Twist or Stick: Bloom MD Jill Marshall advises that you must 'love what you do' to make it in creative industry

For someone who didn’t even know the creative industry existed upon starting her career, Jill Marshall of Bloom’s journey from account manager to managing director is pretty impressive. Jumping ship from Nestlé in the late 80s following an agency presentation, Marshall learnt the ropes at Lewis Moberly during the “peak of its creative powers” before spending time at Coley Porter Bell, Design Bridge and ultimately Bloom, proudly professing she “won’t be going anywhere else after Bloom, just for the record”.

Founded in 2001 by “two ex-Unilever clients and a creative”, the early ambition of Bloom’s founders was to take all the best bits of the agencies they had worked with over the years and create the agency they had always wanted as clients.

“Strategy, creativity and delivery are the three pillars on which the business was founded and that is still the case today,” explains Marshall.

“We’ve got a great client list that consists of most of the big FMCG companies that you could ever wish for – Diageo, General Mills, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone – but alongside that we also have smaller, more lifestyle clients.”

Clearly proud of Bloom’s current client list, Marshall reckons “the client gets the agency and resulting piece of work they deserve” but is surprised by the number of clients who still “don’t really know how to work properly with an agency”.

“Part of the problem within the client community at the moment is there has been insufficient training for marketers,” she says, describing this as one of the things she’d change about the industry at present.

“Design training and brand training used to be quite high on the agenda for most companies, but now it’s only the likes of Unilever and Diageo who are investing, and it shows.

“You can’t expect brand managers who haven’t worked on design before, and haven’t been trained, to know how to go through the process. We try and help as much as we can but it can sometimes be very hard work.” With over 20 years’ experience under her belt, Marshall’s advice to those looking to emulate her success is very simple: “you have to love what you do”. She adds: “If you’re not jumping out of bed every morning to do what you do, you’re in the wrong job. Life is precious, time is precious. Nobody ever sat on their hospital bed and said ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office’.”

Despite trying to enjoy every moment of her career, Marshall has her fair share of horror stories and cites a pitch four or five years ago as one of the worst – when a tardy key decision-maker chose Bloom’s presentation as the best time to have lunch.

“It was just before Christmas, and when she arrived, she asked if she could eat her lunch before telling us she only had 20 minutes before the next meeting,” Marshall recalls. “As always we tried to include a couple of more light-hearted stories but all I can say about this meeting was it was like one of those moments on ‘Vic and Bob’ where the tumbleweed blows through the room and there’s a whistling wind all around,” she laughs.

“It became very clear that we were not going to win as she chomped through her chicken sandwich, ate her crisps and left after about 10 minutes.”

Though able to look back on that particular experience with humour, Marshall believes sometimes losing out on an account is not always the worst thing and counts working on Sir Richard Branson’s failed bid to secure the National Lottery as a career highlight.

“I worked with JWT on the bid and got to meet Richard Branson, have dinner with him and celebrate the bid going in. And although, of course, he didn’t win – it went to Camelot – it was nonetheless one of the most interesting projects I’ve been involved in.”

Which brings Marshall back to her core philosophy that you have to love what you do. Admitting it “sounds a little bit glib,” she says that part of the company’s mantra is “about having fun and enjoying this – because if you can’t have fun working in this industry, you want shooting, frankly.

“It is one of the most amazing industries to be involved in and you get to work on great brands, with creative people who have some of the most inspirational ideas and skills – and it’s fun.”

This interview was originally published within The Drum magazine’s 3 September issue, available to purchase through The Drum Store

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