In this special Father’s Day interview, we unearth more of the KHWS story, and reveal the best bits about being a proud Agency Dad from our three Founding Fathers, Nick Hawkes, Andrew Watts and Mark Skelton.
Why did you set up KHWS?
AW: We set up KHWS because we saw a gap in the market for an agency that put ideas and long term client relationships before anything else. Prior to KHWS, all three of us had been at the start of the change in emphasis in the below the line marketing sector; changing into a more integrated approach that blended direct marketing and promotional marketing disciplines.
NH: Having worked with both of us at separate companies, Mark introduced Andrew and myself. My background was in Sales Promotion and Andrew’s was in Direct Mail so we saw it as the perfect combination to offer an integrated BTL approach. KHWS was set up as an alternative to the bigger ego-driven networks.
MS: That’s where the KHWS value of Family Spirit came from. We wanted to establish a working environment that had a flat structure, where people could have ideas and progress those ideas without adhering to hierarchy. I always had ambition to set up my own agency. It’s my belief that you can create better work when you’re in the driving seat.
What’s the best bit about your role at KHWS?
AW: Seeing the people we have nurtured really grow and take responsibility for their clients. It is a great source of pride.
MS: The privilege of working alongside creative, talented and inspiring people every day of the week.
NH: Watching people and the business grow. We are a stable business that offers good career opportunities in a friendly and exciting environment. We are friends inside and outside work and our clients are fair and interested in what we can contribute – this makes my role easier.
You used to be called ‘the three dads’ by your early employees, long before you had any children. What’s your best ‘proud dad’ moment since starting KHWS?
NH: Generally giving opportunities to young people, helping train them and watching them grow into professional, contributing team members – we are still in touch with our very first KHWS employee from 1993.
MS: For me, one of my proudest moments was reaching a headcount of 100 staff.
AW: Our 18th and 21st birthday parties stand out for me – they not only signified our longevity but also the loyalty and commitment of our staff.
How have marketing agencies evolved, and where are they going?
MS: Digital transformation has been the biggest factor in the evolution of agencies. The commercial needs of clients have remained constant, but it’s the deliverable that’s changed.
AW: Digital has completely changed all agencies – every agency is a potential competitor as ‘land grabbing’ has become the norm.
NH: The internet changed everything. Since 2007 we have seen seismic shifts in the way consumers interact with brands – bricks and mortar and face to face still have an important role but having individualised meaningful and seamless online experiences is where brand marketing will evolve. Some brands are reacting quicker and will be the early winners. Today 93% of KHWS output is digital.
Give us a fun fact about you…
AW: I am the leading wicket taker at Blackheath Cricket Club.
MS: I am a Freeman of the City of London and proud to be a Londoner, born and bred.
NH: My ancestor Bishop Ridley was burnt at the stake as a heretic. Ouch!
Lastly, what advice would you give to your younger self, or to anyone starting in the industry?
MS: Never lose your self-confidence and if you haven’t got any, find some fast.
AW: Stay patient. Good things come to those who wait.
NH: Back your judgement and be intuitive to your client’s needs – this is still foremost a people business.
You can read more about us and meet the rest of the team in our About section.