Making it in America

As Sense prepares for its Stateside debut, board director Sarah Priestman speaks to Event's editor-in-chief Yasmin Arrigo about the agency's US launch.

Agency Sense is opening an office in New York
Agency Sense is opening an office in New York

We started making plans for the new US office in early summertime. There was the opportunity to pitch for some work for The Economist in the US. When it became apparent that we would be pitching against US agencies, it really kick-started our thinking.

We were working with the brand in the UK and they were happy with our work so the signs were strong. We knew that if they were looking to deliver something in the USA then we wanted it to be us at the helm. We approached the client and said we felt we could do it and wanted to be added to the pitch list.

We’ve always had a goal to expand globally and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to cover off this ambition, plus it felt really organic. The board were very keen and our managing director Nick Adams felt that we needed to show the client our commitment by sending out the team and a key member of the agency.

Building the core structure

When it came to my decision to head up the new office, it felt like good timing. Both my children are young and not in school yet, we live in rented accommodation and it felt like I should grab this with both hands and really experience it.

There will be four of us in the team - myself as the board director, an operations director, account manager and the account director who has already worked on The Economist campaign here in the UK. It is essential that we start with a core structure to manage the account really well and also take a team that we know can work well together.

Everyone is very excited, there has been time to think about it, to get out there and explore the area and get to know the client and the American lifestyle better. Some of the team coming over are in their mid-20s and they are totally in the right space to be making this move.

Stateside differences

We need to understand differences in marketing culture – we are building a team of local partners so we have that expert knowledge of suppliers. We’ve worked hard to make sure we have staffing, site booking and that in-depth knowledge of New York City and the US, and local knowledge of how to deliver all of these. Bringing local resources in to the business beyond our team of four is crucial so our new account executive will certainly be local.

There are subtle cultural nuances that we need to be mindful of. For example, The Economist is provocative and encourages change in the UK but Stateside, it is less politically charged and the messaging can be different. We need to ensure that we don’t turn people off and we may need to be more subtle. We also need to be aware of the differences in culture state-by-state in America.

I’ll be heading out in April, following on from some of the team who leave in January. When I think of 2017 in the new office, I’d love to see steady stable growth with us delivering The Economist work in the best way and building up our client base. We have a new business plan that I am really focused on and interest for client number two. A good year would mean a happy team, happy clients, targets smashed and detailed plans in place for Year 2 and Year 3, plus of course, a busy pipeline.

More: Event TV: The Economist live student debate

Sense recently worked on EDF Energy's 'Pretty Curious Studio' tour, which targeted local schools.

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Twitter: @yasminarrigo

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