‘One of the best kept secrets in the industry’: Simon Langley on what brought him to Edge from Wunderman Thompson

What would inspire someone to leave the national chief creative officer role at an agency network in the middle of a pandemic? Simon Langley says Edge has "all the tools in place to become a really exciting creative agency", and his decision to make the change was driven by the opportunity the pandemic has created for Edge to take on the industry. Here, Langley, founding partner Fergus Stoddart and partner Richard Parker speak to Mumbrella's Zoe Wilkinson about the future of Edge.

“I think there’s never been a better opportunity or time to join an independent. I think the pandemic has obviously changed a lot of things, it’s reset how we all work, how we think,” says Simon Langley.

Making the move from Wunderman Thompson to the smaller, independent agency Edge was something that he considered throughout the pandemic, and the impact COVID-19 had on the industry was certainly playing on Langley’s mind. But, above all, it was the opportunity COVID presented to independent agencies.

“I’d been at Wunderman Thompson, or JWT-slash-Wunderman Thompson, for six-and-a-half years by the time I’d left, and I really enjoyed it and [have] still got fantastic friendships in there, and did some really great work, and built a great team. But I think I was looking for a new challenge,” he says.

“For me, it’s all about culture and helping build something and having, I think, a real challenge. And I guess also when you’re in a smaller agency… you’re more connected to the day-to-day.

“So looking at Edge, it was an opportunity to join something, take on a new challenge, very, very similar goals and ambitions to the other partners, where they want to take the business, and I guess it just felt right.”

Edge began its life in 2002 as a custom magazine publisher, but transformed into a content marketing business in 2011 to meet growing demand at the time for digital services. In recent years, the agency has been evolving into a full-service creative business and built out a media procurement team, assisted by the integration of Mutiny’s media investment analytics platform, Warchest, last year.

“It’s been described as one of the best kept secrets in the industry,” Langley says.

“Because it’s got all the tools in place to become a really exciting creative agency, it just needed the last few, key pieces of the puzzle and it’s on its way.”

Edge’s founding partner of growth and partnerships, Fergus Stoddart, says the agency has kept a low profile over the years as it has undergone its metamorphosis, but all of that is about to change.

“When we were focused on content, most people in that space knew us but as we have moved into broader digital comms, advertising, and media you become less ‘famous’ for what you do distinctly,” he says.

“We have also always focussed our resources on clients and the work not necessarily on building our agency brand. Given we are now competing for some of the biggest creative accounts this will have to change.

“The best agencies become well known for the quality of their work and typically it’s bigger creative budgets that give you those opportunities. Given our recent successes, and with Simon coming onboard, I’m confident that the new work we are putting out will put us on the map.”

With nearly seven years at JWT and Wunderman Thompson under his belt, including two as national chief creative officer, Langley brings with him a reputation of industry-leading creative work, including the ongoing ‘I Touch Myself Project’ for the Cancer Council and Berlei.

Now, Langley will be working across Edge’s client list, which includes AAMI, Bupa Hearing, Dental and Optical, Harris Coffee, Mitre 10, Moccona and Wattyl.

Executive planning director and partner, Richard Parker, says Langley’s “proven experience and creative leadership” will be a “safe pair of “hands that big corporate clients can trust, drawing larger clients into the agency”.

“His hunger to re-think models and ways of working for today’s environment is going to be crucial for us,” Parker says.

“It will not only help lift our creative product – something the entire senior leadership team is passionate about – but also ensure we continue to re-imagine the way we create and execute across multiple ecosystems to drive agility and effectiveness for our clients.”

With the ability to integrate creative ideas with media, Langley says there is more room for Edge’s work to grow.

“When it comes to ideas and the sort of bigger brand ideas, being able to let the idea lead the way and have media support and sort of bring-that-idea-to-life is really important. Then being able to have that in-house is obviously much easier,” he explains.

“Having that full-service offering, but the ability to stay nimble, still partner with people, still make those alliances where needed, and have the ability to make those calls depending on what’s right for the brand or the project is still really important as well.”

In the face of a resurgence of full-service independent agencies, Langley says that Edge is match-fit to come up against bigger agencies.

“There’s certainly pros and cons of all arrangements and it is very dependent on the clients and the projects and all that type of thing. But, I think the way the world’s gone, and with technology, and the ability to partner with people, and I think COVID is really showing this as well, to change the way you work.

“I don’t think there’s too many things that you can’t do as a mid-sized independent that the bigger agencies can.”

Langley references Edge’s partnership with Mutiny for data and analytics. The businesses pitch together, work on projects together, and prove, in Langley’s eyes, that independents can come up against networks by teaming up.

Edge is also looking towards merger and acquisition opportunities this year to assist in taking on the global networks and scale its growth across media, PR and data.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past decade it’s that if independent agencies like us are to provide a viable alternative to the multinationals, it’s not enough to be more nimble, more collaborative and more modern in terms of thinking, processes and structure – although we’re all of those things,” Parker says.

“And it’s not enough to be unhindered by legacy. We also need scale. So our biggest goal for 2021 is growth. We see this coming from a mixture of organic growth – through the deep and trusted relationships we have with existing clients and the consistently effective work we deliver for them – as well as through new business wins.”

Following “the most bizarre start to a role” he’s had in his career, working from home in the middle of a pandemic, Langley says at the 12 month mark of his time at Edge, he wants “some great campaigns under our belt”, “some great new clients on the roster”, the opportunity to invest in new talent and “to be sitting there going, it’s been a really fun year”.


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