12 episodes

Welcome to The Brief by McCann Central. A short but packed conversation addressing the topics faced by marketers.

Each episode, we’ll be joined by some of the great minds who make up our creative community. They’ll be bringing their insights and expertise to answer the burning questions marketers are thinking and talking about, and sharing their own stories and lessons. From research and strategy, creative and production, to PR and social, media and more.

The Brief McCann Central

    • Business

Welcome to The Brief by McCann Central. A short but packed conversation addressing the topics faced by marketers.

Each episode, we’ll be joined by some of the great minds who make up our creative community. They’ll be bringing their insights and expertise to answer the burning questions marketers are thinking and talking about, and sharing their own stories and lessons. From research and strategy, creative and production, to PR and social, media and more.

    The Brief Ep 12: Creating connections – how CrossCountry is bringing the human touch to rail

    The Brief Ep 12: Creating connections – how CrossCountry is bringing the human touch to rail

    Somewhere along the way, travel got more about getting from A to B than recognising the role it plays in our bigger journeys. Determined to put the human touch back into train travel, the team behind Britain’s most extensive train network got to work building a new brand platform and launching an emotional film. But what have they learnt from it, what was the impact, and what’s next for CrossCountry?

    For this episode, we’re joined by Colette Casey, Customer and Commercial Director, and David Mullins, Head of Brand Communications and Digital Strategy at CrossCountry, along with Vince McSweeney, Chief Creative Officer, and Haydn Russell, Associate Director at McCann Central.



    What we cover in this episode


    The story behind the brand platform,
    ‘Take Us On Your Journey’
    The importance of bringing the human
    touch to rail
    How the platform was brought to life
    creatively
    Navigating industry challenges
    whilst launching a new brand platform
    The importance and impact of fluency
    and distinctiveness
    Why an advertising agency helped
    design a new look for trains
    What’s next for CrossCountry



    About the speakers

    Colette Casey is Customer and Commercial Director at CrossCountry. With extensive experience in marketing, sales, quality management and commercial roles, Colette has been central to the development of the brand as a long-distance operator over the last three years.

    As CrossCountry’s Head of Brand Communications and Digital Strategy, David Mullins leads the marketing department of Britain’s most extensive network. Since joining two years ago, David has shaped CrossCountry’s brand communications, customer data intelligence solutions and digital strategy.

    Originally from Melbourne, Vince McSweeney moved to the UK with his family in 2010, and in the blink of an eye, now finds himself quite a bit older and Chief Creative Officer at McCann Central. With brand experience in all sectors and disciplines, creative leadership for Qatar Airways, and a long list of national and international client wins to his name, Vince has also seen his work recognised at all major international award shows. Including Gold at Cannes for Mastercard and Dexcom

    With 13 years of experience in category, brand, and communications research, Haydn Russell develops research programs and leads strategic insights for global and local clients at McCann. He supports the CrossCountry team in audience understanding, communications development, emotive positioning, and brand health measurement, collaborating closely with both internal and client teams to achieve impactful results.

    • 49 min
    The Brief Ep 11: Funny Bones - is advertising rediscovering its sense of humour?

    The Brief Ep 11: Funny Bones - is advertising rediscovering its sense of humour?

    A few years ago, advertising got pretty serious, and for good reason. But now the industry is rediscovering its funny bone as brands look to create laughter, joy and connection with audiences. There’s even a new humour category at Cannes this year. But why is it making a return and how do you ensure your work is ‘laugh with’ rather than ‘laugh at’?



    For this episode, we’re joined by Zane Radcliffe, Executive Creative Director at McCann Bristol, and Will Studd, Director of Animation at Aardman, to discuss the impact of humour, the stories behind the work, and how to get those authentic laughs.



    What we cover in this episode


    Looking back on the humour-fuelled 90s and why purpose took over
    Why humour is making a comeback
    How humour informs Will and Zane’s work
    The story behind the latest ad for VOOM Nutrition
    Why big belly laughs aren’t the only goal
    Finding the right funny for your sector (and knowing when to be serious)
    Will and Zane’s favourite humorous ads

    About the speakers

    Will Studd is an award-winning Animation Director at Aardman. He has worked on projects for some of the worlds largest brands including Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Heinz, BBC, GlaxoSmithKline and many more.

