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Moving East

Marketing group John Brown Media’s recent move into The Bower has, CEO Andrew Hirsch tells us, totally transformed the business’s image.

Why did you decide to move the company to Shoreditch?

We were in West London for around 18 years, and the reason for that was that the company was originally owned by John Brown himself and he lived 10 minutes’ walk away from the office. When we moved into the building, we had it refurbished, and for the first nine or ten years it was a lovely office. But then it suffered a little bit from lack of investment in terms of refurbishment.

Also, 18 years ago we were a consumer newsstand publisher, selling our own magazines. If you’re a newsstand magazine company you can really be based anywhere. The location is not so important. But our business has changed a lot over the years – I bought John out back in 2004. We’re now a marketing agency working with blue chip clients around the world. Most of our content is for the digital economy, and being in a slightly tired West London office really didn’t help our perception as being an agency fit for purpose for a very fast moving digital economy.

So when we looked to move and we thought: Okay, from our clients’ and potential clients’ point of view, where should we be? The Old Street and Shoreditch area looked the most obvious. There are lots and lots of small digital start-ups here. So being in Old Street and being in a brand new building which we could design ourselves from an interior design point of view and working with the really good design that Helical had done on The Bower all fitted really well for us – in one fell swoop we changed our look and feel from being maybe a slightly old-fashioned publisher to a very up-to-date digital marketing agency.

Was attracting talent a factor in your move East as well?

I think it was less about attracting talent and more about retaining talent. For me there’s quite a distinction. We’ve always managed to attract talent, but being in West London where we were, there wasn’t really very much within 10 minutes’ walking distance. But where we are now, if I drew a circle around the office and gave you a 10-minute-walk radius, you could probably eat and drink in 200 places. We’re right on top of a Tube station. So we’ve got great transport links. There’s a huge amount of energy in the location we’re in. And we’re in a brand new building which everybody loves.

How important is it to John Brown Media to have a headquarters in London?

That’s crucial for us. We’ve now got offices in about seven markets. We’re also part of a very big global agency network called Dentsu Aegis. The two key elements of our work are editorial and design. That’s why people buy our services. And I would say London is still one of the few key cities in the world for the very best in editorial and design. So when we go and talk to a company, whether it be in the US or in northern Europe or in Asia, the fact we’re headquartered in London is a benefit, because they know that the talent we have in London will be very strong.

What’s your favourite thing about The Bower?

I think what’s really great for us is the way the building has been designed and built. Old Street is a very young and energetic but very frenetic part of London. The nice thing about the way The Bower has been designed is that my staff walk out into a calm, small boulevard in between the building and The Bower. So before you get into the madness of Old Street, you are in a very calm area. It feels very safe. In this part of Old Street, we’re surrounded by other offices, restaurants, bars, so there’s lots of people around. So it’s important for me that my staff feel they’re working in a safe environment, and that’s certainly true here.

John Brown Media’s HQ occupies the whole of The Studio building at The Bower. The interior fit-out was by Inhouse Brand Architect, Cape Town.

Above: Andrew Hirsch, CEO of John Brown Media