Blog 3 minute read
James Warren, head of digital, EMEA at comms agency MSL Group, always knew he wanted to do something creative with his life and reckons his teenage self would be satisfied, if a tad confused, at where he has ended up: “As a teen I was fortunate enough to spend my holidays working as an 'office boy' at BBDO in London. An ad agency in the mid to late 1980s was a great place to be – Porsches, Apple Macs, big hair and bigger egos. I loved it and learnt a great deal.”
Warren believes BBDO was a great introduction to the world of work, but he says his biggest break was getting a gap year placement at IBM’s development laboratory at Hursley, near Winchester. “Hursley is the birthplace of the hard drive, the colour display and the software that manages ATMs and financial transactions. It is also where the Spitfire was developed during the war. It is a magical place. IBM is an extraordinary organisation, with an almost-evangelical mission to use technology to solve the world’s biggest problems. I was thrown in at the deep end, learned to code, played with a deeply clunky internet (this was pre-worldwide web) and was generally indulged. I carried on working there during breaks in my studies and went back once I’d finished at Newcastle Polytechnic. The people I worked with at IBM were among the most creative I’ve ever encountered – and some of the nicest too.”
The move into PR happened because Warren met a girl who worked in PR recruitment: “She told me about this brilliant-yet-bonkers agency with a stupid name (Text 100), where a young team worked hard and played harder. It was love at first sight (Text, not the girl. Having said that, I did meet my wife there. I think Text 100 is responsible for at least 10 marriages and they’re all still going strong. I guess that says something about its recruitment policy … ). I loved it from the get go and was very fortunate to be invited by Matt Ravden and Clive Armitage to help set up the agency Bite.”
As for moving into digital, Warren says that he’s not sure he ever did make a move into digital! “My time at IBM turned me into a geek. But I’m more passionate about creativity and comms – digital seems like a natural place to bring that all together.”
Describing the progression of his career, Warren claims this down to luck more than judgement: “Unlike some people I know, I’ve never been very good at proactively managing my career. I’ve ridden the waves and rolled with the punches in equal measure. I sometimes wonder whether staying 12 years at Bite and almost eight years at Weber Shandwick was too long. But I was having fun and doing great work with fantastic people for amazing clients at both places, so I certainly don’t regret it.
“Every change I’ve made has been really positive. The digital team at MSLGROUP is the strongest I’ve ever worked with, designing and developing award-winning websites and digital experiences for the best clients in the business. The work we do is truly inspiring and I’m super-excited about where we’re headed next.”
Everyone profiled by PRmoment is always asked for their advice to others in the PR industry. Warren’s reply is short and sweet: “Be nice. Be curious. Work hard. And have confidence in PR. It’s the future.”