There were high fives all around the Different Narrative office this morning after we scooped two trophies at this year’s North East Marketing Awards.
For a company that puts a high focus on giving back, it was an emotional moment to see our mentoring and community work rewarded with the award for the Best Example of CSR. And then, just when we thought we’d whooped ourselves hoarse, our Executive Chair Ben Quigley was recognised with the Outstanding Achievement Award.
Here’s the background behind the euphoric scenes at St James’ Park on Thursday evening.
Right from our inception, one of our key motivators has been to create change for good – not only in the world of marketing but in the wider world. Our CSR committee sets out an ambitious plan each year with a strategy and objectives for each of three strands: tackling social disadvantage, promoting mental health, and championing new talent and young imaginations.
Because our CSR activity stems from what we stand for as an agency, it’s not just something we do from time to time. It’s part of who we are, all the time. While we’re always excited by one-off opportunities, the vast majority of our CSR activity is long-term.
So what have we been up to?
Red January – We take part every year to promote mental wellbeing amongst the Newcastle creative community, logging miles walked and run in friendly competition with our fellow agencies.
Newcastle West End Food Bank – We collect for Newcastle West End Food Bank. Not just on occasion, but all year round. We have a collection box in our reception with a list of the Foodbank’s requirements, which not only prompts our team but also visiting clients and suppliers, and we deliver these collections to the Foodbank on a monthly basis. To supplement this, a team of our staff spent half a day sorting produce at the Foodbank’s warehouse this autumn.
Great British Spring Clean – We partner with our client NE1 to take part in the Great British Spring Clean every year, helping to keep our city centre sparkling.
NE1 CAN – Over 30 schoolchildren engaged with our 2023 presentation on creative-industry careers at NE1 CAN, an event organised by NE1 that brings together regional businesses and education providers to deliver careers advice, insight, and inspiration. Our participation allows us to have constructive conversations with employees of the future, helping to break down barriers and extend learning outside of the classroom.
Different Narrative Academy (DNA) – Different Narrative Academy is our annual summer school, which offers two weeks’ industry experience to as diverse a cohort as possible. In 2023 we tripled our DNA intake to 15 students aged 17—24, of whom three are autistic, one has ADHD, and another lives with severe social anxiety. Alongside the two-week programme of talks, supervised projects, and CV and portfolio mentoring, several students received additional pastoral support.
Roker Beach Clean – We organised a beach clean for the first time this year in collaboration with our client Sunderland City Council, and plan to make it an annual event.
School Projects – We’ve partnered with St. Mary’s Catholic School to sponsor its Year 8 Design and Technology project this year, briefing students, setting challenges and celebrating successes. This enables 240 students to benefit from an introduction to our industry, roles, and career paths, and over the next year they’ll receive regular project feedback.
Our CSR committee members have undertaken training in mental health and wellbeing and three of them also gained the IPA Diversity and Inclusion Essentials Certificate, which has been invaluable in helping us to better support neurodiverse students as well as those living with anxiety and depression.
Ben’s NEMA accolade marks a lifetime of commitment to our industry, having stepped into sales and marketing at the Guardian in the eighties, working on famous brand advertising campaigns.
He relocated to the North East in the 1990s where he joined creative agency Yellow M as Head of Client Services, before becoming MD, working on the IKEA and Sage accounts.
Ben co-founded Different in 1999 and built up an enviable national and international client list which included Argos, Barker & Stonehouse, Sainsbury’s, TALKsport and Tesco, winning over 70 creative and effectiveness awards. Different pioneered the growth of branded content in the UK from offices in Newcastle and London, and co-founded the marketing insight agency Differentology in 2014.
As Executive Chair, Ben oversaw the merger of Different and Narrative Integrated Communications in 2021, to create Different Narrative, now one of the North East’s leading integrated agencies. He is actively responsible for leading the agency’s strategy and planning services function for clients, providing marketing advice for campaigns and spend-share investment decision making.
In the two years since the merger Different Narrative has established itself as one of the top 30 agencies outside London and also sits in the top 100 nationally (Source: Campaign Top 100). It is one of only 49 agencies in the UK (and seven outside London) to be awarded IPA Effectiveness accreditation for baked-in marketing effectiveness frameworks and business culture.
Ben remains a passionate, hands-on advocate of new industry talent, delivering work experience opportunities and regular lectures for young people in schools, colleges, and universities in North East England.
- Ben’s campaign to cut smoking in pregnancy for the NHS reduced smoking rates by 60%+ and was adopted across the UK as best practice for behaviour change marketing
- Over 60 national and international creative and marketing effectiveness awards including D&AD, Roses, DMA Direct Marketing, IPA Effectiveness, London Internationals, CIPR Excellence and Pride, and World Travel
- IPA England and Wales Chair 2013–17
- Awarded Fellow of the IPA for outstanding and prolonged contribution to UK advertising
- Named one of the most influential people in UK advertising by Campaign magazine
- As a non-executive board marketing director of Visit Northumberland, contributed to a 6% increase in the tourism economy within a 5-year timeframe
- Raised the profile of the UK advertising sector along with its agendas in diversity, inclusion and talent attraction, development and retention, boosting professional training uptake regionally
- Ben reformed the IPA to ensure that member agencies outside London are able to access subsidised training and qualifications support around the UK