Creative Brief interviewed George P. Johnson's Managing Director, UK Jason Megson as part of their Creative Industry Leaders series.
You can read the original interview on Creative Brief - click here
Creativebrief: As Managing Director of George P. Johnson, what’s your primary focus, and your day-to-day work?
Jason Megson: I think it’s about creating an environment for the team to produce their best work. It’s about making sure that you take a leadership role which encourages people to focus on being the best they can be and understand that OK is not OK.
Tied into that, it can’t just be rhetorical leadership-speak; you actually have to lead by example.
The industry that we operate in is a bit more diverse than the traditional advertising space. There are lots of specialist delivery teams within the brand experience world. I have to lead the agency as though I’d be willing and able to do any of the various tasks that we deliver for our clients on a daily basis.
Creativebrief: And that’s something you’ve picked up over the course of your career? Could you outline your career to date?
Jason Megson: I started at the sharp end 20 years ago, where I was in shorts, T-shirts, steel-toe capped boots, unloading trucks of staging and sound and light equipment at the middle of the night. I learnt from the bottom up.
Being a rigger was fun and quite good for my fitness, but it wasn’t so good for my bank balance and didn’t really satisfy my desire to solve problems. My next move was into an event project management role at a sales promotion agency, which is where I found a love for the agency world and working in a creatively led environment.
The big turning point for me was landing a job at Ogilvy and Mather as head of experiential across the European region. This opened my eyes to the fact that brand experience had really come of age and was becoming a strategic imperative for savvy marketeers versus an indulgent nice-to-have activation tactic.
Following a brief stint running my own sponsorship/boutique activation agency, I was approached about the opportunity at George P. Johnson.
Creativebrief: So, what attracted you about George P. Johnson?
Jason Megson: I think what fundamentally attracted me was the mass of potential energy within the business, almost like a coiled spring or a sprinter on the starting blocks. I just thought, this is an amazing untapped resource of event delivery expertise that can do so much more. We’re 103-years-old as a business this year and we have an inspiring story.
I also think in the UK we had kept ourselves to ourselves. A big quiet agency that just got on with its business in Kingston. As soon as I started to find out more, I thought wow, this is such a great foundation to build on and share with clients that don’t already work with us.
Creativebrief: What do you think has been the agency’s best work over the last year?
Jason Megson: I think the best work in the last 12 months has been for one of our long-standing clients, Cisco. In 13 years of working together we’ve helped turn a 3,000-person event into a 13,000-person event, and we create and deliver every part of it, end to end.
We’re reaching every touch point and creating moments of impact, whether they’re through content creation or a social media campaign, to the digitally powered experiences that reach every delegate, not forgetting our founding expertise, which is in flawlessly delivering a large complex event. It’s a testament to the client’s confidence in the agency. But also demonstrates tangible progress in terms of our capabilities as a communications agency partner, as opposed to being previously positioned as the event management supplier.
Creativebrief: How have you seen George P. Johnson, and the industry as a whole, evolve over the last few years? And where do you think it will go in the future?
Jason Megson: Experience is now at the heart of strategy for some brands. I think as an industry we’ve gone in fits and starts. In some ways, we’ve caught up with the fact that brands really value what we do and in other ways we’re trapped in an execution only time warp. We need to break free from the shackles of the 'event management' definition. This is a key driver in our recruitment strategy which is attracting diverse talent from across the communications mix.
Creativebrief: What’s your ambition for the company over the next few years?
Jason Megson: For me it’s about a laser focus on the value that we can add to our clients and their businesses. Solving problems through creativity, innovation and thinking. And finding fearless and committed people to deliver those solutions.
Creativebrief: The changing nature of the traditional pitch is something that we’re interested in, what are your thoughts?
Jason Megson: I think it’s a balance. It’s quite galvanising to be in a pitch situation. They often build a real sense of esprit-de-corps. However, when over-done it can’t be something that feels like a never-ending rollercoaster. If the agency’s physical and mental energy doesn’t have time the time to recover, the team and ultimately our output will suffer.
Creativebrief: Outside of the industry, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Jason Megson: Naturally, because we’re in the brand experience world, I’m passionate about spaces and how humans interact within them. Also, the creative thinking and talent that comes out of the UK’s live music and festival scene never ceases to impress me. And then sometimes just switching off and having the mental space to take in the real world helps. I spent my last birthday in a tree house technology free for three days!