With a love for media, business and advertising ever since he was a young’un, it’s no wonder that Tom Primrose ended up becoming a planner.
After studying advertising at Southampton Solent University for three years, Tom managed to nab himself a job at Hakuhodo-owned agency Southpaw, and he’s been here ever since.
Tom most recently helped set up the agency’s incubator platform Hatch, so we caught up with him to find out what makes him tick.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what kind of kid were you?
I grew up in East Sussex, which meant I was never too far away from the sea, countryside or the capital. As a kid I was full of energy and wanted nothing more than to be a superhero - nothing’s changed there! I loved being outdoors, playing/causing trouble with friends and going on family holidays to Cornwall. I had a serious competitive streak (still my best and worst quality) which led to some very tense games of beach cricket!
How did you become a planner at Southpaw?
It all started at school, two of my favourite subjects were media and business. I loved the creativity of media and the strategic side of business. Advertising is an industry where both are integral, so I decided to study it at Southampton Solent. Planning was a unit that I immediately felt excited about. It centres around problem solving and figuring out how people think. Sometimes it feels like being a detective, which can be fun.
I started a dialogue with Southpaw in my first year and checked in each summer. As final year came to a close, a spot for an internship opened up in the strategy department. I leapt at the chance and started two weeks after I finished uni. It was an awesome experience involving exciting brands, big pitches and learning from some extremely talented individuals. After three months I was offered a job and the rest is history, as they say.
Talk to us about your role within the agency and how you fit within the team.
I’m part of the strategy & social team which is headed up by our strategy director Niki Macartney. The team is made up of planners, social media gurus and content specialists. As a planner/strategist my role is to be the voice of the consumer, find insights, solve problems and write the strategy. I work closely with the creative department - it’s my job to write the brief and from there it’s all about producing the perfect environment for creative development. It’s a real collaboration.
You helped set up Southpaw’s incubator platform Hatch and headed up the strategy for its first project. Can you tell us a little about that?
I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of the creation of Hatch. It was literally a case of building something from the ground up. This started with research into existing incubators, the start-up industry and the journey entrepreneurs go on to launch a new business. I also attended the Business Show (the UK’s largest business exhibition) which was incredibly insightful - there’s nothing better than getting out in the field and talking to people that know the market. From there it was all about finding our point of difference and then creating a brand purpose and positioning, which then fed into the creation of the Hatch logo, look and feel.
Our first project was incredibly exciting. I can’t say too much at this point, as the product will be the first of its kind in the market, but we’re currently in the final stages before launch. It’s been an awesome experience working with two passionate entrepreneurs and a tight knit Southpaw team that believe in the brand and product we’re creating. This project has had everything from working with food scientists, in-store research, all the way through to running focus groups. It’s been a hell of a project and I feel very proud of the strategy - the creatives have really outdone themselves. Bring on the launch!
What inspires you and how do you keep up with new trends, technologies and opportunities?
Well first up people inspire me. Our MD Tom Poynter is a very inspirational and motivating leader. He really gets stuck in and leads from the front. I’m part of an awesome team that carries through that same energy and are always looking to be progressive. Every week the team meets to share different trends and technologies that have inspired them, which act as thought-starters for the creatives. We also have a number of tools that help us predict and spot trends that will disrupt, before they happen. Aside from this I keep my finger on the pulse in terms in anything from global news to pop culture. In this role it’s important to be a sponge and soak up as much info and inspo as possible.
Which projects that you’ve been involved in are you most proud of and why?
Well aside from the Hatch projects, there’s one that really sticks in my mind. It all started with a new business drive at the agency. I worked alongside a senior creative to produce a piece of entertaining content selling in the agency, that was then delivered to the prospect’s offices in a very disruptive manner. The prospect was Adidas Golf/TaylorMade and a bent golf club was the item that landed on the marketing director’s desk, along with an attached memory stick containing the video and a deck about the agency. It must have done the trick because we were invited to pitch days later. I was selected to lead the strategy and then pitch - I knew golf backwards, threw a lot of hard work at the strategy and was guided by a great team around me, so it all paid off and we won the pitch, which was awesome!
Other highlights include being part of the team on Yazoo’s latest Shake It Up campaign and having my ‘What can brands learn from Pokémon Go?’ thought piece published by the IPA - go and check it out if you haven’t already!
Outside of work, what do you like to get up to?
I play a lot of sport – football (my boyhood hero was Beckham), golf, surfing, tennis, snowboarding. You name it, I’m game! I also love a gig, The Last Shadow Puppets and The Vaccines were definitely up there. I pride myself on going to see artists just before they blow up. I dragged a couple of friends along to see Dua Lipa in a pub in Brighton when no one had heard of her, there can’t have been more than 100 people in there. Fast forward 18 months and she’s just had a number one single! One band to watch out for is Swimming Girls, so go and check them out! I also try to keep up with what’s on at the cinema. I saw Dunkirk recently and think Christopher Nolan is a genius. The Dark Knight and Inception are two of my favourite films. The way Nolan creates such detailed and complex narratives on such a grand scale is a sight to behold.
What are your aims for 2017?
Well we have two very exciting Hatch projects on the horizon that I’m looking forward to being involved in. Again my objective is to work alongside these entrepreneurs and to help them achieve their goals and thrive in market. We also have a very cool project coming up with a category leading FMCG brand. I’ll be leading the strategy on it and the aim is to produce an incredibly creative and effective campaign that really disrupts the market. My other big aim is to skill up. Content strategy is something that is spreading like wildfire and I am very keen to add that string to my bow. Learning never stops!