Grand Central Client Interview
Grand Central Client Interview
Eighteen months on from our appointment as lead creative agency for Grand Central and in the wake of fantastic feedback for our ‘Meet Me at Grand Central’ creative, not to mention a shopping centre first in the use of bloggers to launch a website, our roving reporter Holly, asks Grand Central’s Communications and Engagement Manager, Ashley Innis how he has found working with the RBH team on Birmingham’s biggest shopping centre launch in over a decade, arguably ever.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about you and your role both for Birmingham City Council and in relation to Grand Central.
My name is Ashley Innis, I am the Major Projects Link Manager for Birmingham city council, which means I take an overview of most of our major projects. So the redevelopment of New Street Station, Grand Central, Paradise Circus and a couple of smaller projects over at the Science Park. For the last three and a half years I’ve worked on the redevelopment of Grand Central and the station, over the last 18 months in particular I’ve focused on looking after the communications and stakeholder engagement for Grand Central specifically, so I’ve worked as part of the marketing, comms and PR team alongside Danny to oversee the two agencies, RBH and Big Cat. I’ve been involved with the development of the new website, the advertising campaign and overseeing the launch event. I’ve been involved with various elements of marketing and working closely with RBH particularly around the advertising and developing the brand and the ethos of the brand.
Why were you looking for agency support in your role at Grand Central?
So for us as the City Council and Network Rail as project partners this isn’t our area of expertise, we acknowledged quite early on that we needed the help of people who know what they are doing and who have the experience in the field we are working in. I worked alongside the previous Marketing Manager and we decided quite early on that we needed to bring on board an agency such as RBH who have the experience in the social and digital field and also advertising and creative. We went out to pitch and RBH stood out amongst the field. We were really pleased to have RBH on board for our campaign.
Were there any hesitations when you decided to appoint RBH and if so how did we help you to overcome them?
I think the process was really thorough, we went out to procurement and had around 30 agencies who were then shortlisted down to five, we invited each one of the agencies to come in and do presentations and to pitch to us and then we went through the financials to make sure what we wanted to have delivered would be delivered within our cost envelope. I think it was fair to say it was a rigorous process, from a public sector point of view and dealing with public money we needed to make sure we were getting best value and RBH came out on top.
Where have you seen the biggest impact since working with RBH? Obviously the launch of Grand Central itself, but is there a particular area that you would say that we really helped you to over-deliver?
I don’t think I could pin point a particular area, I think it has been successful throughout and we have had some really pleasing outcomes. We have been particularly pleased with the advertising campaign, my colleague Danny has been taking the lead on that area but I have been working on the content for the digital eyes which we showcased on launch day and that was the particular area I led from our point of view and worked quite closely with RBH on, and I was really proud to see that content on the eyes on launch day. To see people standing and watching, looking at it, tweeting it and putting it on social media – it was a particularly proud moment for me, RBH and Martin Brent the photographer we worked with. Generally I think the impact has been fantastic across social – the number of followers we have on Twitter and on Facebook has increased steadily. We have got the message about the brand out there and people are starting to understand the key message around ‘We’ll meet at…’ it is starting to resonate across various partners and in speeches that people give, and across PR and media people are always referring to the ‘We’ll meet at…’. You hear people say “We’ll meet you at Grand Central”, around the city already people are saying that so I think that the strapline and ethos of Grand Central being the meeting place has really begun to come to fruition.
Have you had positive feedback from stakeholders about the work that has happened with RBH?
Yes, interestingly yesterday we had our project executive meeting which is the highest level of the project, they oversee the development of the station and Grand Central and there was resounding praise yesterday of the work we have done particularly the advertising campaign, the attraction and the pre-launch marketing . I think the numbers speak for themselves, we had close to 100,000 people visit on the opening day. We didn’t know what levels to expect but people really engaged and people are really starting to get it, and I think the feedback from stakeholders yesterday was extremely positive. When you go out and you speak to the retailers they are all really pleased with the number of people we are getting through the doors. It’s not enough to just build a great place if you don’t actually tell people about what to expect then they won’t turn up, so I think we’ve done a really good job collectively in articulating what Grand Central has as an offering through our advertising campaign and the stuff that we’ve done across social. I think it’s been a resounding success.
How have you found the team specifically?
The team have been really enjoyable to work with, I have worked with about nine or 10 different people from RBH and I’ve always found everybody a pleasure to work with. I’ve worked particularly closely with Emma and Alice as the Account Director and the Account Manager and I have always found them really easy to get on with, reactive to what we need – I appreciate that at times we have been quite demanding, particularly during the last few weeks but I’ve always found them easy to work with and a pleasure to work with. I think everyone at the agency whenever I’m over there always makes me feel welcome and I really think we have worked as a team, a very successful team.
So finally, would you recommend RBH for future projects to colleagues and if so how would you sum up what RBH can offer?
Yes definitely, I wouldn’t have any hesitation at all. RBH have expertise in particular areas and if it is the right fit for that client I wouldn’t have any hesitation. I think you get great value for money, working with RBH you get really high standards, even when producing a flyer or leaflet it’s always to the highest standards, the agency takes real pride in the work it produces and you won’t get anything half hearted.
I would talk about the relationship I have built with the agency, how easy they are to work with and their really friendly, proactive, can-do approach. Everyone from the top of the agency, Tim and Debra, to when I’m greeted at the door by Chris is really friendly and they all make you feel really welcome, it’s always a great environment to visit. I have had many days over at RBH and had really proactive and productive sessions. I’ve been out with Victoria to shoot the models and do the casting and again that was a really successful day. Everyone I have interacted with, I have always had a positive experience.