Get to know the MDs at Focus

By Laura Parker / Focus / 23rd January 2019

With a combination of over 50 years of property marketing experience, our managing directors are a formidable bunch. We sat down with our MDs to understand what excites them about the Focus Group and learn a little more about each of them.

First up, James Mercer, Managing Director of Focus IMC and Chairman of the Focus Group.

So James, when did you have the lightbulb moment to set up Focus? 

It wasn’t really like that. I was put in a position that meant I could give it a go and despite my daughter Holly only being three months old, Samantha, my wife and fellow Director at Focus, was determined that we gave it a go.

What’s been your proudest moment in the 21 years of Focus?    

Two things, firstly the money that we raised for our charity Fresh Start New Beginnings that treats sexually abused children from the age of 6 months to 18 years, and our 20th-anniversary celebrations when so many attended including existing and previous employees.

Where can you see Focus heading in the next 5/10 years?

I see all three companies getting deeper into understanding our customer’s customer and how we support their customer journey to the benefit of our clients.

If you had to swap positions with another member of staff for a day who would it be and why?

My PA, Charlotte, as she gets to work with me every day.

"understanding our customer’s customer and how we support their customer journey"

What’s the key to surviving in the property marketing industry?

Ensuring that we keep pace with the ever-changing world of marketing communications. I don’t think many people would have forseen the profound changes that have taken place in the last 20 years and will continue to do so. But we are on it!

Ben Tucker has been with Focus for the past 13 years, starting off as an Account Director in the client services team at Focus, before specialising in marketing suites and has since been at the helm of Focus Experiential for nearly 5 years.

Is there a particular project that sticks out in your mind as a highlight?

More West for Peabody. It was our second-ever project and we were asked to look at a commercial space of an apartment block to create a marketing suite from, but on the site visit, we clocked these brilliant railway arches which were being used for storage under Latimer Road tube station. After much persuasion with Peabody and negotiation with TFL we got the go ahead and we converted one of these into a brilliant space, sandblasted the old brick walls, retro exposed galvanised wiring pipes, big feature lights – industrial in its design and a real gallery feel makes it one of my favourites.

What’s going to be the next big thing in retail design?

Convenience. You only have to look at the new Amazon stores where there are no checkouts. You are tracked in and out by your phone using RFID and wireless geo-tracking. People are busy, they want things to be as easy as possible, whether that be buying a loaf of bread, a TV or even a house – watch this space but the biggest challenge for the property industry is tackling and embracing digital. That doesn’t need to be a big, expensive touchscreen, virtual reality setup, it could be as Amazon has done, geo-tracking, RFID tags utilising mobile tech already available. How long before you can buy a home online? We need to be giving them a reason to come and visit the developments still and that will look very different to what a traditional marketing suite looks like today.

"inspiration for me is the #FocusFamily. Collectively we can take on whatever we want if we do it together"

What’s your inspiration for moving Focus Experiential forward?

The success of any business is down to the people within it. In order to continue moving forward I want to ensure we have a specialist team of experts who are invested in both the success and direction of the business as much as I am. So the inspiration for me is the #FocusFamily. Collectively we can take on whatever we want if we do it together.

In the Experiential office, whose job would you struggle to do and why?

Charlie Green our Construction Manager. I am probably the most unpractical person you will ever meet which is a little ironic!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve come up against in your time at Focus?

Being agile, flexible and willing to learn new things. We work in the property industry and it notoriously goes through cycles with peaks and troughs alongside the wider economy. Being at Focus for 13 years I’ve learnt that you need to be agile and ready to change your approach, learn new things and be reactive to the changes, otherwise you will be left behind, for instance I have six business cards from when I started to now, all with different roles, different skills.

Dan Jones is the Managing Director of Focus on Media; while Focus on Media is the newest kid on the media agency block, Dan has a wealth of marketing experience, with 12 years under his belt.

What’s so special about Focus on Media?

Easy!  While we can plan and buy media as keenly as the next agency, it’s our transparent and accountable framework that makes us stand out.  Unlike most agencies, we offer transparent invoicing to all clients as standard.  We also guarantee transparency via our commitment to never have commercial deals with media owners that sit outside of the standard agency commission model.  Trust is key, and with these commitments, we hope to be the media agency brands can trust!

Being based in Brighton is pretty cool, what’s your favourite thing about the seaside town?

Brighton is indeed cool!  In addition to the famous Pier, the many shops, restaurants and bars, there are tons of marcomms businesses too, and I love the sense of community.  It’s great that you can be doing yoga on the rooftop garden of our office one day, and learning to code the next (something I’ll never get the hang of, admittedly!).

If you could change one thing about the way your industry operates, what would it be and why?

I think we still have some way to go in addressing concerns around fake news, ad fraud and viewability. If a user doesn’t trust the content they are consuming, then they won’t trust the ads that sit around the content.  There have been definite advances in ad fraud technology and the issue is being tackled, but I think there is still a long way to go in rebuilding the trust between publishers and the consumer.

"it’s our transparent and accountable framework that makes us stand out"

What’s been the best thing about joining the #FocusFamily?

#FocusFamily are awesome! Their enthusiasm for karaoke is trumped only by their drive to deliver excellent client service!

In five years’ time, what will have changed in the world of media buying and planning?

There has been a lot of talk about brands taking certain digital media channels in-house to ultimately save money and ensure maximum oversight.  While I’m not sure we’ll be seeing paid search, digital display / programmatic and social media advertising disappearing from the traditional media agency model just yet, I do think that even talk of this happening underlines the need for agencies to become more transparent in how they charge and administer these activities.

So there you have it, they’re a lovely bunch really! If you’d like to find out more about Focus, Focus Experiential, and Focus on Media just check out their respective websites or get in contact.

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Laura Parker

Written by

Laura Parker

Laura is a marketing executive at Focus. She helps brands build their social presence and take their content strategy to the next level. When she's not attached to Instagram, you'll find her following cute dogs around and watching the rugby.