    Will also holds the Guinness World Records for smallest and largest stop motion films created, and a whole host of other awards including Cannes Lions, BAA, British Arrows Craft Award, Kinsale Shark, and RTS awards.



    Zane Radcliffe is a multi award-winning Executive Creative Director and writer with nearly 30 years experience creating campaigns for national and international brands. His work at McCann Bristol for clients like Refuge, Waterstones and Motability has won 5 Cannes Lions, 12 Creative Circle awards and pencils at D&AD and One Show. His work is often imbued with humour, including famous campaigns for Tango, Pot Noodle and John West. Zane is the author of three novels published by Black Swan. His debut won the WHSmith 'People's Choice' Award.


    About Aardman: Aardman is an independent, multi Academy Award® winning studio, based in Bristol.  For over 40 years, Aardman has entertained the world, creating much loved characters such as Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. From feature films and series, to advertising, games and interactive entertainment, all Aardman’s content is built on four pillars: bold comedic ideas, relatable stories with global appeal, characters with heart, and a passion for craft.

    • 32 min
    The Brief Ep 10: Futureproof your framework - how to market in an economic downturn

    The Brief Ep 10: Futureproof your framework - how to market in an economic downturn

    The UK has faced its fair share of challenges in recent years, and the uncertainty is set to continue. It may feel all doom and gloom, but there’s more in the marketer’s control than you might think. So, how can you begin to build your futureproof strategy?

    In this episode, Ellis Bird is joined by our media team’s Nicola Daniel, Managing Partner Strategy, and Sarah Clarke, Senior Data & Strategy Director, to understand how consumers are behaving, what this means for media budgets, and diving into the three-step framework that will help brands maintain traction with their target audience.

    What we cover in this episode


    How consumer confidence has changed
    Why recent learnings show we’re in unchartered
    territory
    What are the shifts in consumer behaviour and where do they stem from?
    The rise in comparative searches
    Why brands need to consider how consumer
    journeys may have changed and how to lean into it
    How to make the most of your media budget and
    protect it for next year
    Why staying present in difficult times can pay
    off in the long-term
    Why marketers need to lean into data
    The three-step framework to help you get started
    Why brands need to ‘keep their pants up’

    Read the white paper here

    About the speakers 

    Sarah Clarke is Senior Data & Strategy Director at UM Birmingham, part of McCann Birmingham. Passionate about the “why” behind human behaviour, Sarah uses behavioural science combined with data and insights to craft strategic business solutions that drive growth, both for now and in the future. This ensures that the right businesses connect with the right people to solve consumer problems and drive commercial impact. 

    Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.



    Nicola is Managing Partner, Strategy, at UM Birmingham. A highly accomplished, collaborative, and curious media and comms practitioner, she believes business growth and effectiveness comes from blending the art and science of marketing to unlock the magic that fuels unforgettable comms. 

    Connect with Nicola on LinkedIn.

    • 34 min
    The Brief Ep 09: Kevin the carrot and co - the journey to distinctive brand assets and how to build them

    The Brief Ep 09: Kevin the carrot and co - the journey to distinctive brand assets and how to build them

    Did somebody say….

    Yep, we can probably all finish that line (although maybe
    not in tune).

    What if we said “Kevin!”

    The nation’s favourite carrot likely springs to mind (along
    with the line, “that’s huge, Willy!”)

    Brand assets have the power to promote quick association and build brand recall. But how do you get started with creating them? What’s the secret formula to building brand assets that are truly distinctive? How do they impact effectiveness?

    For this episode, we’re welcoming Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer at System1, alongside McCann’s Jamie Peate, Global Head of Effectiveness and Retail, and Kayley Almond, Strategy Director, to uncover the stories and strategies behind the biggest brand assets.

