James Hayhurst is former MD of Leagas Delaney, Global Brand Equity Director for OMO/Persil at Unilever and the Founder of the Magic Sauce Course.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or YouTube.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What makes great creative
  • Why the agency / client relationship break down
  • The importance of talking to your customers
  • The Parents Promise


James Hayhurst

James started his career agency-side BMP DDB (now Adam&Eve DDB) as a grad trainee. During his time there he worked on award-winning campaigns for Volkswagen, Channel 4 and the Teacher Training Agency amongst many other UK and international clients. In 2012 James joined Leagas Delaney as Managing Director running the London office, and managing brands including Glenfiddich, Patek Philippe and Timberland.

James decided to try his hand at client-side marketing by joining Unilever in October 2014 as the Global Brand Equity director for OMO/Persil, Unilever’s third biggest brand and sold in 80 countries globally. James was attracted by the brand positioning of Dirt is Good and Unilever’s commitment to sustainable living and during his four years James helped position the brand as one of Unilever’s fastest growing purposeful brands.

Whilst there James was struck by what he ‘didn’t know he didn’t know’ when he’d been an agency MD about client culture and decision making. He also began to appreciate how alien agency culture appeared to many clients, and that they hadn’t been given the instruction manual of how to ‘operate’ their agencies. There was an empathy gap on both sides that needed bridging.  The Magic Sauce Programme was the result.

The Magic Sauce programme helps clients and agencies to work more effectively, efficiently, enjoyably and profitably together.  It does this by improving the understanding and importance of relationship dynamics, communication and wider team chemistry.  It also offers a behaviour change and measurement framework to improve relationship quality over time.

Find James on LinkedIn or visit the website https://magicsaucecourse.co.uk/

Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast directly or sign up for it here to have it emailed when it’s released.

If you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.

Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

[00:00:00.020] – Andi J

Eyup, and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I am the host of the show and also the strategy director at Eximo Marketing. My guest today is James Hayhurst. James has been on the show before. For regular listeners, you’ll know that James runs the Parents’ Promise. We talk a little bit about that at the end because we’re talking mainly about his marketing job today rather than his not-for-profit or social movement that the Parents’ Promise is. We do talk about that at the end, though. But we talk mostly about his day job, which is running the Magic Sauce course. That is a programme that helps agencies and clients build better relationships to deliver better work. You might be thinking, Agency? Agencies should just get on and do better work for clients. If only it was that simple, there wouldn’t really be a need for a course, would there? So that’s what we dig into. That’s what we talk about. And yes, I do ask James that’s a question as well. Do we really need this? Couldn’t we just do it ourselves? So we were on location location in London on location. Sounds like we’re in New York or somewhere like that.

[00:01:03.570] – Andi J

We met in a hotel in London at the Zetter Hotel. I do mention it in the clip, but I’m thankful for them for letting us use their downtown Abbey-esque room for shooting this podcast. So thank you very much. And enjoy the episode. Here we go. James Hayhurst, what one thing do you wish you’d have known 10 years ago?

[00:01:23.690] – James H

Wow. There’s probably two things actually I wish to know 10 years ago, if I I can break the rules straight off the bat. So both of which we may cover in this conversation, both around relationships. So 10 years ago, just thinking back, I was MD of Leagas Delaney, so I was in the advertising game. And as I’m sure we’ll come to discuss today, I wish I’d known what it was like to actually be a client. And that would have made me quite a lot better at my job, I think. And I’ve since built a programme around understanding learning what clients really want and how agencies can help and vice versa. The other thing I probably wish I’d have known, I know you’ve got some skin in the game here as well, is some of the deficiencies with the family court system and the as we may talk about at the end of this podcast, the Parents Promise initiative that I have launched with your good self to help parents and couples in the UK separate better. So I could definitely look back with hindsight and make a few different decisions. I’ll probably save myself a little bit of cash along the way.

[00:02:32.100] – Andi J

I can imagine. I think it’s important that we return to Parents Promise, which we’ll come to later on in the discussion. So Magic Sauce is why you’re here today, because the Magic Sauce programme and course covers a real area of concern in the marketing world, doesn’t it? Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

[00:02:50.390] – James H

Yeah, I think it covers an area, I’d say of concern, but probably an area which is under resourced or under appreciated. I think an area of opportunity.An area of opportunity, you may say. I think we talk quite a lot about relationships and the importance of them, but I’m not sure if we really understand what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes enough. And I don’t think we particularly understand quite how important, or this is my point, how important relationships are to actually getting great marketing out the

[00:03:30.070] – Andi J

It sounds like you’re talking about a lack of empathy sometimes on both sides of the client-agency relationship.

[00:03:38.580] – Andi J

Would that be fair?

[00:03:40.100] – James H

Yes, it would be fair. I think there’s just a lack of understanding of what each side, shall I say, is aiming to achieve. And actually this realisation that we’re both after the same things. I think we overcomplicate terribly what we do. And what did I learn becoming a client? So about nine years ago, I became a Unilever client, working on Dirt is Good, which is personal to most people in the UK, and all sorts of things to people globally, like OMO and skip. I realised pretty early a couple of really fundamental things. One was, I think, literally on day two, an agency came to present to me some work, and it was actually pretty good work. It was a small startup agency Agency. I remember just thinking after about 10 minutes, there was just two blokes from an agency you could call animal, which is no more, I don’t think. I remember thinking, Oh, I really like you. The work was clearly good. I also probably wouldn’t have thought that, but I was just hit by the importance of the human connexion that you get in a room. I think agency side, we probably get a bit too preoccupied with what’s on the charts rather than maybe understanding what it feels like to be about to buy some work.

[00:04:57.480] – James H

I don’t think I appreciated how much that I didn’t know about what my client was dealing with. So there’s a whole host of reasons, a whole host of things that I’m worried about as a client that my agency is maybe not aware of. And there’s all the politics, all the culture, all the KPIs I need to hit to get my bonus. And maybe as an agency person, we don’t spend enough time understanding that.

