Following drpG’s recent international expansion, we reached out to Director of Film and Motion, Dagmar Mackett to chat sustainability, Brexit, and never giving up.
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied several languages and journalism in Germany (my home country), both print and broadcast, and was offered the opportunity to move to Sweden to work as a producer and presenter for the country’s national radio, SR. I loved my job and life in Stockholm but after a while, wanted to broaden my horizon in communications. London seemed the perfect place to do this and so I moved there in 1995. My first couple of years were spent freelancing for various media: BBC Radio 2, CNBC (then EBN), Variety Magazine as well as human rights magazine, Index on Censorship. Life as a journalist was exciting and varied, but I soon realised there was ample scope to apply my experience and skills in corporate communications. For the next few years I worked for a number of organisations in PR and corporate production roles, including Head of Broadcast and Film at WeberShandwick, PR Newswire and World Television. When the opportunity to join drpG as a Board Director for Video (now Film & Motion) arose in 2009, I didn’t hesitate; drpG’s unique model ‘of all inhouse’, its gutsy approach in the recession and its “Anything’s Possible” promise made it an incredibly exciting prospect. Now, 10 years on, and as drpG is going stronger than ever with our international expansion, I’m still as excited at what lies ahead.
Bring us up to speed with what you and drpG have been working on and what you hope to achieve in 2019.
The big thing for us in 2019 is the opportunity our new international set-up will bring. In the context of the fast growth of our Comms / Campaigns division, it means that we can use our rather unique set-up to serve more and more clients, not just in the UK but other territories. To be offering our fully integrated, creative communications solutions to a variety of clients in e.g. the US, Central Europe and beyond and to bring to them the best of what British creative communications has to offer is a hugely exciting prospect. As is the major expansion of our HQ in the Midlands, of course! It’s going to be a fantastic space – if you want to get a sneak preview have a look at our Twitter feed @drpgroup
For a long time, the UK has been leading in creative corporate communications globally, showing others the way forward in creativity and innovation, and readily sharing best practice. EVCOM (and IVCA and Eventia before it) has been the hub for this: a place where our wonderful industry comes together, where a lot of creativity and best practice is shared first; an organisation that has been encouraging and a real driver for the confidence and pride we see in our industry today. I am yet to come across an EVCOM equivalent elsewhere outside of the UK – they should be jealous! Hey, how about global expansion, EVCOM?!
What has changed the most in the industry during your career?
The biggest driver for change has of course been the internet and especially social media. When I started my media career, my main support for research was a telephone on my desk, and a fax machine in the corner of my office. The internet has changed the way we research and share information: it’s quicker, easier, more versatile – and more fun! And mobility and social media have turned everybody into constant, instant communicators. This puts the onus on us professional communicators to rise above the noise, to be clear and clever, and more creative in the way we share content. And more careful! We must take the greatest care to not become gullible, trusting or too reliant on the same sources. Every communicator should always apply the utmost due diligence when putting together a story, whatever the medium. Fake news – whether from a political or corporate perspective – has had the opportunity to rise because some communicators have become complacent. We have to keep reminding ourselves that just because many people say the same thing on social media, doesn’t make something true. Our duty is to use the great opportunities social media offer wisely and creatively, and guard against its pitfalls. And great content (and its validity) is always king!
“We need to take the unequivocal stance that companies need to keep communicating with real clarity and resolve to their internal and external audiences, especially in challenging times.”
How do you approach continuing to create with forward thinking innovation and originality?
At drpg, our motto is ‘Anything’s Possible’. And it’s not just a tag line: our 300 odd team members genuinely live by that, every day. It means that we don’t ever set ourselves limits in our creative thinking and our solutions. Any idea is allowed, any idea is heard. And because we have the expertise for all the key communications disciplines under one roof – comms, digital, film, gfx, design, and of course, events – we have this huge pool of creative heads, all looking at something from a slightly different perspective. And the more great ingredients you put into the innovation soup, the better it usually tastes! Of course, we also continuously keep our ears and eyes wide open to spot new trends, and invest in new technology that can helps us achieve something even better. But most importantly, we listen to our clients, and try to get under the skin of their audience. For every one of our solutions, we are entirely audience and outcome driven, and try to approach it from their perspective. And this often means looking at innovation and originality in a slightly different way.
Particularly given the uncertainty Brexit is creating, what do you think are going to be the challenges in our industry in the coming year, and what can we do to overcome them?
You’ve said it: at the moment, the biggest challenge is uncertainty and the disarray the political and legislative system in the UK finds itself in as a result. Everybody wants and needs clarity urgently so they can make decisions based on what’s going to happen. And of course a major issue is the economic impact Brexit is already having on many of our clients, with some of them moving all or part of their operations away from the UK. As a result, a number of organisations have already announced budget cuts – and those often affect the communications sector. However, as with any crisis – and as the recession from 10 years ago proved – those who keep communicating generally fare much better! As an industry – and EVCOM should play a pivotal part in that – we need to take the unequivocal stance that companies need to keep communicating with real clarity and resolve to their internal and external audiences, especially in challenging times. This builds brand trust and keeps customers close – the best recipe to weather a storm.
There is a real move towards companies taking a responsibility for sustainability in their sector. What do you think the challenges are going to be in facing this issue, and what can we do to combat them?
There are companies that have a longstanding tradition of being pro-active when it comes to sustainability. In many cases it’s part of their values. It’s certainly always been important to us – as I’m writing this I’m being gently reminded by our Wellbeing Officer to submit my team’s sustainability targets for 2019!
But I think the real issues could arise on two fronts:
- Companies that have not really engaged with the topic to date, and are suddenly doing so, will be accused of doing it purely for PR purposes, justified or not. This then can create real trust issues with the customer base and can lead to the reverse effect of what they were trying to achieve.
- Those companies that have been actively writing sustainability on their banners will increasingly be put to the test; climate change, for instance, is such a pressing topic now that customers will increasingly look to their preferred brands to be sure that they don’t just talk the talk. And inevitably, some brands will stand the test better than others, no doubt.
So, I think as an industry, there’s a huge opportunity for us. We can help our clients be credible, be heard and be taken seriously. We can help them formulate their strategy, and make it palatable for a variety of audiences via a variety of channels. The Clarions were always a great platform to show best practise. It would be so good to see them back!
“The Communications Industry as a whole has realised that we need to lead by example: we talk about it on behalf of our clients, we make films about it, so we have to do it first and foremost.”
Can you pinpoint any trends in our industries that you are excited to get involved with?
I’m afraid I’m going to say all the usual things: Increasingly immersive events and interactive films, and 360 video. But on a different level there is also a real drive for sustainability. The Communications Industry as a whole has realised that we need to lead by example: we talk about it on behalf of our clients, we make films about it, so we have to do it first and foremost.
What do you think makes a truly outstanding live experience?
More than ever before, technology allows us to create interactive, immersive communication that’s a feast for the senses. However, what I find most exciting is where such communication manages to not forget about the human being at the end of it. It’s easy to be blinded by science and much harder to use technology in a way that works with the individual, not in spite of it. So not to do things because technology allows us to but because it makes sense and evokes real change. I’d like to think that at drpG, we manage that.
Looking back, what’s the biggest lesson you have learned that will stand you in good stead in 2019?
Anything’s Possible. No matter what.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?
There’s always a solution for everything, and a new opportunity round the next corner, so even if you feel like it, don’t ever give up. I keep telling my teenage daughters that all the time!