    What we cover in this episode


    Defining brand assets
    The impact on effectiveness and why fame matters
    The importance of having “a thing of it”
    How and why Kevin the Carrot came to be
    Being in the business of light entertainment
    The journey to creating assets that achieve
    fame, fluency and feeling
    Sustaining brand assets
    The impact of cultural moments and seasonality
    Avoiding ‘vision vampires’ and the role of celebrity in brands
    The power of nostalgia and bringing back
    distinctive assets
    Brands can change, but they need an anchor
    Who’s doing distinctive assets well

    About the speakers

    Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer at System1, is an experienced commercial leader with a track record of delivering substantial growth across a large number of brands. His previous experience includes a short stint as CMO for Brewdog, Marketing Director at Suntory leading some of the UK's most iconic brands, on the Board of Purity Soft Drinks, a private equity-backed soft drink business, and working for Britvic Soft Drinks running a 'Seed Brand Unit' in conjunction with Pepsi. Jon also hosts the ‘The Uncensored CMO’ podcast.

    Jamie Peate, Global Head of Effectiveness and Retail at McCann, has helped to drive a culture at local, regional and global levels that holds creativity and effectiveness central to all of the agency’s output. His strategic approach to the Aldi account exemplifies his approach – long running campaigns such as Like Brands and Kevin the Carrot have reaped benefits for the client and helped redefine the grocery sector. 

    A proud northerner and champion of creativity in Manchester, Jamie got his first taste of retail at his parent's shop near Blackpool. He first joined McCann Manchester as a recent graduate before forming his own insight and innovation agency Blue Banana in the early 1990s. When the agency became part of McCann Manchester 20 years later, Jamie returned as Director of Strategy and Insight.

    Kayley Almond is a seasoned Strategy Director at McCann, celebrated for her innovative thinking and passion for igniting creative sparks that help businesses meet their growth potential. With over a decade of experience shaping impactful campaigns for esteemed brands like Hargreaves Lansdown, Lancome, and the Electoral Commission, Kayley approaches her work with humility and a desire to connect with real people.

    • 53 min
    The Brief Ep 08: Balancing B2B – how to weather the storm whilst building a foundation for growth

    The Brief Ep 08: Balancing B2B – how to weather the storm whilst building a foundation for growth

    The ever-changing tides of B2B have left brands siloed, board rooms nervous, and marketers struggling to balance the short and long term. However, amongst the challenges lay plenty of opportunity for change.

    In this episode, Ellis Bird is joined by Greg Aris and Colin Gray for an honest conversation on the priorities and pitfalls of B2B marketing. From closing the historical sales and marketing gap, to building reputation and breaking down siloes and everything in between.



    What we cover in this episode:


    What shifts have we seen in the world of B2B?
    Why customer experience is overtaking purpose
    Building a culture of reinvention
    The importance of balance and connecting the
    dots
    Surviving the immediate storm whilst building a
    foundation for future growth  
    Why it’s time for B2B marketers to stop the
    ‘rinse and repeat’
    What’s your story and is it breaking down or
    creating siloes?
    The emergence of the B2B ecosystem
    The role of reputation



    About the speakers:

    Greg Aris, managing partner, heads up the B2B practice within McCann Central, where he is currently working with clients on a range of projects from redefining product architecture, creating business model propositions and reputation rebuilds for a range of clients.

    Follow Greg on LinkedIn



    Colin Gray, Managing Partner Strategy, is a hugely experienced strategic marketing professional and LinkedIn Top Voice. He has diverse experience spanning client-side, creative and media agency roles, which enables joined-up thinking and means B2B decision makers are firmly at the heart of the solution.

    Follow Colin on LinkedIn



    Find out more about McCann Birmingham here or follow us on LinkedIn.

    • 29 min
    The Brief Ep 07: Demystifying data - how to connect the dots and unlock impact

    The Brief Ep 07: Demystifying data - how to connect the dots and unlock impact

    Love it or hate it, data can drive commercial, creative and customer value when done well, or it can make life a lot more difficult when done badly. What was once a step in the process to deliver communications is now a product in its own right, but let's be honest - it can feel like a dark art shrouded in mystery.

    Luckily, Morag Glaister and Kevin Murphy are on hand to simplify the complex and bust the data myths holding you back. From breaking down the different types of data, right through to quick wins that can unlock hidden value, this episode of The Brief is the perfect introduction to taking control of your data.

    • 27 min

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