[00:05:19.110] – Andi J

And you’d had quite a significant background in agencies by this point. And it’s not like you were just a bit green around the gills or wet behind the ears or whatever. You’d just have a significant experience in agency side before you’d gone to Unilever. Yeah. So take us back to the agency days and what was the core focus when you were there? And then let’s contrast that with when you jumped to the other side and you were like, What is this?

[00:05:44.470] – James H

Yeah, I think So, yeah, I spent 15 years agency-side, so 12, 12 and a half was a DDB, Adam and Eve visits now, and BNP DDB when I started, as we may have covered in the first podcast I was on. And I think the intention on there, and still is, of agents’ people, is to do great work that sells stuff. And this is something, obviously, I talk to clients a lot about, is trust your agency, because we’re not trying to scam you out of money. We are trying to do the best we can. Otherwise, it’d be a bit odd for us to spend all our lives doing this career if we didn’t want to achieve good things with it and do the right thing. I think sometimes those things maybe aren’t aligned well enough, or we’ve not talked about what we think we’re trying to do. So one of the things I often notice when I work with agencies and clients is, even today, where we’ve got much, you’ve had some of the lumeries on the podcast, I know, like Mr. Sutherland, Mr. Ritson. We’ve got a pretty good idea of how this stuff works.

[00:06:46.310] – James H

In a way, we didn’t have 20 years ago when I started my career. But I find it, it’s actually quite rare that an agency and a client have sat down at the start of a relationship and said, Okay, so our agency, why? This is how we think this stuff That conversation is very rarely had. Now, if I look back when I was presenting my first poster ads with Tiny Logos many years ago, I was going into those meetings with the senior clients thinking I was producing something amazing, and maybe I was, but it was my view as to what a great piece of work looked like. And they were probably had a very different view, which is one that I came to appreciate when I was at Unilever.

[00:07:23.650] – Andi J

So then when you switched sides, your poacher turned gatekeeper or whatever the phrase is, you jumped to the other side.

[00:07:30.170] – James H

Dark side, saw the light. You saw the light. Exactly, yeah.

[00:07:31.770] – Andi J

You went there. Unilever, people listening who’ve never worked at Unilever, and I’ve never worked at Unilever, you think Unilever, one of the world’s great FMCG companies, you must only work with the greatest agencies, all the best people, you surely can’t have had a problem because Unilever, big books, everything must be perfect. Is that true?

[00:07:52.160] – James H

Unilever was pretty good, I’ve got to say. An amazing experience, and I loved it there, and worked with great agencies, and I think I made some good work there. All my agencies did. What I think is missing, or what I didn’t appreciate the other side is when I started in my agency career, 2022, ’22, ’23, your client’s usually a bit older, and I assumed that they had a rounded experience as to how to work with agencies. Clients have a very rounded experience because they have to do many more things, which us as agency people don’t realise. There’s at least 4Ps, and promotions only once. You’ve got a lot on your to-do list as a client. But actually, and I think this has probably got worse as fees have got, that’s because work’s got busier, hybrid work has happened, there’s more channels and what have you. Clients actually don’t spend that long with agencies. And again, when I was at Unilever, I think after a couple of months, I suddenly realised that obviously a lot of my peers, clearly, they’ve not spent 15 years in an agency, but they probably only even spend a day. So the agencies maybe don’t have time to induct clients fully or to fully understand what happens behind the scenes.

[00:08:59.380] – James H

So So there’s just maybe a lack of knowledge as to what the other person is doing and therefore how to get the best out of them.

[00:09:05.700] – Andi J

So one counterbalance to that might be people saying it’s not the client’s job to worry about what the agency does. They’re paying you a chunk of cash every month or every project or whatever, and it’s your job as an agency to fall in step with what they need as opposed to the other way around. Is that true or there’s a little bit more to it than that, though, isn’t there?

[00:09:25.590] – James H

Well, I think it’s really in a client’s interest to bridge that gap, is what I would say. So if I look at case studies and how they’re written, generally, I think they miss 95 % of the story. So they’re always written in an incredibly linear form. So I’ve worried a can jury twice, I think, in my career, and maybe when a few IPAs. And the case studies always read something like this. There was this amazing insight, brilliant insight from a planner, which was so amazing that the creative work wrote itself, and then the clients fell over themselves to buy it.

[00:09:59.270] – Andi J

The lesson from that is that strategy first for everything. Exactly. You know where to buy it if you need it. Yeah, exactly.

[00:10:05.440] – James H

Knock on Andi’s door. So strategy first. But it strips out all of the human interaction and how messy what we do actually is. So if I look back at the two times I worried a Cannes Jury. Once when I was at DDB and we won Cannes Gold on Volkswagen in 2007, 2008, and once when I was at Unilever, the case study would have been one of those mega linear, quite dry academic pieces of prose.Post hoc rationalisation.Post hoc rationalisation. Actually, the real story of how either of those campaigns came to fruition is all about human relationships. So on Volkswagen, my rather wonderful client, Catherine Wolf, who thinks that they’re at National Express, spotted an idea that, to be honest, as an agency, we struggle to even see. And then she trusted my creative director, Jeremy Cragan, and trusted the team, Sam Oliver and Shisha Patel, and me. And together we We got a script, which wasn’t really a script, over the line and shot and approved. And that was all human relationships and all subjective judgement and trust and all of those things. But because we don’t tell that story, I think marketeers and agency people don’t realise that that’s how you get great stuff over the line.

[00:11:16.730] – James H

So the relationship is seen as a fluffy byproduct of doing great work. My view is that nothing happens without a great relationship. So if you don’t establish a great relationship, you don’t establish how to work together together, then you’re never going to get to amazing work because you’re always going to have to make a judgement call about something.

