Mumbrellacast Interview: Thinkerbell’s Reid & Ferrier on combined media and creativity, PwC involvement and more

After taking home Creative, Full Service and PR Agency of the Year at the 2021 Mumbrella Awards, Thinkerbell co-founder Adam Ferrier and CEO Margie Reid spoke to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan about being independent, the logic behind the full-service model, the "friends with benefits" relationship with PwC and more.

Independent agency Thinkerbell took home three coveted prizes at last month’s Mumbrella Awards in Creative, Full Service and PR Agency of the Year.

After narrowly missing out last year on two of those three categories (Thinkerbell backed up last year’s PR win), Ferrier said “to win the three categories felt fantastic, but it also felt like a great vindication for the hard work that everybody within the agency has done”.

The agency’s co-founder Ferrier and CEO Margie Reid appeared on the Tuesday Mumbrellacast to speak about the agency to date and how it has grown its presence in a short period of time.

In winning the full-service award for the first time, Ferrier said it is “obvious” that the media and creative disciplines should be back together. He suggested they stay separated as the holding companies that own the majority of the industry are “financially rewarded” for keeping it that way.

“So that’s a huge opportunity in the market. Everybody who is bringing creative and media back together is independent, and there’s obvious reasons for that.”

Ferrier and Reid also opened up on how the 10% stake that consultancy firm PwC has in Thinkerbell came to fruition so soon after the launch in 2017. Ferrier said that PwC was one of many different initial approaches for Thinkerbell, though this one interested the team most.

“We thought they’ll be interesting, just more for the connections and for the interesting nature of having a company like PwC having such a small, passive investment in the business. It felt like it would open up opportunities and make us part of the momentum of that consultancy/agency convergence, and it’s been fantastic.

“PwC has got a massive, weird ecosystem of businesses they hang out with, that agencies would never get to hang out with. And we got plunked into the middle of that ecosystem whenever we wanted it. And that created really interesting tech products and innovative solutions for clients. We had weird dinner parties, just all sorts of strange stuff that I don’t think most agencies would get exposed to.”

On the relationship with PwC, both Ferrier and Reid look upon it as a “friends with benefits” type of deal, getting advice, leadership and knowledge of different sectors the agency wouldn’t otherwise have.

At the moment, Thinkerbell remains a 90% independent business, and the PwC partnership hasn’t in any way hampered that independent identity.

And while there are no plans in the near future to change that, Reid said there was no way of knowing what lies ahead. “It’d be great to have a crystal ball and say what happens into the future, but at this stage we’ll remain independent and with our partnership, as it is with PwC, in there.”

Thinkerbell founders, Adam Ferrier, Jim Ingram and Ben Couzens

Ferrier, also known for his time at Naked Communications, said that when launching Thinkerbell, he wanted to bring across Naked’s ability to be “very good at branding everything”, including itself.

“Naked, I’m going to say it wasn’t safe enough. You need to have the maturity of delivering a really good product and then wrap that up in a really strong brand. And I think that’s what Thinkerbell has.

Building on this branding, all staffers at Thinkerbell fall under a category of either a Tinker or a Thinker, those being Tinkerbell, or Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’, making up the agency’s logo.

“The biggest way it comes to life internally is by only having Thinkers and Tinkers. Thinkers are strategy suity-type people, Tinkers are creative production type people, and we’ve done that for a number of reasons. But mainly to kill internal silos that exist within agencies and let people get rid of their internal hangups.”

Other discussion points during the conversation included diversity in the industry and the current martech landscape.

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Music credit: RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Backbay Lounge Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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