The Female Focus: Duo Creative Media

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Introducing Duo Creative

Meet Lauren and Frances. Together they founded Duo Creative Media a start-up digital marketing business in 2016, specialising in creative media strategy and planning. We discussed the importance of connecting with people in business, having brave ideas and not being afraid to change and experiment when looking to create ground-breaking work.

Tell us more about Duo Creative Media and why you decided to set-up together.

Duo Creative Media is a digital marketing and communications agency founded in 2016. The agency focuses on launching and challenging brands to work smarter, not harder by combining the principles of creative and media thinking up front as part of the solution – not as an afterthought.

We met about 7 years ago in a performance marketing agency in London, where we were both told that we were going to work with someone that we would get on really well with. As two creatives working in a media agency we were already set apart from the rest of the staff there. We were briefed to work on the agency’s first social media pitch. This was our first opportunity to experiment with different concepts and business models. We won the pitch and within 3 years together, we built a creative team within a media business, working across 20+ brands tying creative and media planning together.  We joked for ages about doing this for ourselves, sitting during our lunch breaks fantasising over the idea, (giving ourselves the name F & L Media) but in the end, we decided to go our separate ways to see what other agencies were doing. Fast forward, 3.5 years later, we realised our industry was still so monolithic, creative agencies not having a clue what media agencies were doing and vice versa. The only people truly losing out were clients. We wanted to put a stop to that. The solutions clients needed had to be from both creative and media working in tandem, hence why we felt we could carve our niche in the industry and start DUO Creative Media. 

Lauren you've lived abroad and are fluent in German. Has this been helpful to you running your own business? How?

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From an early age, I have always had a love for travelling and learning new languages along the way. It has been a great ice breaker over the years in my career, being able to connect with someone through their native language, quickly turns strangers into connections.  There's a lovely warmth and appreciation that comes when someone hears you try to connect with them on their terms. I believe that has made me more open-minded in terms of how I approach people in business - it is the people that make up the business - not the other way round. I think that gets forgotten sometimes… First connect with the people - then connect with the business. 

Being a fluent German speaker helped us win our first global client! As a start up, you hear the stats about businesses not making it past the 18 months mark so being able to apply all our skills, including language in our first year helped us to the defy that statistic. 

We have always been open-minded in terms of working with people across the globe, from our suppliers to our clients, we feel that is a stronger position to be in. Most brands have an international footprint or plans of entering new markets so with our experience working across so many countries gives us an advantage as a partner. 

Frances as the creative within the business what advice/learnings would you give clients in order to achieve better success with their media objectives? 

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Better success can only come from knowing how to apply great creative to great media and daring to try new methods to reach your objectives.  With our years of experience with different types of brands in different industries one thing has remained a constant, ideas can come out of anything; but you have to be open-minded and brave enough to go searching for it. 

My advice would be to embrace the idea of experimentation across all fronts. With your creative and your media. We need to change our language when approaching briefs and objectives from trial and error to test and learn. Though a subtle change, it is a powerful and liberating change. 'Test and Learn' creates a safe environment to take calculated risks and explore new ways of working, if you see things in a black and white manner, it leaves you paralysed with fear to take any risk. 

How has the media/advertising landscape evolved since you started your careers and what does this mean for brands?

When we first started over 7 years ago, the world of social media was still considered the Wild West. A brand who had a Facebook page was considered innovative. If we look at the impact of the digital movement over the last 10 years, the advancements have been phenomenal, it has disrupted every industry and the world as we know it. Social media is now where people spend most of their time and money. This has seen brands completely change their business strategy in order to find more ways to use social media at the core of their marketing activities.   

Fast forward to today, social media has truly democratised the advertising industry. This has opened a new wave of culture changers, people who are daring to do new things with technology, creating new platforms and new disciplines. The influencer is no longer the one with multiple degrees and the most letters after their name, it’s the one rolling their sleeves up and creating their own communities, those are the new influencers. 

When a client is looking to work with a media and creative partner what should they be looking for?

Firstly, it’s an art form to find great partners, it's a careful blend of finding both the right chemistry and right talent. We strongly believe great chemistry is what creates great work. All partners need to have an understanding and a respect for each others disciplines in order to deliver the best solution for the client. This collaborative mindset needs to be fostered by both partner and client, gone are the days of purely head-to-head competition, the real winners are those who know how to collaborate. This is our approach to work, there is one clear goal, how can we work together to shift the dial for our client, not how can we make more money from the client than you. 

Name a brand/product who's producing world-class advertising with results and tell us why you think they're #winning 

Brands who are producing world-class advertising are those who are unashamedly consumer-led. Brands that are co-created by committees/crowd-sourced, are the brands that are here to stay.  An example of this is the brand Glossier, the $100 Million business that’s disrupting the beauty industry. They have done a fantastic job in turning their niche, underground cult blog into a main stream international brand simply by paying close attention to their consumers and creating new products with them. We truly live in exciting times. Who would have thought it was possible for a humble start up to be competing with the likes of L'Oreal? We love this quote from renowned business thinker Mark Stevenson:

 "Only the impossible is interesting. The concept of Impossible that is driving entrepreneurs and innovators around the world to push boundaries and find ever more  innovative ways to create wealth and new possibilities "

What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started the business?

This quote has been floating around on Instagram for a while but it still rings true every time we see it.

“The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately”…

Having ideas for a business is actually the easy part, executing them is a WHOLE different ball game.  The details of running a business is something we wished we knew before we started. It sounds naive, but you do get seduced into thinking being an entrepreneur is about having great business idea, great stamina and great contacts. But that’s only half of it.

 The real truth is that success is in the detail. 

Although unglamorous, the detail is the practical knowledge of things like Flat Rate schemes, VAT registration, PAYE, these are actually the details that make the real difference. A misunderstanding of this can be detrimental to your business. Cash flow issues are why businesses tend to fail in their first 18 months, not because they didn't have a great business idea, great stamina and great contacts. 

We believe in community over competition. How can we as women be more united when working together?  

As women we need to lead by example. We need to show support for each other whenever we get the opportunity to. Over the decades, through the media we have been encouraged to be divided, thinking we were each other competition, but we are so glad that narrative is finally changing as we can see how powerful women are when they work together to create new realities.

For example in our industry, which is still very male-dominated, we are deeply encouraged when we meet other female change makers in senior positions or starting their own businesses, daring to step outside of the status quo and leave the door for other women behind them. It’s so refreshing see the next generation of women daring to do things differently than the last generation. 

What's your advice for young women starting out in media/advertising? 

The most interesting and influential person in the room has always been the person who says something no one else is thinking. Don’t be afraid to have a point of view - but then have the skill to back it up. Immerse yourself in the weird and wonderful world of advertising, from as many vantage points, it will give you that edge in that all important meeting.  Lastly, be the person you want to meet...

Who are you current female role models and why?

Frances: My inspiration comes from seeing other women of colour strive for change in their respective industries  - I am moved when I see black women changing and creating narratives of their own. Women like, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who looked at the imbalances in society and simply said, there must be more and went out to create more. 

Lauren: I am a massive theatre buff. I find a lot of my weird and outlandish inspiration comes from the stage. Currently inspired by Katie Mitchell. She really makes you sit back and think. It shows you from one idea comes multiple variants – each completely unique. 

Quote / words you live by? 

There are several we have, some based on principles, most based on experience. Here’s a couple of our favourites… 

Lauren: “You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Frances: “ Embrace being the square peg in a round hole in every situation. Your uniqueness is what the world needs more of”.

The girls recently re-launched their brand and it looks beautiful.

The girls recently re-launched their brand and it looks beautiful.