[00:11:36.860] – Andi J

It seems Darryl Fielding, who I interviewed on the podcast a couple of months ago, also in London, and talked, she was involved in the change of Dove to the campaign for Real Beauty, which I talked about this on the show at the time. Now, if you see Dove, you know what you’re going to get because it’s this campaign for Real Beauty. But at the time, we were a handful of years past the Hello Boys, for our campaign. So for someone to be able to come with real women, real curves. She had editors from magazines getting in touch with the agency and with Dove saying things like, We’re not going to run this because it’s disgusting, and things like that. That’s the world they’re operating But that all came down to the relationship between the agency and between Unilever and the trust. It’s Unilever, isn’t it, Dove? Yeah, and the trust between those that helped them. Because it wasn’t just… Same thing. You read the case today and it’s like, Oh, that must have been… It took ages to develop. They had to convince lots of people. So if we now have a book, How Brands Grow, tells us how brands grow, we’re missing the book that needs to be read alongside it, aren’t we?

[00:12:44.650] – Andi J

Which you could maybe call the Magic Sauce or something like that.

[00:12:48.550] – James H

You could call that Magic Sauce. Something interesting.Sponsored by XMA Marketing.There you go.

[00:12:51.700] – Andi J

So we know how brands grow in relatively empirical fashion for big brands, at least. But we don’t know how to do those softer human relationships.

[00:13:04.880] – James H

Exactly. I think, yeah, I would totally agree. And maybe I will write such a book at some point, but it is that. So if I look back now, yeah, to your first question, what did I wish I knew 10 years ago? If 10 years ago, you’d said, how do I make the creative work better at Lagos Delaney or when I was at DDB. Well, if I was a managing director, I think, well, the way to make it better is to write better creative work. So maybe it’s about how I work with the teams, or maybe it’s about hiring new teams or new people or whatever. But actually, now I look back, it’s nothing to do with that. Generally, most agencies have great creative departments. There’s a reason that some work sees the light of day and other work doesn’t, and that’s always the relationship. So most agencies will have this. They can produce fantastic output, but maybe 20% of their work is that fantastic. And that’s not down to the work that’s been written, generally. It’s down to the relationship between the client and the agency. So I would, 10 years ago, I’d have started the Creations Department.

[00:14:02.900] – James H

If I ran an agency now, I don’t think anyone would let me near an agency now. I would start with the client relationships and with the account service department.Do it that way. Excellent.and the gap from the other side, so that’s the agency gap, is, as you said, I think we’ve got really fantastic training and resources at clients now. Many of the big clients, certainly Unilever, have creative excellence departments. There’s a really good body of theory, but there is a book that’s missing, which is a much more hands-on book about, okay, so we know what great work looks like. We know the case studies, we know what… We know the great work’s emotional, we know that it’s got distinctive assets, we know that it’s consistent. How do we get that with our agency partners? And that usually involves sitting in a room, maybe not as nice as this, but nutting some stuff out. And it’s a softer skill, which I don’t think is taught.

[00:14:53.930] – Andi J

Just as a little aside, if you’re watching the video, James and I will give you a wave. Hello. We’re on location today in the Zetter Hotel in Farringdon, and it is beautiful. Have a look at the video. If you’re listening on the audio, it’s amazing in here. So thank you for letting us record here. When people say to me, Will you recommend a book, that thing, the book, I tend to recommend It’s not how brands grow, but tends to be Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull. Have you read it?I have read it.You have read it. Those who haven’t read it, if you’re a regular listener, you’ve heard me talk a bit about the creative process and how Pixar kept churning up the hits year after year after year. And one One thing that always sticks with me is how they created this, you call it creative tension, where people felt comfortable to put their ideas to a room of people because it was the right people, but they would be challenged and taken to task, but it was all about improving it and trying to distil that and introduce it into those. It’s quite hard to do, but it feels like that’s how you get better work by creating creative tension and allowing it to improve the work.

[00:16:02.110] – James H

No, exactly. I’ve got a bit of a nerd. There is a reading list that goes with my course, and that is one of the top books on it. There was a couple of things that struck me about that. One is it just looks like, because I’m a bit of a Pixar fan, that they just churn out the hits and it must be easy. You just turn up to work, write something for Buzz Light here to do, and away you go. It was just interesting to see how that wasn’t the case. But there’s a concept that they touch on, and I wasn’t aware of the actual name, which I am now, which is Psychological Safety. And those brain stress sessions that you were referring, where it’s all good intention, but it’s about really pushing in the right spirit to get something great is exactly what’s at the heart of great relationships or missing from bad relationships. And there were… Sorry, there were just two… Before I knew it was called psychological safety, there were two concepts that I took with me from Agency World. One was the doom loop, which I’ve been on many times. There is elements of PTSD.

[00:16:58.750] – Andi J

I imagine there’s lots of people listening, nodding along going, yes.

[00:17:01.120] – James H

The doom loop. I think I specialise in this at the start of my career. What would happen was, imagine you’re quite junior in an agency, you’d be aware that the exec were very scared about that piece of business, and that that piece of business might walk. And therefore, what is happening in the agency is they’re not challenging the client. So the brief is probably wrong. What the client is asking for is, quote, unquote, wrong, but it’s not challenged. So the brief goes into the department or wherever you’re producing, and you come back with a piece of work that you don’t think is right, but it’s on the brief that the client gave you, and the work clearly isn’t right, and therefore, you get a rebrief, and it happens again and again and again, and it always ends in tears, often in a repitch, because you’ve not been able to creatively challenge. And what we need, and a couple of case studies I talked about, either side where we produce something good, was you have the permission. When I talk to clients, because I’ve interviewed 150 people plus to create the course, and I say, Look, what’s bad about agency?

