Hermeti Balarin, Partner and Executive Creative Director at Mother London was interviewed by Contagious Magazine as part of their Creative Pioneers 2019 series, looking at what it takes to be one of the best and bravest creative agencies on the planet.

CM: What is the single biggest factor that you attribute to your agency’s success?

HB: We are solely focused on making the best work we possibly can for every single client and brief in the building at any given time. This does not mean work for industry awards or peer recognition but work that punches above and beyond paid media. Work that makes us happy is work that gets disproportionally talked about or shared and, in turn, brings strong results to our clients.

We want to make things that your mum will talk about with her friends; that cab drivers know by heart; that your mates not working in advertising would be jealous of. We want to make work that makes the news and gets shared around the world.

CM: How do you ensure that happens?

HB: Every brief is an opportunity, we put in as much effort and brain power into trying to crack a coupon ad as we do into writing a TV script. We tackle every brief with the naivety and hope that we had when we first started. And we never stop trying. If we have a better idea in injury time, we’ll call the client and try to sell that one. And after we manage to sell great work, we spend an enormous amount of time and effort doing what we love the most: crafting everything to an inch of our lives. And last but not least, we try to provoke something in the world with it, to anchor it in a strong cultural context. And then we pray that it goes as far and wide as it can.

Mother London

CM: How do you nurture the client/agency relationship?

HB: You work together as one team. You understand their business problems and opportunities. You treat them with respect. You challenge them and get challenged back. You have fun together. But, ultimately, you make their marketing extremely successful. You give them famous work with amazing sales results alongside it. That creates an exhilarating relationship where the focus is bigger fame and bolder results.

CM: How do you encourage clients to overcome risk aversion and embrace more daring ideas?

HB: You only ever need to do it once. Bold and daring work works brilliantly most of the time. So, the likelihood of that piece working wonders for the brand is very high. Then, after that, you don’t need to encourage any longer, as they will be wanting more of where that came from.

CM: How do you attract and retain talent?

HB: You create the best environmental possible for great ideas to get made. You allow people to have fun while doing it. And the result of that is a brilliant culture Talent is attracted to companies and brands that have heart and soul. Places that genuinely stand for something.

CM: What mistakes do you think other agencies are making?

HB: They focus on money above people. They have an uncanny inability to break from the past. They never focus on the work itself.

CM: What’s the single biggest lesson your agency has learned in the past year?

HB: When brands screw up they should apologise like they fucking mean it.

CM: What are you most proud of from the past 12 months and why?

HB: Putting palm oil on the public agenda. A year ago, it was an unknown yet ubiquitous ingredient in 50% of the products on supermarket shelves, having destroyed swathes of virgin rainforest in its production. After working with Greenpeace, and later Iceland, we’ve been able to shift awareness of the substance to such an extent that consumers are altering their purchase behaviours to avoid it, in large part due to the association with destroying rainforest habitats. In the process, we’ve managed to get the biggest supplier of palm oil in the world, Wilmar, to pledge its supply chain would no longer cause deforestation which will have a huge and lasting positive change for the environment.