This year’s first roster announcement – and, yes, unsurprisingly there are more to come – is that of respected design buyer Land Securities, which has constructed its first formal roster to service its retail portfolio.
Its desire to nurture principled relationships with consultancies has previously merited credit, but this year looks likely to set an industry-wide agenda that could gather momentum, and is something that we can expect Land Securities to take a lead on.
Land Securities’ head of development marketing retail, Tom Foulkes, is working towards the creation of a formal client charter or code of practice for design buyers, with the help of business and industry partners.
But as setting your own house in order before giving advice is always wise, the creation of the retail roster is perhaps an opportunity to put such principles into practice, sounding out exactly what constitutes a commercially successful, creative and equitable roster.
Land Securities’ ultimate aim, according to Foulkes, is to cultivate a situation that is beneficial to both client and consultancy, ‘driving value out of excellent design’, ensuring that Land Securities becomes a priority for the consultancies it works with.
Foulkes says, ‘We want to drive value out of design and for me this isn’t about pushing down costs. We hope that we can drive value out of making our design more effective, differentiating ourselves in our market through creative excellence. In this way it should be beneficial for both. We had no criteria for the kind of consultancies we wanted to have on roster other than they had to have enough “bandwidth” to deal with the workload, and a track record and passion for great design.’
The approach is not entirely new. Land Securities’ London roster, established by London portfolio managing director Mike Hussey, former marketing head Elizabeth Lockwood and consultant Jan Casey in 2004, set a precedent for retail. Groups working on the London portfolio, including NB Studio and Hat-Trick Design, regard it highly.
According to Jim Sutherland, director at Hat-Trick Design, which is lead consultancy on the London roster, ‘It’s very open and honest. The balance and calibre of the studios is very good, and it’s well-managed by Land Securities. It believes in design. It wants to be brave in a conservative industry. It listens.’
Sutherland reports that groups across the London roster are almost always working on a project at any given time, and that work is divided fairly on the basis of creative competition. ‘Every month, groups’ work gets discussed and critiqued. It encourages you to do better when Garrick Hamm and Simon Esterson are looking at what you’re doing,’ says Sutherland.
The idea of creative competition is key to both the retail and the London rosters. Foulkes explains that rather than divvying up projects equally, work should be awarded on ability and creativity. ‘The idea is to encourage creative competition. It’s a chance for consultancies to shine. Each one will get projects on its merits – it’s as good as its last job,’ says Foulkes.
In return for creative excellence and consistency – and perhaps preferential rates, though Foulkes says, ‘We work on a standard design contract that has been in operation for years’ – consultancies can expect commitment to payment within agreed terms, sincerity of commissioned work, regular reviews, transparency and ‘none of those “paranoid” non-disclosure agreements that some clients expect you to sign before you’ve even had a chemistry meeting’.
Another way of fostering creative democracy has been to appoint what Foulkes terms a ‘lead among equals’ on the retail roster.
Next Big Thing – which will be on a retainer for its services – will assist other groups. It is a move, Foulkes says, that will free up his time and ‘add bandwidth’ to the client team. The role is essentially to be a ‘soundboard’ for those consultancies less than well-versed in Land Securities’ briefs and creative processes, as well as providing creative direction if necessary.
Next Big Thing creative director Glenn Harrison says, ‘It’s a strong position for us to be in. It enables us to foster a closer relationship with our client, and with the other consultancies on the roster, while streamlining the creative process.’
In a similar vein, Lambie-Nairn, which has acted as O2’s ‘brand guardian’ for more than two years, has made itself somewhat indispensable to the brand. Lambie-Nairn’s group account director, Nicky Nicolls, says, ‘It all started off with a conversation that we initiated with the client. It’s a role that’s added real value to the relationship. For instance, we have created an archive resource of all O2 brand material that can be accessed easily at any time.’ ‘It means being able to keep consistency as the brand grows,’ she adds.
Features of land secs’ retail roster
• Client integrity on contracts, payment terms and commissioning work
• Lead among equals role to foster collaboration and creative democracy
• Creative competition to encourage commitment to ‘great work’ and to client
• Creative excellence as a standard