[00:17:59.420] – James H

And you get the list of niggles and stuff. And then what’s great? And what is great is they challenge, they simplify, they see the things we don’t see, and they produce magic. And you can only do that when you’re feeling like you’re empowered to do your job, and you have permission to ask questions, to challenge, to even argue potentially within a safe environment, which is what the brain trust sessions were. So I think that if you were to start with the client-agency relationship, I would look at as a client, realising that the way that you manage your agency will make a huge difference to how successful the partnership will be. And it is actually, go back to your original prompt here, it’s smart to be nice. So whilst it may not feel like I need to understand all that stuff because surely that’s what they’re paid to do, the better I understand them, the better I manage them, the better output, the more bang I’m going to get from my marketing book.

[00:18:58.160] – Andi J

Yeah. No, it makes them tell you. As Did you describe it that way? It makes entirely sense. I think just the last thing on creativity, there was one story about Inside Out, which is probably my favourite Pixar film, which started life as…

[00:19:12.090] – James H

We can debate that.

[00:19:13.120] – Andi J

We can debate that. I’m not saying it’s their great work. I do think it’s their favourite. But it started life as an idea which was called something like the story of the emotions that work inside a child’s head. And it wasn’t even a fully formed idea, but a director who had a concept a story arc that he wanted to explore and was still given the air time in those meetings to be able to have it kicked around and work out how to bring it to life. Because when you think about it, it’s an incredibly complex story of four emotions living inside a child about to become a teen’s head and how that then rolls itself into a great story and just a brilliant film. And I love… What I took from that was they let an idea that wasn’t fully formed find its way and develop and became a hit. I think it often gets scorn in the top three Pixar films of all time when you look at the listings and ratings. I thought that was a really interesting way. I don’t think creative work often gets that benefit of the doubt, does it?

[00:20:12.650] – James H

Exactly, yeah. And it’s hugely important to appreciate that ideas when they’re first birthed are… I think they talk about them as ugly babies, don’t they? Yeah. Yeah, ugly baby. And they need room to breathe. And it’s so It’s easy as clients because we’re working a rapid fire, we’re under pressure. You can very quickly go to what’s not quite right, and then you end up in a spiral, not a doom loop necessarily, but you’ll end up in a conversation which can squash an idea. If I just look back at some work that I was lucky enough to work on that worked really successfully, it always starts life as a half-thought. I worked He’s been in teacher training for nearly 10 years. Was one of the most successful IPA case studies, £101 to £1 spent. To hell of a return. That’s hell of a return. Thank you, Sir Les, who’s also been in your podcast, hasn’t he?

[00:21:13.880] – Andi J

No, he hasn’t, but he’ll be on soon. Les, hi. Is he?

[00:21:16.650] – James H

Come on. He did the IPA paper, and that was about work with the most exciting people in the world teach. I remember when that was presented, it was a Saturday, about 20 years ago, almost to the day working on the pitch, and a creative team had just written, just drawn a smiley face of a kid, and it was a little scamp. And the core idea was that. And that could easily have just been, well, what’s that? That’s nothing. But it can grow into loads of things. And the Volkswagen film, Night Drive, which is about the joy of driving at night. That was something that actually, I said, my client Catherine spotted. And it could easily have been, what is that? That’s just driving a car at night. But it just needs the time and space to breathe and to grow.

[00:21:58.360] – Andi J

So to dive into this idea of an idea can be watered and nurtured and developed. You mentioned you spoke to 150 people about this. Where did the Magic Sauce course come from? What was it that made you think, there’s something here in this? You’ve obviously talked about the problems you saw, but why did you go off and interview so many people? Why not just go, Right, stuff it. I’m going to get started with this.

[00:22:19.500] – James H

Good question. Well, so I think originally I just thought there was something, as you said, there was a book that hadn’t been written, and I’ve not written a book yet, but there was a missing link, which was meaning that we were spending far too long creating work which wasn’t good enough and making people miserable. There’s lots of people, both sides, working far too long. If the relationship’s not working, it’s long hours. So first answer is, I just felt that there was a higher purpose, shall I say? If you get great relationships right, they’re more efficient, they’re more effective, they’re more enjoyable, they’re more profitable. But obviously, I only have an opinion of one, and I thought it was important, not least, it was COVID as well, so I was stuck in my bedroom. But I think it’s always important to get the views of others. So what I did was ask some pretty basic questions to both sides, like what’s brilliant about working with agencies, what’s less good? Tell me about when you made great work. What’s been, I didn’t use the word ingredients, it wasn’t the magic sauce course then. But what are the significant factors behind that?

[00:23:23.680] – James H

And I just think it’s so important to look wider so you can be sure what you’re saying is the truth. And I wanted to build a programme which had real practical application. So it wasn’t just some theory, but here are some actual quotes from real people who are doing it day to day.

[00:23:39.940] – Andi J

And did you find anything came up in those interviews that you weren’t expecting? Was it 80 % of the course you maybe thought you might have was there, or was there any real moments of, Oh, I’ve missed that?

[00:23:53.210] – James H

Oh, that’s a very good question. I think I’ve now known it so much. I can’t remember what I knew before I wrote it. I think I think one thing that came out, which is linked back to an earlier question is when I asked, Tell me when you’ve done brilliant work or had a great success, what’s been a key factor behind it? If you were to read the marketing press, which many of you will do, generally, there’s a new buzzy thing every year that is supposedly the thing that will lead you to Fame and fortune.It’s currently AI, isn’t it?It.

[00:24:25.560] – Andi J

Was metaverse last year. Yeah.

[00:24:29.390] – James H

So I would have expected at least 50% to have been something like that, or it to be hard skills, so it to be a planning insight or some craft, all of which are important. But I would say 95% talked about chemistry. It was the same words, chemistry, trust, relationships. And then there was this other word which snuck in there as a weasel word, which I thought was really interesting, which was genuine. So quite a few people said, When there’s genuine trust or when there’s genuine chemistry, obviously indicating that some of our relationships are pretty surface level. And if we don’t fully lean into that or create the best relationships, we’re missing out. So if you’re to read the marketing press, relationships aren’t really important at all. But yet for all the 150 people that have probably got hundreds of years of experience between them, they would say it’s number one.

