industry has for the last 50
Q> The Royals hired 40 people in 2018. What are the challenges of growing so rapidly?
And remembering everyone's names. I'm shit with names. Creating a
culture together is one of the most exciting things to be a part of in
any business. If you get it right, it is rocket fuel for an
organisation. So managing culture while having rapid growth is
incredibly important. Like rocket fuel, if you don't have a tight grip
on the wheel things can get wobbly.
Q> The Royals now has its
own research and development lab, as well as a CX division. How has this
impacted your own creative process or improved the agency's work?
two skill sets are a great example of how we have stuck to our vision
of creating a truly integrated and modern agency filled with a very
diverse group of people. Even though we call them a department, they
work in true collaborative fashion with the broader agency.
CX division was born from being 'most interested'. Listening to our
clients, it became clear this was something they wanted to channel
energy towards. Our CX team is knocking it out of the park at the
moment. Advance Party, our product research and development lab, has
been part of our agency for the past few years. It has its own dedicated
space within the building. Having this mind set and skill set enables
us to solve problems for our clients that normally wouldn't come to us
in the form of a marketing brief.
Q> What do you look for when you're hiring creatives?
me, it is about finding interested entrepreneurial people. I have seen
individuals shape independent agencies. Tapping in to that passion that
someone has can create incredible momentum for the agency. We have
revelry as one of our three values. If our staff are revelling in what
they love to do, if they are hustling and shaping the agency, it makes
things exciting and creates growth for the agency and all who live
Q> What's your proudest achievement - professional or otherwise?
think being part of starting two successful agencies that people talk
highly of would have to be something that makes me proud. Creating an
environment and atmosphere that people remember as being a great chapter
in their lives after they move on is a worthy achievement to me. It's
why we named the company The Royals. We think of ourselves as a gang.
I'm a Royal, you're a Royal.
Oh and my kids. My kids are pretty cool and I had a hand in raising them.
Q> With offices in Sydney and Melbourne, do you have plans for expanding into other markets? What are your goals for 2019?
Nick> At the moment we are focused on Melbourne and Sydney. 2019 is going to be a year all about our creative product.
the World Needs More Agencies and how to start one', presented by Nick
Cummins, takes place on Friday 22nd March in Pattaya, Thailand as part
of AdFest 2019.