So the fabulous, shiny, new Signal agency (in which I am a small yet not entirely insignificant cog) has moved from the ultra-civilised boulevards of Fitzrovia to the jazzy fleshpots of Shoreditch and, naturally, I can find lessons for the ‘Modern Marketeer’ in what I find here.
As ever, our first port of call is history, what Cicero calls “the witness that testifies to the passing of time; that illumines reality, vitalises memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity” which tells us that Shoreditch may possibly take its name from the last resting place (in a ditch) of Jane Shore, favourite fancy-lady and mistress of Edward IV.
Jane lived a fairly complex and, apparently, super-fruity life and we can probably dismiss the legend as a typical back-etymology invented long after the area had taken its name.
Far likelier is Wikipedia’s suggestion that “Shoreditch was known as “Soersditch” long before Jane Shore’s life; a more plausible origin for the name is “Sewer Ditch”, in reference to a drain or watercourse in what was once a boggy area.”
So, Shoreditch, last, undignified resting place of a dead, royal mistress or a filthy, boggy ditch near the city.
Vibrant, modern, packed to the rafters with both movers and shakers, thrice-digitally-digital, mega-thriving, multi-ethnically diverse, home to at least three of London’s finest agencies, ultra-fashion-conscious (feel my new beard), in touch with The City (look at these Loakes), in touch with multi-phase development, crescent, complex, groovy and insouciantly business-like, Shoreditch is the kind of district that sends the Bojos of this era into ecstasies.
And, of course, for us ‘Modern Marketeers’ the lessons are plain, it does not matter if your agency began as a vanity project for a tired aristocrat or even that your organisation sprang from the boggy (yet-oh-so-fertile) soil of a grubby data business. With enough energy and a little luck you too can be vibrant, you too can ride the bleeding edge-curve of modernity and attract attention, investment and all-round success.
Us ‘Modern Marketeers’ though, we need to approach matters with caution as well as enthusiasm.
In a part of town where Vietnamese coffee bars rub shoulders with the classiest fashion outlets (multi-dimensional winter puffa anyone?), where your sausage may come from the Gambia and your pudding from Irkutsk, it’s important to remember who matters, yes it’s that dreary old truism it’s the customer that matters.
Do my clients enjoy their visits to super-chic Shoreditch? Yes they do. Do my colleagues enjoy working here sampling the delights of Venezuelan Vodka and Bratislavan Beer? Yes they do.
But in one brief transaction a Croatian barber operating a few hundred yards from our snazzy office, as I lingered, rubbing my shapely yet be-stubbled head, encapsulated what we must not forget…
“Haircut sir? Maybe trim your beard, sir?”
“How much would that be?”, I replied.
“What you pay up West?” said he.
“Fifteen quid for both,” said I.
“Well that’s what I charge then!”, he rejoined cheerily.
You see, it’s not about what the market will stand, no matter where your agreeable office may be, it’s about what your client thinks your services are worth.
We may now be in Shoreditch, but you can guarantee that whatever you want from Signal, whether it’s a full-on CRM/eCRM programme, an ingenious response to a complex asset-management brief, the most esoteric of media-planning and buying campaigns for the most hard-to-reach audience or a full-on heavy-duty, transactional website, you can guarantee that it will cost you no more than it did when we were ‘up West’. And it may just have absorbed a little Vietnamese or Bactrian mystery, a little high-fashion élan.
But you can rest assured that like Shoreditch itself (with its dead royal mistress and filthy sewer), we will never forget our earthy origins.
See you in Calooh-Callay, mine’s an Estonian Mushroom-Lager!
Jonathan Spooner is consulting creative director at Cello Signal