[00:25:28.000] – Andi J

So what you built from this, you had all the time, most of your daughter’s bedroom in.Yes.

[00:25:32.940] – James H

Someone’s bedroom.Beautiful.

[00:25:34.590] – Andi J

Backdrop.with a glitter ball.With a glitter ball. Yeah, absolutely wonderful. So you’ve developed this, you’re developing the cost, then you’re building it into a business as well. So what’s the… What’s the difference of marketing The marketing mission statement for the business.

[00:25:46.690] – James H

The marketing mission statement.

[00:25:47.430] – Andi J

The mission statement for the business.

[00:25:48.700] – James H

Well, I think the mission statement, obviously, like all good markets, you rewrite it all the time. But the mission statement really is to create healthier relationships to make better work, and to have happier people in marketing, I suppose, in a long winded way. I think it goes right to the core. So as I said before, I think it is better relationships, everybody wins, and we strip out a lot of the unnecessary complexity in what we do.

[00:26:20.340] – Andi J

Because we talk about this is the Magic Sauce course, what’s the delivery mechanism? And it’s a programme? Is it, I’ll go through online and do my exams at the end?

[00:26:30.680] – James H

There’s no exam yet. Yeah, so it deliver it. So there’s a couple of things. It’s a six-module programme, one for agencies, one for clients, which is birthed in Zoom world. But now, as we’ve moved past, I like to in surroundings such as these. Often it’s in person. And then I work with agencies and clients together as well in workshop formats to establish why relationships are so important, to establish, as we talked about before.

[00:26:57.860] – Andi J

So that’s not refereeing when the relationship is going sour.

[00:27:01.700] – James H

No, no. There’s a bit of refereing that I sometimes do, but it’s really about, I suppose it’s looking a little bit. The other thing I did in COVID was watch lots of sports documentaries. And if you watch lots of sports documentaries or interest in sport, what you’ll hear are lots of people, coaches, talking about the importance of process. So whether that’s Bill Walsh from NFL, the score will take care of itself, or Michal Arteta today. If you get the right… If you know how to get to greatness and you follow a process, the idea is you just follow that process, and nine times out of 10, you’ll get good result. Because agencies and clients don’t think about their relationship, I think, as a strategic asset. They just We just tend to measure the outputs. So has the agency done this this year or have we done this this year? So I like to focus on as a relationship, chemistry or is the relationship set up or are we going through the right behaviours to make greatness? So working with people both sides, to understand what that would look like. So we’ve got the optimal condition.

[00:28:10.530] – James H

So generally, my view is there’s loads of great agencies, there’s loads of great clients. The work in the UK should be a lot better than it is.

[00:28:20.080] – Andi J

Is there anywhere… You mentioned in the UK, which is an interesting addition. Is there any way where you look and you go, in Spain, they’ve got this? Or is this a global problem, do you think?

[00:28:30.680] – James H

I think it’s probably a global problem. He says, thinking about what Super Bowl had he saw.

[00:28:37.100] – Andi J

Well, Kanye won everything, didn’t he? With the Super Bowl, shot on his mobile phone.

[00:28:42.810] – James H

I think it’s the same. What you What I want is, and this comes up all the time, is you don’t want to supply a relationship or that transactional relationship. And Unilever is lucky enough to work globally, so I’ve got a fair bit of global experience. I think it’s the same tension points across the world with maybe some slight different nuances. But I think COVID, I think to begin with, actually, might have helped. I think what we were seeing at the start of COVID from talk to agencies and clients is they were seeing inside each other’s daughter’s bedrooms or kitchens or whatever, and there was more humanity. So you were saying, there’s a person who needs my help, and they can see inside my bed. They feel that I’m a human being also, and I’m trying to do my best. And I think it created some bridges. I think now, from It’s talking to people. It’s become a bit more transactional. I think often agencies and clients maybe haven’t consciously designed their alliance. They’ve not had a conversation to go, Okay, let’s never present big presentations on Zoom because that doesn’t work for anyone. Often we just end up doing it because someone’s diary doesn’t match.

[00:29:51.390] – James H

I think just being conscious about how we can create the right conditions for the best relationship, I think it’s important.

[00:29:56.890] – Andi J

There’s probably elements of this that people are listening to going, But this is just common sense. It’s just talking to people. It’s just having conversations and saying and being honest about what you do like and what you don’t like and presenting work on Zoom and things like that. But modern business world is difficult, isn’t it? It’s multi-layered and it’s who’s supposed to be talking to who. It’s not as straightforward as you see. Sometimes it takes, as we were talking about before we started recording, sometimes it takes someone else to say to you, just take a step back and have a look at this, and then you go, yes, of course. So it seems like it is really important at the minute to have somebody saying to agencies and clients, there’s a better way of doing this because you get so used to just doing it in the way it’s always been done.

[00:30:40.150] – James H

Definitely common sense. I think there’s a couple of things. One is, and there’s usually quite a lot of disclaimers when I give my programme. One is, certainly when I look back agency, a lot of this is saying, Oh, I wish I’d have done these things differently. Back to your first question. But a lot of it is things that people may think is a little bit old school, but it is just Are you understanding that those things are quite important. You know that? I don’t know who’s metric is it, Boston or somebody? Is it urgent, important?

[00:31:07.950] – Andi J

Steven Covey, isn’t it? There we are.

[00:31:11.300] – James H

Seven Habits of a Do-That.

[00:31:12.670] – Andi J

Urgent, important. Yeah.

