It is hard to believe 2019 will be our 25th Anniversary. When we first started out, we were determined not to become another virtual agency – a ragbag of mates whose wafer thin professionalism fell apart at the first sign of trouble, leaving their clients with huge IP, legal and continuity headaches. So instead, we created a totally new agency concept with a unique in-sourcing procurement process. Third parties came and worked for us in a transparent way that clients and suppliers alike could see. None of this pretending everyone was an employee. Furthermore, JDi was the client, so we called all the shots and we took all the financial risks – guaranteeing payment even if the client went under.
A True New Agency
Our new structure worked and with it our standards of professionalism and quality shone out like a beacon, and the work rolled in. We paid good rates and we didn’t haggle with ours suppliers. We learnt to pay promptly and even pre-pay to gain a competitive edge – something we still do to this day. We quickly developed a reputation as a reliable and trustworthy agency that everyone wanted to work with.
More Than Just Media Neutral
Media neutrality was all the rage back then – only because clients were cottoning on to the fact agencies made more profit from recommending certain types of media than others. We went one further. Media neutrality was too passive for us and we were all about being proactive – with a name like JDi standing for Just Do It, we had a lot to prove. So, we built the business around true independence and media objectivity. This allowed us to be the first to experiment with new media channels both digital and traditional long before our competitors could because we were not handicapped by unofficial “agreements” with media providers.
Better Ideas – Better Results
Creative and production costs soared in the first 10 years we were in business and the only way we could keep a lid on this problem and still make a profit was to cut out all the middlemen, and go straight to the source. Today our little black book runs to literally thousands of experts in every field and how to use them without multiple agent or management mark ups. The net result – a better quality product at a consistently lower price.
Our Creative Catalyst
I don’t think any agency can achieve success without a secret weapon and ours took a long time to find. We had been trading a good 6 years before I met our creative genius – Mark Harrison. When I tell clients our Creative Director has no ego, they look at me with that “Yeah right” expression on their face but then they see how we all work together – the dynamic is like nothing I have ever witnessed or heard of before. It literally is like magic. Call it a creative catalyst or simply the perfect fit if you will. The truth is JDi has the best creative director in the world and his work is not only loved by our clients it works like a dream for them too…And no, you can’t have him. He’s all ours!
New York, New York!
I can’t deny, being asked by a client to set up a JDi’s New York office in the US to serve their needs and to do it all in two weeks, nearly broke us. I think we actually did it in three weeks but it was such a whirlwind, I don’t think any of us remember much about it. Suffice to say we met 180 people in 6 days and a lot of them were lawyers and bankers. New Yorkers love Brits and our creativity. I observed that the sheer density of businesses in the Big Apple makes if very hard not to succeed if you really want to. I still love London but we certainly know how to make stuff happen in the US.
China & Beyond
3 years later, we took the Far East by storm and even moved JDi’s whole London operation to Kuala Lumpur for two weeks to help a client with a vital new product launch into China. Simultaneously working across three time zones is not an ideal scenario but all credit to our team, who managed it and made it look effortless.
Today, as the digital agency generation begins to wake up to the fact that their algorithm obsession has done little more than commoditise most markets and made price the only consumer point of reference, we understand why website bounce rates are getting higher and quality lead conversation continues to decline. Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. How to use content, relevance and true differentiation to increase not just customer engagement but that small item that seems to get overlooked. No not Sales – Profit! Because great marketing is not just about persuading customers to buy something they did not know they even needed but also to pay more for the privilege of doing so. If you don’t believe this works, go and ask Apple.
So to all our clients and indeed to everyone who has worked with us as part of the JDi team over the past two and half decades – Thank you. Thanks for helping us succeed and stay in business for longer than I ever thought possible – Actually, thank you does not even come close. Thank you also to the marketing director at General Motors who unwittingly gave me the name JDi but my greatest thanks for all goes to the late legendary Media Guru, Arthur Thompson, who taught me so much and whose idea JDi was in the first place – I shall be eternally grateful to you for that life-changing lunch in London’s Chinatown.
Happy 25th Birthday JDi – So, What’s Next?