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Risky rebrand pays off for Southpaw creatives

Risky rebrand pays off for Southpaw creatives
Claire Ashdown, Southpaw's Marketing Manager, explores agency rebranding in the second part of a series focusing on the agency.

It is always a challenge trying to fuse fresh ideas together when new talent enters an agency. However, thankfully, we managed to launch our recent rebrand with a minimum of hurdles and with the full support of the whole agency.

When we were known as Nexus/H, we prided ourselves on running a smooth ship that could help maximise effectiveness for our prestigious roster of international clients - some of whom had been with us for a long time.

For outsiders looking in, we wanted to appear as though everything was running as normal, despite the frenzied idea generation behind closed doors! Here's what our creative directors Craig Roderick and Glenn Smith thought about the rebrand journey and becoming Southpaw.

Craig and Glenn: "The reason we’d joined Nexus/H all those years ago was for the potential. Here was this ready-made agency, with some excellent clients, hidden away from the Jekyll and Hyde character London had become for us.

"It had scale, it had quirkiness and it was based in a lovely old warehouse. It reminded us of the Leith agency. But it was also far from it. What Nexus/H needed was a new purpose, a new name, a new identity. What it got was the recession.

"But what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And as the recession eased, belief began to grow again. Tom Poynter came in as Managing Director and Niki Macartney came in to head up planning from DLKW. They saw the potential, too.

"So, here we were, after years of thinking, dreaming, waiting for our chance, it had finally come. And we didn’t have a clue where to start.

"'We’re about nimbleness!'

"'No! We’re about international reach!'

"'Bollocks to that, we’re about digital!'

"'But what about our big print-only client?'

"'The focus has to be new biz!'

"'And attracting talent from London!'

"'And retaining talent!'

"'I want a slide connecting planning to creative!'

"We all agreed very quickly that our foundation was about the word CHALLENGER. We see ourselves as a challenger brand and were turned on by the notion of supporting challenger brands as a new business objective.

"Great, we’re out the blocks! The attitude and the ambition in the room was evident. The tenacity and determination was infectious. What next, then?

"We needed a product. And by product we don’t just mean what we do, but how we do it. Amazingly, agreeing what we actually did was one of the hardest things to figure out. This is because you have to be able to deliver it. Practicing what you preach is a rare thing in all forms of advertising, so it was essential we didn’t fall at the first hurdle.

"We needed a truth, and it had to come from within. As we looked around the table we saw a group of people in the midst of a gamble. People had left top jobs in London and moved entire families to make this happen.

"This element of risk seemed to give us an edge in our approach and a spirit that bound us all together. We also knew that we wanted to create the best work of our lives; work that cuts through, wins awards, creates movements.

"The more we discussed it, the more up for the fight we were. And with that came the first element of our product – BRAVE THINKING. That’s what we offer: No fear, furious curiosity, a never-say-die attitude.

"The second element of our product to figure out was the method. Having scratched our heads to what ‘full-service’ and ‘integrated’ actually meant, we focused on the areas we knew we were strong in and felt most passionate about – Creativity, Technology, Media and Strategy.

"We have an amazing building, but it’s siloed. We wanted to create more communal spaces where people of different disciplines could work together, sharing thought streams and idea. And so the idea of BLENDING came in. A way of maximising the talent we have and cutting out the long winded, linear approach clients are used to.

"Finally, we needed a name. A name that would befit an agency with a challenger mindset, that offered brave thinking and that brought an unorthodox approach to hitting client briefs.

"We must have gone through hundreds, Google translating the word brave and challenger into every ‘cool’ language. Was there something in our location? Was there something in our Japanese link? Was there something using our own names?

"It took weeks, if not months. And then it happened. SOUTHPAW. The unorthodox stance of a left-handed sportsman. A rare breed. A tough customer. The stance of the underdog - Rocky was a southpaw! (We even pay a subtle homage to Mick’s Gym in our logo).

"So, there you have it. It took us almost 12 months from starting the project to launching the agency with our new website. It was one of the toughest things we’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding.

"The impact it’s had on the rest of the agency in incredible. The belief, the feeling of being part of something cool and progressive is overwhelming. It feels like a start-up. Hell, it is a start-up. Time to unleash that potential."

As to how those looking from the outside in think about us, here's a client side view to cap off the Nexus/H to Southpaw journey.

Jim Johnstone, Managing Director UK and Ireland of Dunkin’ Brands: "I have worked with a number of agencies in my role and I appreciate how Southpaw truly apply themselves to my business.

"The team brings together different mindsets to address our business challenges and rather than just relying on client service, a planner or a creative team, I get to see the inner workings of creative people, technology and media all working together.

"Whether it is a new business proposition, a newly developed piece of utility that I can launch or just keeping me connected and on my game, Southpaw's work is always delivered with energy and an understanding of my business."

Claire Ashdown is Marketing Manager at Southpaw.

In Part One, Group Managing Director Tom Poynter reveals how he sparked the agency rebrand.

Last updated 13/08/2014

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