[00:31:15.040] – James H

My view is we’re spending more and more time in urgent. I think maybe the way that agencies are paid now is more transactional, a bit more like how we deal with lawyers. So we’re not spending enough time in the top right, which is important and not urgent. And what struck me being a client is some agencies did some of that stuff. Maybe they invited me to a lovely setting like this, had a cup of tea. But there are ways of building a relationship that sit in that box. And I suppose I’m helping agencies and clients, but particularly agencies who I think maybe feel the pressure they can’t do this, is how do you do enough stuff over a year in that top box? And there’s some stuff that we do as agencies when we’re pitching, that we just, if we’re honest, we don’t do the rest of the year, like the store visits, that stuff, that make a real difference. Because as a client, all you’re looking for is, do I like them? But do they care about me? And do they care about my business? And can they help me? And those things that feel quite basic, that show you’re curious and you’re interested, we often just don’t do.

[00:32:23.810] – James H

So it’s reminding people. You know that thing that maybe you did in grad training 100 years ago that you said you’d always do? Yeah, do it again. How can we do that? But how can we just put a bit of science behind it or a bit of structure so that you can’t do everything, but essentially create your own mission statement, your own source for making great relationships?

[00:32:42.920] – Andi J

What’s interesting listening to you talk about this from what the agency should be doing, even what the clients are doing, and what you did to launch this is how central staying close to the customer is in creating great things, whether it’s a great course or a great work. And Sherice, Annie Barber, who I think I talk about this every bloody week now. I’m sorry, Sherice, but she worked at McDonald’s, and one of the things she took from working at McDonald’s is that you have to spend some time in the store. I struggle to call it a restaurant, I’m sorry. Where they sell burgers. And she used to have to do, I think it was a week, every quarter. No, maybe every year, she did a week in a McDonald’s. Everything from doing the fries, mopping the floors, working takeout, all that stuff, to stay close to the customer. And she then went to work. She’d gone sit and just do a day’s work with a laptop in a McDonald’s just to watch how people use it. And he’s like, You have to sometimes get off your ass as a marketer and go and watch how people use your product to get a really close feeling for it.

[00:33:44.110] – Andi J

And we just don’t do that anymore. I don’t do it anymore. I don’t know if it ever happened, but I asked at a conference in Athens, e-commerce conference, who’s spoken to a customer in the last six months? And of the 300 people in the room, six of them had.

[00:33:59.140] – James H

Wow, yeah.

[00:34:00.280] – Andi J

Six out of 300, 2 % had spoken to a customer. Do the math.

[00:34:03.400] – James H

I was going to say quick math.

[00:34:04.680] – Andi J

But every time I ask it, it’s the same numbers responding. And it gets worse in a digital world. Nobody goes and watches people interact. And you think, as a discipline, if anyone is supposed to be close to the customer, it’s marketing. The agencies are supposed to be there, the clients are supposed to be there, but we’re getting further away from that. And I’m not even sure where the question is going with this, but it seems to be a problem.

[00:34:32.160] – James H

I think it is. You leave a credit to them. The latest couple of years now, their initiative is get on the front line. And one of their key tenets is, as you said, get off your ass and actually speak to the consumers. But there’s a few lessons for agencies, I think, as well as marketers, is one is back to what clients want, which is the magic, the logic, the simplification living in culture. You have so much power. So one tip for an agency person is whatever it is, say you work on FMCG, go to Tesco’s in the UK and take some pictures of the brand and how it’s displayed. If you were to go to your client, because this is about helping them, and said, You know what? I was in Tesco the other day, and the parcel wasn’t displayed very well. Now, You might think that’s time. It’s the thing you get the work experience to do when you’re pitching. But if that is the case, that information will go straight to the head of the UK, because at Unilever, all good clients, when we went on regional visits with very senior people, platform.

[00:35:30.810] – James H

We would spend half the time going around little mum and dad pop stores in the Philippines, for example, because that’s where the business happens. It gives you so much power, and it shows that you care. There’s a couple of other things you just mentioned, just about consumers. All these things I didn’t do as an agency person, so I hope I don’t come across as a know-it-all. But there’s a couple of things that we talk about as agencies with our clients about these consumer people, that I think we maybe sometimes forget. The first one is, in our own business is consumers buy emotionally. So we’re all very good at that. We’re always telling our clients, let’s put lots of furry animals in our ads and nice music and all that stuff. Your client buys emotionally. So going back to building relationships. So if you get the relationship right, the rest will follow. Your client will buy you emotionally. So there’s a huge, huge resonance or huge importance of pitch stage and early stages of relationship to do that.

[00:36:29.590] – Andi J

I I love when I’ve worked with B2B and in all sorts of various different B2B sectors, but most of the B2B stuff I’ve done has been quite industrial stuff. And so you’ve got people selling Earthmoving machines and stuff like that, and mining equipment, things like that. And because the investment cycle is planned and because the budget that is, you have to internally, they’ve had to extract X million from the finance director to be able to buy Y number of machines or like that. So because there’s quite a long process to get them to the point where they start to look for a supplier to provide the machines, there’s this view that that then is a rational purchase. And I’ve said to them, it’s like the myth of the rational purchase. I was like, it’s not. Just because there’s a process to it, it doesn’t mean that person is going to spend their money any less irrationally or emotionally driven than anybody else. No, no, Andi, you’re wrong in this. It’s the technical sell. That’s what you need. We’re buying helicopters here. It’s not FMCG. And you’re I get it’s different.

[00:37:31.190] – James H

Do you want two tickets to the game? Yeah.

[00:37:33.700] – Andi J

But you know, you’re just like, people are still buying. People are still people. They don’t stop just because they’ve had to pitch for a couple of million quid over the last six months to be able to be here today. So I find how we get lost in the woods a lot in marketing. I find it mesmerising how we manage to do that, a lot quite comforting, really, because it means I still have a business.

