Profile: Paul Ephremsen, chief executive of ID

Paul Ephremsen has spent a decade building brand experience outfit ID. He tells Abigail Wills how the agency's credibility has grown in tandem with that of the marketing medium and explains why he spent a week manning the reception desk.

Paul Ephremsen founded live brand experience agency ID ten years ago with his business partner, a university friend who he met while playing on a fruit machine. Ephremsen is now chief executive of the company and oversees 70 staff. But anyone arriving at ID's London offices a few weeks ago would have found him sitting at reception.

"We were doing a job swap," he explains. "We divided the staff into teams of six and they had to devise a campaign to be elected chief executive for a week. The winner got to do my job, use of my car (a Mercedes CLK 55) and £10,000 to spend on the business."

Ephremsen was relieved when receptionist Louise was elected, admitting he'd have found it tough working as an account handler. "I nearly got landed in the creative department, which would have been a disaster," he jokes. "The drawings would have been stickmen."

But poorly drawn illustrations are unlikely to worry ID's big-name clients such as high street retailer Marks and Spencer and car company MG Rover, which last month began its biggest-ever experiential marketing campaign.

"They don't see the area as a risk any more," claims Ephremsen, who predicts a 20% increase in ID's turnover this year.

And the results of a consumer survey by ID give companies good reason to allocate more of their budget to experiential marketing. It found that 87% of consumers wanted to interact with a product rather than just be told about it, while 91% said experiential marketing would encourage them to try a product they would not normally purchase.

Despite this, Ephremsen says he often goes home marvelling that ID "made our first year's turnover in just one afternoon".

Today he is an active member of the steering committee for the Live Brand Experience Association, which launched in May. But only five years ago he didn't think the medium would ever have a dedicated association.

"We had always just accepted the fact that we sat under the field marketing banner. It was difficult to change anything because we didn't have the reputation or kudos to do it before," he recalls. "But we've got to be careful it doesn't become a slow moving animal bogged down in red tape. We have to accept that we'll have to forgo something in our businesses to get the association up and running and to move it on."

Not that 34-year-old Ephremsen has much time on his hands. His partner has just given birth to their second child - an event almost overshadowed by a new business project born from a passion for greyhound racing. "We've just bought a house with some land and we've converted our stables into a greyhound racing facility. I've got two live-in trainers and space for 22 dogs. My aim is to make it a kennel of excellence."

Man's best friend may take up a lot of Ephremsen's time, but he knows it's the people at ID that have made it successful. The company started life as a promotional staffing agency and over ten years has evolved into a full service experience agency.

As the industry became more credible ID set up an in-house creative team.

It also reversed its client to agency ratio, meaning that it now works directly with the client on 80% of projects, and rebranded its specialist staffing division as The Collective.

Ephremsen plans to keep expanding ID until it reaches its "optimum size".

"There will come a time when we are comfortable with our size and profitability. I don't know when that will be so until we get there we'll keep growing," he concludes.

EPHREMSEN ON ...

How he got into the industry ... I was doing some security work when a friend who had gone to work for an advertising agency called me. He got me to take all these glamorous Rothmans girls to the Grand Prix and RAC rallies and I ended up joining a promotional staffing agency.

The evolution of experiential marketing ... In the old days there were quite unsophisticated agencies delivering live sampling. If you weren't careful you could get someone doing something fairly uninspiring, like giving a bit of cheese out on a tray.

Office culture ... My business partner and I thought to get to the next stage we had to make ID more corporate. But we found that the business has more of our characteristics than we realised so we're trying to achieve a balance to maintain our friendly, open and relaxed culture.

Business awards ... When we started out we entered a lot of competitions and we won the Shell Live Wire Business Start Up Award. We were more confident about earning money from prizes than we were from the business back then.


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