Dynamic Duos: The client-agency relationship that survives the 9-5

This week in Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella hears from Pernod Ricard's director of consumer experience and digital transformation, Damian Madden, and Nightjar's head of innovation, Ahmed Meer, on developing a client-agency relationship outside of the 9-5.

In Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella each week asks two colleagues with a professional and personal affiliation to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly hybridised world of work.

Damian Madden

I can have some ways of working that are different and I know challenge some partners, but right from the start, Ahmed not only got why I was doing things the way I was but really resonated with it. I didn’t feel the need to explain myself or go on a spiel about the how and why, we were on the same page from the start and so I knew we were going to end up making great work together.

One of the ways I know a team, or colleague and I are gelling is if they can ‘interpret’ me, translate what I am trying to convey through my creative references or esoteric phrases about how I want an experience to evolve. We spoke the same language and he not only got it but spoke it straight back, showing me examples and ideas that not only understood what I was trying to do but elevated it.

Ahmed is also a very kind, generous, warm and wonderful person to work with. Digital can be fast paced and can often leave behind emotion in the pursuit of conversion. I knew this wasn’t going to happen with Ahmed and as our working relationship turned to a friendship I was even more excited to see what we would create because it was such a joy to work on the project.

Outside of our working relationship I enjoy hearing Ahmed’s take on the world, his view on creativity and expression and the intersection of tech/art/digital is very similar to my own and we have enjoyed many long conversations about how to translate those ideas into new opportunities or creative endeavours.

Ahmed Meer

Damian and I were brought together through the VNTNR project – the new D2C eComm platform for Pernod Ricard’s fine wines portfolio. We’d previously worked with some of the Pernod Ricard team for other projects, but Damian and I had not crossed paths.

From the very first meeting, (online, during another Covid spike!) it was clear that Damian was incredibly creative and had a vision for the new brand and platform. When he talked about doing eComm differently, I could tell he really meant it. We had a ‘no pitch’ pitch, which was really refreshing – we simply had an in-depth conversation about some of our blue-sky ideas for how we could reinvent the category. Although many of our ideas were totally wild, it was great to just riff with someone who is excited by technology and the role it can play in making people’s lives more enjoyable and seamless.

He has a great eye for design and had some really good references for what he wanted the brand and platform to look like – you know you’re going to end up with a good product when you’re on the same page visually.

Our relationship with the Pernod team is a really close one, we’ve tried hard to break down the client / agency barrier and Damian was working out of our studio when we were in the heart of our design sprints. Having Damian close by to run design choices by, made a big difference in the smooth running of the project.

We’ve been really open-book with Pernod, working out problems together in workshops and trying to avoid ‘the big reveal’. Damian has always been really honest with what’s working and what’s not, so we’re always clear on where improvements can be made.

We both have a strong creative vision for the platform, his feedback is always on point and I feel as though I can see what’s in his head when he describes features or functionality.

The platform has soft launched, and we continue to work with Pernod and Damian on the ongoing strategy and optimisation of the VNTNR site.

Damian on Ahmed

Most memorable moment with Ahmed: Would have to be a very long lunch/dinner we had where we talked about all manner of things, made plans to conquer the world and drank nice Gamay.

Best word to describe him: Thoughtful. I always like people who like to think first and don’t have to always say everything, all at once to prove to others how smart/clever/creative they are. Ahmed takes his time and so when he does contribute you know it is meaningful. Plus he is just a delight to work with because he always looks at why you have made a certain request.

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour he has: It’s both, and it’s something I’m guilty of too, it’s liking to look at new cool creative inspiration, which can be distracting (if always inspiring) when you are working on something else.

Ahmed on Damian

Most memorable moment with Damian: We had drinks one night and got carried away and both decided we were going to move to Switzerland imminently. It hasn’t happened just yet, but watch this space!

Best word to describe him: Unconventional. Damian lives at the intersection of art, culture, design and technology and it’s these shared passions that lead us to interesting pathways. Beyond the VNTNR project, I see us collaborating in the future on pursuits beyond the brief.

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour he has: Damian is quiet, but when he expresses an idea, you’re drawn in, and everyone listens. He stands up for the creative vision, and tightly aligns all team members to focus on the strategy. This creates a unified team with no barriers and clear direction.


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