Our Founder & CEO, Paul, reflects on two decades in digital & looks to the next twenty years.
Twenty years ago I was sitting alone at a battered old desk, in a small room above Yum Yum Thai Restaurant on Stoke Newington Church Street in North London. I had a computer, a phone (landline!) and one client, which was the restaurant downstairs. Ignite was up and running and I had no idea what to do next.
Slowly we began the process of forming our agency. Branding, hustling, selling, networking, team building, pricing, values, processes and a lot of grit. Many lessons learnt the hard way and nobody to bail us out if we couldn’t generate cash to pay ourselves. Building a business the old fashioned way, from the ground up through hard work and determination.
We slowly built a small team that started with my then-girlfriend (now-wife), Mish, who left her well-paid creative job in advertising to partner with me at Ignite. Over the first year or two we were joined by our debut marketing manager and our first designer, Adam, straight out of college, who is now Ignite’s Head of Design. Not long later Samuel, now our partner and Managing Director, joined the business as a marketing exec and subsequently helped shape and lead Ignite as it developed and grew.
Slowly but surely things moved ahead as we landed more work, larger clients and developed our team, resources and capabilities. Our focus on the three Ignite cornerstones of Strategy – Creativity – Technology enabled us to provide our clients with a competitive edge. Word spread amongst local restaurateurs that Ignite could help them get more customers through the door.
Those early days, the world of digital marketing was in its infancy (the term digital marketing didn’t actually exist, it was all just internet marketing). Facebook and social media hadn’t been invented yet, Google advertising was new. SEO was an easy game – simply writing the desired keywords in a page title tag pretty much guaranteed a high search result! Websites were HTML and CSS, without WordPress or other content management systems and online reservations for restaurants hadn’t yet arrived in the UK. We embraced all this new marketing technology and made it a focus of our agency.
We battled through the global financial crisis in 2006 / 2007, literally walking the local streets, visiting shops and restaurants selling any design or marketing services we could to pay the bills. Our focus on delivering measurable conversion results using online marketing techniques with high-impact creativity helped us demonstrate our value to clients and kept us in business through the downturn.
As the UK agency grew and we worked our magic with the nation’s leading hospitality brands, businesses around the world began to take notice. Projects in the USA, UAE, Russia, Vietnam and Cyprus helped to establish our global reputation and profile. Opening offices in New York in 2017 and Florida and Milan in 2021 followed to help us better support our international clients. Ignite is proud to now be a global agency.
Fast forward to 2022, and we’re here celebrating our milestone birthday, musing on what we’ve achieved over the past two decades. There are three elements that come to mind as contributing to our long-term success: People, Partners and Philosophies.
Ignite wouldn’t exist without the incredible talents we’ve had the good fortune to have on our team over the years. Many past Igniters remain close friends and many have gone on to launch their own successful start-ups or work for the world’s leading agencies & brands. The talent in our team now blows my mind. Combined centuries of experience in running digital marketing campaigns for hospitality. Technological sophistication, creative genius, wordsmiths, operational excellence, Ignite really has the most remarkable team that is unsurpassed globally.
Of course we are also nothing without our client-partners. Visionary brands and marketing leaders that took a punt on us a decade ago as a much smaller agency and were rewarded for their boldness with the highest quality creative and digital services. Operators that pushed the boundaries of technology marketing, that embraced direct online bookings, search and social marketing as those tools were introduced. The early adopters that led the way for the sector.
Our client base now expands across the globe and outside of hospitality and our philosophies and approaches are proving just as successful for all types of businesses. Philosophies and principles that include:
- Always do great work and everything else will follow
- Genuine care for our client partners
- Embrace new technologies and figure out how our clients can use them effectively to help their business
- Leverage the mix of art and science for exponential results
- Produce campaigns that are genuinely exciting to real people
- Nothing works in isolation
- Digital isn’t a channel, everything is digital-inclusive
- We believe in action, not just consulting or advising but solving problems by activating solutions. (Which is why we deliver all creative, marketing and development with our in-house team)
We’ve compounded our talent, relationships, friendships, partnerships and network consistently over these past 20 years. It’s this compounding effect that positions us as the leading agency that we are. Our network is vast, spans across the globe and not a day goes by without somebody we know reaching out with a new project for our team.
In 2020 we launched Fuse, Ignite’s e-commerce platform for hospitality. So far adopted by some of the UK’s leading restaurant brands including Hawksmoor, D&D London, Drake & Morgan, Marugame Udon and Pho, Fuse is set to grow rapidly providing our clients with a versatile, sophisticated all-in-one solution. Only 18 months old, Fuse has delivered over £8m in revenue for our clients already.
Looking to the future, Ignite will continue to grow our international markets and our teams in the US and Europe. We still embrace new technologies as they appear, working now on Web3 projects for clients including NFT activations and the metaverse. It’s going to be fascinating to see how these new blockchain technologies can be leveraged for the benefit of our clients.
So here’s to the next 20 years! We’re pumped for the future as Web3 develops, as we expand our international offices, grow our talent, evolve our creative & technological capabilities and strive to achieve the very best solutions for our clients.