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Finger on the pulse: Agency boss on storytelling, growth and the year ahead

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In conversation with CEO James Wilkins

  • Your name and role: James Wilkins, CEO
  • Company: We are Vista
  • What it does: Creative communications that make a lasting impact
  • Founded:1996
  • Size of team: 100

What is your brand’s growth story?
Our leadership team has a wealth of experience in driving commercial success through multi-platform communications, each of us contributing a fresh perspective on how to truly make a meaningful difference for our clients – and specialising in strategic thinking.

Over the past few years, as the industry has developed and grown, so has our agency and the expertise we can offer. The idea of making a meaningful difference has really become a central focus for us. The work we’ve done with our clients has had a huge, lasting impact with audiences and driven cultural change within some of the most influential brands in the UK and globally.

Our proposition is to realise the potential of brands, their people and their audiences. This is where we thrive as an agency. It’s about understanding mindsets and changing them through belief. It’s an exciting journey for us and we’re still to developing and continuing to innovate within this space.

You work with FTSE 100 groups. How do you help brands close the gap between their strategy and execution?
It’s all about insight, and truly dissecting and understanding the motivations of your audience. You might have a powerful message but if you don’t communicate it in the right way, if you don’t make them believe, your audience isn’t going to respond and connect with your proposition.

We spend time analysing the beliefs, attitudes and feelings that shape the culture of an organisation – these combine to form the overall mindset, and that’s what must change before we can expect to see real actions and results.

Our approach creates impact through creative storytelling, using insight and imagination to build a foundation of trust and unite every individual on a shared mission.

What valuable insights have you gained working with FTSE 100 groups?
We’ve done some really-important work with our FTSE 100 clients, working with them to close the gap between strategy and culture. We take a collaborative approach and we’ve learnt a lot during the process, growing together.

We’ve been able to gather data and insights on the behavioural psychology of audiences, through the campaigns we’ve curated. This has informed the development of our mindset model, which forms our approach to creative communications. Working with our clients really helps us to grow and we’re always learning. It’s through that collaboration that we produce our best work and deliver their best results.

How important is ‘storytelling’ in campaigns? Any recent campaign that you turned around with engaging content?
Storytelling is so important. We’ve seen it with our clients – powerful brands use creative storytelling to strengthen their vision, align their people and drive real cultural change. The work we recently did with Vodafone, launching VOXI to 12,000 colleagues across the UK, is a great example of this.

Our challenge was to launch VOXI to Vodafone’s diverse internal audience, across different Vodafone locations. Our campaign had to capture the dynamic energy of VOXI, while encouraging colleagues to sign up for the service and join the ‘brand ambassadors club’. Our creative execution also needed to reflect elements of the external campaign and create a strong narrative that clearly explained the VOXI story to every colleague.

To capture both audiences, we created company-wide communications designed to engage staff and get to the heart of the new brand. We also created a targeted section of the campaign for those in the youth bracket, developing bespoke calls to action and KPIs, with everything written and designed to cut through the noise of everything else. The full campaign maximised every channel, covering printed material, HTML emails, on the ground staffing and engagement activities.

The results were incredible, and engagement was through the roof. What we ended up with was a multi-award-winning campaign that has set a precedent within Vodafone. That was a proud moment for us and they’re such a great client to work with.

What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
Being responsible in a digital world and embracing the data evolution is going to be critical for both brands and agencies. The businesses that innovate, and see opportunities as opposed to threats, will be the game-changers and the industry leaders, in what will be an uncertain time for many.

What do you believe the key to growing this business?
We’re clear on our value proposition and this provides real clarity and direction for us as a business. We’re very focused on showing measurable results on client campaigns and that’s enabled us to expand relationships with our current clients, as well as take on new business in line with our proposition. As we continue this journey, we’re looking at the opportunity to expand into other geographical areas, building our global presence.

Any London start-up/s you’re watching, and why?
I’ve always got a close eye on fintech innovation and there are a couple of banking startups that stand out for me. Monzo have really taken the time to understand the needs of their audience and as a result, they’ve created a movement and a community around their service. They’re transparent, innovative and most importantly – they have that human element. Audiences really respond to that.

I’ve also been very impressed by Atom. If you look at any trend report, you will see that everyone is talking about Gen Z – but a lot of brands don’t know how to speak to them. Atom does. They’ve created a service that caters to the wants and needs of an incredibly digitally savvy generation. They only launched in 2016 and they’re pegged as one of the fastest growing banking start-ups in Europe. Understanding and connecting with their audience as they do, has resulted in incredible brand growth.

We work with some of the biggest banks in the UK and globally, so it’s important for us to keep abreast of the everchanging fintech landscape. We’ve already done a lot of work on digital transformation for brands that we work with and we’re very invested in the future of banking.




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