Brand Director and co-founder of virtual mobile network, giffgaff, Tom Rainsford took to the stage at the APA’s Future of Advertising event this morning to pose an interesting new way of working to the UK production industry.

In his 20-minute address, the bearded creative trod lightly as he introduced his company’s innovative business ethos by saying: “you may disagree with what we say, you may agree with it, you may hate us, and you may love us,” before going on to explain his interpretation of collaboration.



Rainsford compared being tied to a phone contract – typically a 24-month commitment for customers today – to, at times, making you want to go in and smash a shop up. He reinforced the idea with a real case (above), which happened in Manchester a few years ago when a man asked to be relieved of his contract.

giffgaff launched in 2009 and is different in that its service exists only online with no call centres and lower prices for its customers, which it makes an effort to label ‘members’.

“We took a step back and said: ‘what would we do differently if we started our own mobile network?’ Rainsford explained. “The simplicity of our thinking relates to when you experience a company and think you can do it better. Mutuality is at the heart of it."

Going on to talk about the brand’s creative output and marketing, he ensured the room that the company does work with agencies, but is just not tied to one and doesn’t necessarily need to for every job.



“We all collaborate every day, whether we want to or not in a strange way, with the people on the same train as us, for example. But there’s one issue with collaboration: most people are dicks! And that’s the problem.”

He added: “We don’t have an ad agency so we need to collaborate otherwise we won’t get anything done. That doesn’t mean we don’t work with them but we work more with independent people and directly with directors. It comes naturally to us and makes more sense for us to work with more people than less.”

Bringing in specialist talent for each job means the company can strike out the possibility of endless pitching, something Rainsford can’t stand when it end up amounting to nothing.

“The way we look at things is if we’re about empowering our members – whether it’s collaborating with them on anything from new apps to price – then why don’t we translate that ethos to the creative and production process?” he said.



For its recent Halloween campaign, giffgaff hired a freelance creative team to work on an idea, then detached the group from the project and handed over to Pulse director Ninian Doff. Rainsford said that everyone was happy with the final product and excited about the method of working.

“It’s about finding the right people who are absolutely spot on for that brief,” he said, before maintaining that it isn’t anything to do with a reduction of budget and that they probably spend considerably more this way.

Rainsford wrapped up by putting the argument forward that agencies could be suffering from pandering to client fears about “rocking the boat” and that more creative freedom is likely to create something that excites with restrictions sucking that away.

“Combining collaboration adds boldness and an element of disruption,” he concluded. “No one has the answers so to go to an agency and ask for that is nonsense. We can work out what the questions and answers are together.”

Read more about giffgaff's Tom Rainsford here.


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