MB’s 11 minute showreel from 2002. Epic.
Moving Brands turns 15 this week.
In 1998, Moving Brands’ five founders set up shop in London. Aged 19 – 23, with skills that spanned film-making, tech, business and graphic design, they cheerfully began chasing briefs bigger than they knew what to do with.
Since then, MB has been creating stories across all mediums for our clients, but it’s fair to say we don’t reflect on our own stories often enough.
We’re lucky to have three of our founders still leading the business; Ben Wolstenholme as Chairman, James Bull as Exec Creative Director in SF, and Guy Wolstenholme as Design Director in London. So we asked them each to share their memories of MB’s first fifteen years. Hopefully it provides some memories for past MBers, some clarity for current MBers, and some inspiration for those that may one day work with us.
What was the project that gave you the most joy?
Ben Wolstenholme: The one I remember best was Swisscom. We were asked to pitch but we had decided that, as a very proud Swiss company, there was no way they’d award it to a foreign (let alone London) agency. So we agreed to answer the brief exactly as we felt it should be – beyond the written constraints of the brief – but in line with what we believed to be the underlying needs of the business. We did everything differently; no intros, started the meeting with a film that showed the solution, drew the strategy on a roll of paper as long as the room, changed the room setup, took a theatre director with us, filmed the entire process….. I remember walking out and seeing the next company come in nervously with a stack of boards… .We had had such an amazing hour, with so much resolve, and although I never thought we’d win it, I felt so sorry for the next pitch team! Was that Joy…I think it was mainly pride – intense pride – close enough.
James Bull: The first was winning a project for a UK based cable provider called GTS. We had just taken the lease of 7-8 Charlotte Road on and we needed to land a project in order to make the next rent payment.
The proposed project was a website, something back then that we had no idea how to create, and client was giving us a hard time on costs and timings. I was sat on the stairs of my Mum and Dad’s house feeling nervous about the outcome – MB may have had to have closed it’s doors before it had even got going – when Ben called with the news that we had won the project. I remember feeling three things; “Wow, we can pay January’s rent,” “maybe we really can run our own business,” and “how the f**k are we going to make a website?”
Guy Wolstenholme: There are a few that come to mind but Inferno has to be one of the most joyful for me, firstly because it is where I met Sarah my partner that I have had three children with, but also because it was the project that brought us all together.
What project did you think you would never pull off – that you managed to?
Ben: We were on a plane to China – en route to Mongolia to do the world’s first live broadcast via satellite – to link live to BBC1’s flagship tech programme Tommorrows World. 6M viewers would watch us interview live with Peter Snow – a veteran broadcaster. We were all lined up with latest satellite tec, solar tec, laptop tec, camera, generators….etc. But we hadn’t actually quite got the solution working. I remember sitting in the plane thinking, “I know Guy will have this working by the time we’re live – but we have left it rather late.” The odds were ridiculous.
What do you consider to be your greatest MB-related achievement?
Guy: The LiveTX worlds first segment (see above) still feels like a big achievement and still brings a large smile to my face, The story is so ridiculous that I love recalling it. It also dawned on me that we were streaming live video events/stories to the web 7 years before YouTube started. The concept was shunned at the time, as it was believed you would not get enough viewers watching content on the web. Looking back it feels like we may have been a bit too early with this one.
Ben: I think we’ve challenged the fabric of ‘what’ branding stands for. We may not be fully recognised for it but that was our original intention and still is. The fact we’ve remained independent is a big deal at our size – we’ve cut our own path and that is not an easy route to take when building a business. We have never wavered from our mission. We may have stumbled but we’ve never wavered!
Ben directing a war ship and harrier jump-jets for the QinetiQ shoot
Anything you would have done differently with hindsight?
James: Everything is additive to your business and your creativity – the highs and the lows create you in equal measure. So, there is only one way to answer. No.
Do you have any stories that would make the other founders cringe?
Guy: We had the filming rights to CharmJam, a ski/snowboard event in Chamonix. James and I had positioned ourselves at different points down the mountain, with Jim positioned under the big air jump, looking up to capture the big jumps/spins/twists. He see’s me and gives me a thumbs up, and I see him hit eject to put in a new tape. He’s standing under a big jump with the camera wide open, the snowboarder comes flying over the top depositing a block of snow inside the camera, James looks up at me smiling. And we’re another camera down.
What is one thing you wish everyone in the business – regardless of their role or level – knew to be true of MB?
James: That it is a place where your talents can find a real home. Where you can move roles easily, speak your mind and feel part of something. I hope Moving Brands will outlive the founders, will have generations of leadership and be an important hub of creativity for a lot of creative people.
Any lightbulb moments or conversations you think shaped the business into what it is today?
James: In a very relaxed and unassuming way, at some time around 2001 or 2002, Guy drew a diagram in front of us – to explain what he was thinking the Moving Brands offer was. Within 15 seconds of seeing it we were all “yup that is it.” Typical Guy style, he nailed it perfectly and in the process exposed the massive holes that were in the industry at that time. It seems strange to say it but I think that diagram galvanized the vision.
Ben: Our early conversations were all about building a cross platform storytelling business. We would get a lot of blank looks – but i think that is what the company is today.
How do you relate to or perceive the interns / juniors that join the business now?
James: The interns and juniors of today are the ‘us’ of tomorrow – I view any intern or junior that walks through the door as a potential leader of our business. Of course some don’t have what it takes, but for the ones that do, it’s more than possible.
Ben: The best young creatives have a spectrum of abilities across art, design, engineering/code, writing… the best of which tie it together with strong ideas and system thought. The tools to bring great design to life are much wider ranging… a few great creatives can achieve more than hundreds of average ones – and that fact will become more extreme. Thinking and making: the two have never been more directly linked, far ranging and rapid. This strikes me as the mode of the student today – and will be a welcome break to the established silos.
Guy: Having spent a few days at Hyper Island with a load of students it’s very exciting to see the different ways people generate ideas and how they work together. MB has always been learning and adapting as it grows, and I think the interns and their approach will shape how we do business in the future.
How has your understanding of client’s and their challenges changed?
Guy: They are people trying to do their job well, normally with a lot of noise around them. It feels like our role is to help them shape/clarify what they need to say, but also establish the best medium to say it with. My respect for them has also grown and I feel like we do our best work when we work closely together
James: I think in my early days of Moving Brands I assumed that clients stood in the way of my creativity – of course this is utterly not the case. Now, I do not see clients as clients I see them as collaborators in creative problem solving… all the best work done by Moving Brands has a great client at it’s heart.
Did you make any predictions back in 1998 that have come true?
James: I once made a prediction at college that “the internet won’t come to anything” – I think I got that one a little wrong?!?