[00:37:55.650] – James H

Well, that’s really interesting. So the quote I mentioned there, which is from one of my first ever bosses, Karen Buchana, who used to say, Get the relationship right and the rest will follow. And I don’t think I appreciated how important that advice was. It’s not to the detriment of doing your job well, but there’s a book, I don’t know if you’ve read this book, The Trusted Advisor. I have not. So that is probably slightly less sexy than Ed Catmull’s book, but it’s about 20 years old, and it talks about professional services in general, why decisions get made. And a couple of key things I took out from that, which I hadn’t appreciated being an agency, is firstly, that clients are really vulnerable. So all I’d seen, going back to referencing the Doom Loops, is scary clients that could hire and fire. But when you are a client, you realise, okay, well, if I’m at a Unilever or a PNG or a heavy and be or whatever, if I don’t deliver the thing I need to deliver, there’s always somebody more senior who needs to see that on Friday. Therefore, I want to be reassured that you will deliver it.

[00:39:00.270] – James H

So there’s loads of agencies that can do great work. If you’re in the pitch room, we know that you’re looking for the people that we think we can nut our problem with over the six months or we think can deliver. So It’s a really important chemistry that we forget, I think, as agencies.

[00:39:21.480] – Andi J

Having worked with a few agencies over the years and worked in an agency and I still do work with a number of agencies now. I know there’ll be people from the agency world listening to this going, Love the sound of this. I’m going to have to get in touch with James. But the other question they’re going is, how do we use this then in the pitch process? How do we use this to win more clients? What can we do to showcase the fact that we get this? Can you do anything other than this feels like a classic, Don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh type of approach. You have to demonstrate and believe it.

[00:39:56.220] – James H

I think it’s being mindful. Again, thinking back about the mind for the relationship with Now we’ve got these magic tools like LinkedIn and the Internet, where you can find out stuff by your client. So it’s just I think the pictures in my career that we could have done much better in, we probably filled it wall to wall with charts. We didn’t realise that there’s a human being who we probably talked about ourselves too much. As a client, you look at pitch decks and you go, I’m not interested in 90 % of those charts. I want to know, have you got it? So if you got the problem, can you help? And do you care? And I look back now at 50 slide decks, 49 of which would have been, this is what we did on this client. It’s just not of interest. I think just put yourself in the shoes of, imagine you had a startup and you were going in to meet some people, what would you want from them? Sometimes, just going to give you one. I only pitch once at Unilever. I’ll keep this anonymous, but we pitched and we said to three agencies, don’t present work.

[00:41:03.030] – James H

And of course, and I probably would have done the same agency side, two of them thought that was a trick. It’s a game in presenting. Yeah, so it’s about we’ve always got to be one meeting head and then one didn’t. Actually, they’re not. They’re based quite close here, actually. And they probably would have done less work for the meeting, clearly. But what we got out of the meeting was a very good conversation for an hour and a half with three people who we thought were smart, who could solve the problem, which wasn’t going to be the problem we had because it never is. It’ll be a problem in six months time. We all came out thinking, we like them. They can get it. They showed enough about their thinking, almost there were a fleet of foot in how they could respond to problems, which is what we wanted, versus the other agencies who put loads of work in, but you felt like it was just a pitch presentation. You didn’t have enough to go on. So less can definitely be more.

[00:41:50.880] – Andi J

I’ve often said, and I don’t know that anyone’s ever believed in my approach to it, but I’ve said it to several clients, we’re looking for an agency, we’re going to be like… I said, Don’t ask them to prepare it because all they’re doing is guessing what you might like rather than guessing what the right thing is. So your target market is, I don’t know, let’s say it’s a male 25 to 35 is your your key target market. Bring the agencies in and say, Show us what you’ve done for these before. Tell us about your process. And I want to see the people who are going to be on the account. And you can spend 20 minutes telling us what you’ve done before for that audience. It means 20 minutes talking about the process and we’ll spend 20 minutes chatting, and then you can go. They’ll appreciate it because they’re not I’m going to spend weeks getting work ready that they might never see the light of day, and you’ll get a much better idea on what can they do, who are you going to buy from? People go, Oh, yeah, great. Anyway, get them to create this.

[00:42:39.610] – James H

No, exactly. I totally agree. And I think the other… If you wanted to add a bit more rigour, which I don’t think you need to do. The classic grad interview, if they still do them, where you got a 24 hours to turn something around, even that is much better for agencies because I just remember looking…

[00:42:57.270] – Andi J

It’s time boxed, isn’t it? It’s time boxed.

[00:42:58.200] – James H

I just remember thinking, You don’t have any time to live your life, actually. When you have quite senior agency pitching all the time, you’re not actually then in culture. So it becomes this lose-lose for clients. Your agencies are working so hard. There’s loads of pictures going on, and you’re exhausted, whereas you’re better off being time boxed What can we do in 24 hours? You can really see how good people are. It’s actually quite fun for the agencies to do that, and everyone’s a winner. So agencies and clients, listen to Andi.

[00:43:26.110] – Andi J

There you go. That’s another lesson. I’ve not caused to sell them, so listen to James first instead. We’ll have your details in the show notes in terms of how people get in touch with it. But I wanted, before we run out of time, just move on to the other relationship you mentioned, which is the Parents’ Promise. So the Parents’ Promise is the subject of an earlier podcast, but a lot’s changed since then. There’s a beautiful picture of me and you at the House of Commons.

[00:43:46.590] – James H

There is. I’ve still got that.

[00:43:49.780] – Andi J

It’s under lock and key somewhere, I think. So tell us the elevator pitch for the Parents’ Promise, and then we’ll dive into what’s happened.

[00:43:58.180] – James H

Elevator pitch to Parents’ Promise is there’s It’s an issue that affects many people, but it’s not talked about. It is talked about in the wrong way, which is separation, very, very gendered, lots of angry people. And there’s a hidden issue, which means that kids often aren’t seeing loving parents or there’s a lot of stress through the family. So we wanted to change that, Andi and I and a few other people, to use communications for good because we felt guilty we spent so long in advertising, not putting any good back in the world. So the idea is, could we… There is genuinely a role for communication, back to grad training and the first thing you were, what is the role for communication? Can we start to have conversations around separation in culture to change how we separate? And we launched, we launched an idea called the Parents’ Promise, which is, I suppose, it’s like a prenup for parents, which just… It’s a conversation starter. So hopefully, you never have to go down this road. But the idea is you and your other half would say, Look, if we were to separate, let’s just be cool and let’s do this.

