Guerilla turns 20

In April 2000, when we decided to stop commuting to London and set up Guerilla, we never dreamed that we would still be doing this in 20 years’ time and of course that our 20th anniversary would be celebrated in glorious isolation, but we will still be raising a virtual glass to thank our past and current clients, team members and friends for all their support.
Looking back over the last 20 years it seems everything has changed and nothing has changed.

The changes are mostly positive as we have all gone digital. It is the digital age that is allowing us to continue to work in lockdown.
Back in 2000 web sites were relatively new, we helped Great Eastern launch their first web site and venture into email marketing. There was the first glimmer of social media arising with Myspace and Friends Reunited but Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were still years away. Meanwhile, we thought it was very cool having our landlines diverted to our non-smart mobiles.

Another change we have seen is the reduction in lead times, we recently put an outdoor campaign together for Northern in three weeks from concept to launch. Impossible in 2000 when email and file transfer sites were still in their infancy.

The way we think about brands and measure a brand’s success has changed as well, with impressions and reach being overtaken in importance by engagement and conversions. The best and most successful brands have to be consumer-centric and not brand-centric, something we wholeheartedly agree with. Marketers in general and creatives in particular should be the customer champion in any room.

Another big change in our communication options is the parallel rise of social media and the smartphone. We recall working with Sony at the turn of the century to identify what was going to be the killer application; the one thing that controlled all others in the household. A long debate that centred around the PC vs the TV. A few short years later the I-phone launches and the smart phone rules the roost.

At Guerilla we love the opportunity that social media gives us to really engage with the target audience and are proud to have helped the UK rail sector embrace social media, including the first example of a train company using a Facebook app back in 2014. We also helped La Doria establish Cook Italia as a niche pasta and tinned tomatoes brand (remember those?) almost entirely through social media. Content is now very definitely king and we have recently launched “Blog Shop” our one stop blogging and SEO service.

Not all change is good of course. There are some dangers in the digitisation and commoditisation of marketing. Taking it all in house and banging it out on a mac has arguably seen a decline in some creative output. As has the desire for quick wins, like a one off-video that goes viral and achieves 15 minutes of fame, but does chasing the quick win help brand building in the longer term?

Pre-digital we achieved a quick win for Great Eastern with a campaign that went viral 2002 style with millions of pounds worth of TV news, radio and press coverage from ‘Have I got News for You’ to a radio station in Canada. Did this have a long term benefit for the brand? Very hard to say as within 12 months the franchise was awarded to another operator.

Another thing we are in danger of forgetting the benefit of is the “three martini” lunch. I am joking here, a bit. Whilst we are all working remotely, we are missing the social interaction of actually meeting and talking through issues in a relaxed atmosphere. Some of our best ideas have been dreamed up in direct face to face collaboration with Clients. Martini lunches probably are a thing of the past but it remains good to talk.

Of course, some things do not change.

Our original philosophy still holds true. Using strong strategic thinking and great creative inspired by audience insights to get our clients closer to their target audiences. All of this underpinned by a desire to make communication entertaining or informative or both and to have fun doing it.

Right now with people in genuine isolation the “entertaining” bit is more important than ever. It’s great to see brands like the National Theatre embracing change and using the opportunity to showcase their product. We logged in to their Facebook channel to watch One Man, Two Guvnors and a stream of other classics added over the weeks. Once lock down is over, where is the first place we will look for new and interesting productions?

We are not usually ones for nostalgia but looking back over the past 20 years we have produced great work, collaborated with interesting people and organisations and had a lot of fun along the way.

We are very proud to have worked for First Group for all of our 20 years and with Northern for over 10 of them. Highlights including helping Northern achieve its first million pound online sales month and First manage last-mile transport at the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games. We have launched an airline, produced radio ads for BMW and worked with some great people providing voice-overs, Simon Bates doing our tune for a Portsmouth bus route was as fun as it was incongruous.
We have launched numerous new trains, buses, stations, and routes, always fun but nervous times hoping all of the logistics come together. We have met with Ministers, MP’s MD’s, Founders and Funders but most enlightening is always the sessions with front line staff.

And big thanks to our first client Dixons Group Business Services. Who would have thought that business head Billy Harley would end up running a fabulous hotel on the isle of Sky? Once this is over I do recommend anyone looking to get away from it all check out the Uig Hotel.

And finally, over the last 20 years, we have also kissed a few frogs, chatting to and working with founders who have the next “big idea”. Very few if any are ever shown the door we have even invested in a couple, but we did draw the line at the guy we met with who had invented “hot chocolate Viagra”.

So thank you again to everyone we have worked with and for. You are all stars. Let’s hope we can all meet up in the year 2021.