[00:45:06.600] – James H

Let’s make sure we always genuinely put our kids first, because obviously that is a phrase which is often misused in court. So, yeah, The role is to change. It’s a big, big goal, big mission. It’ll take years to do. But how can we change how the UK separates? So we launched that in 2021. And then last year, we were at the House of Parliament in our posh togs because we started to change. We suggested to some of the UK’s major employers like Tesco and Unilever, that maybe they should have an HR policy for those separating parents to give them more resources so they can separate well and to give them a bit of support through work. And that’s what we’ve done so far.

[00:45:46.150] – Andi J

And that day was a real positive day. And I think we can’t use the P-word enough. As you said, there’s a lot of negativity around separation. There’s a lot of organisations who have… You can maybe understand how they’ve down that route, but it almost… It’s a lot of anger. It becomes people starting on different sides of the fence, throwing things at each other. Actually, what you’ve put together in the Parents’ Promise is a real positive look at this. It’s going to happen to a lot of people. How do we do it better? Exactly. Which I thought that day in the House of Parliament was fantastic. Some great speakers. I’ve forgotten the guy’s name from Tesco who spoke brilliantly.Mustapha.Mustapha. There you go. Thank you. He spoke brilliantly about how important this is. When they’ve got 150,000 staff, is it, or something?300,000 staff.300,000 staff. So I’ve got all the details wrong here, right across all the detail. But how important it is to their organisation. And I did a spot on local radio and said, Oh, should small businesses worry about this thing? And it’s going to cost them a fortune. It’s like, Well, it’s going to cost you a fortune anyway when your staff fall to pieces when they go through separation.

[00:46:54.820] – Andi J

So let’s try and be A real win-win. Yeah, be positive about this and get on the front.

[00:46:58.440] – James H

And we had some advertising The Great and the Good, didn’t we? Mr.

[00:47:01.730] – Andi J

Sutherland was there. Yes, we did. Rory Sutherland, which is how he ended up on the podcast. There we are. Strong-armed him that day.

[00:47:06.340] – James H

It all pays back. And the reason Rory was there, incredibly generous man, incredibly generous for his time. Thank you. This is behaviour change. So even more important than client-agent relationships is real ones where children are involved and where they’re not involved is how can we change the mindset so we realise that when we have small people, they have a right, safeguarding notwithstanding, to our relationship with both parents. And it’s our duty to uphold that, however annoyed or however difficult it might be to work with the other person.

[00:47:39.990] – Andi J

And just to tackle it, I hate throwing this question around, but it is something that people, I wouldn’t say ask, I would say shout all the time when this is discussed on social media, particularly. You talk about dad’s access and both sides having access to the child. And the first person in the comments is always, oh, yes, but kids have to be kept safe and safeguarding is always an issue and dad should be kept to it. It seems to be that, yes, there is sometimes an issue with safeguarding, but that’s not always the case, is it?

[00:48:09.280] – James H

Yeah, I mean, oh, God. It’s a very difficult issue, this. But I suppose the headline is the Family Courts really don’t work at all. And the great and the good of the Family Court, so the guy called Sir Andrew McFarlane, a wonderful fellow who runs the whole thing, they all acknowledge that there are issues. So there’s always complexity, but there’s too much complexity in the family court system. It’s too obtuse. There’s no data. He says I’m on this soapbox now. It’s not It’s done very well. And ultimately, I suppose, go back to cultural change, because we see it on the telly, we think a bit like if I break my arm and go to hospital, people think that you go to family courts and that will sort it all out. Actually, there is no resolution. There are things that definitely could and hopefully will change over time. That’s not what we’re focussing on. But really, the responsibility lies with the adults. And what we’re hoping to do, back to the positive word, is look at positive role models. People do separate. I think both you and I have a personal story to tell. And it can be surrounded in a lot of shame, and it’s clearly not what you wanted to do, and that’s not where you get into relationships, but it happens.

[00:49:31.480] – James H

And I think we should be, for anyone listening who has friends who’ve separated and they’ve separated well, and they’ve managed to make it work for the kids, they should be applauded. It’s saying, Look, this is difficult to do. It’s amazing you’ve done it. And I’ve got some friends who’ve done it really, really well. And their children now appreciate what they’ve done. So it’s really important stuff. There’s one, so the next thing we’re going to do in 2025, obviously, there might be an election this year, is We’re looking at the next cultural area of changes in education. So you heard it here first. We’re going to do a project in that space. Maybe you and I can get our togs on if we can get an MP to support us. But at some point in 2022, helping schools Yeah, we’ll have to wait and see who is in Parliament, won’t we?

[00:50:17.290] – Andi J

Yeah, exactly.

[00:50:17.970] – James H

We’ll have to see who we can cobble. But we’ll hopefully get something which will help schools understand or give them the tools they need, because I think they get caught in the middle of a separation quite a lot. And help be a positive influencer in terms of how to do it best for the good of the little children that they look after.

[00:50:38.250] – Andi J

Fantastic. Well, what a place to finish. There we are. On a positive. So James, where is the best place for people? Your details are in the show notes, but where’s the best channel for people?

[00:50:46.450] – James H

Probably best channel for me would be, find me on LinkedIn, James Hayhurst, not too many James Hayhurst. There you go. Or website, themagicsourcecourse. Co. Uk.

[00:50:56.890] – Andi J

Perfect. Well, thank you very much for your time, James.Thank you for having me.Yes, it’s been a wonderful interview here in person in London, in Farringdon. Thank you to the Zetter Hotel for this amazing backdrop. And again, if you’re only listening, go and have a look at the picture because it is tremendous. And if you’re in America, you’re probably looking going, this is the most British scene ever, aren’t you?