CS went to have a chat with rehabstudio Managing Partner, Michael Veitch.
Can you give us an introduction to Rehab Studio?
rehabstudio was set up about 7 years ago by the founding partners Tim Rodgers and Jurgen Prause. After a few years of competing within the Belfast community of branding and design clients, they decided it would be more beneficial to join forces. Originally the plan was to set the Belfast studio up as the main development hub and Tim would move to London and start to generate new business. For the first four years they worked with smaller clients before starting to generate into bigger agency production.
I first met Tim when I was working at Saatchi on the digital components of the T-Mobile Liverpool dance campaign. I hired Rehab to do the digital build for the Youtube channel. Subsequently I left Saatchi and started at Rehab back in 2009. The first project I worked on with Tim was the Doritos ID3 project which at the time had some ground breaking technology integrated within it. From there we’ve grown year on year into where we are now. When I started there were about 8 guys in Belfast and 4 in London, we’re now at about 55 – 60 strong with a new office recently set up in New York.
A lot of the new agencies have been founded by people with big agency backgrounds which means they bring that ethos with them. Tim and Jurgen never had that base, I came in with some of that bigger agency experience and together we’ve built a really unique culture. Its a really collaborative environment and all 3 studios work very closely with each other. We see ourselves as a company that look to evolve with technology, we don’t have one set style or way of working but instead approach every project using a system we call Hand Built Digital. It means every job has its own system that can be built depending on its specific needs and crafted in the best possible way. The digital market is all about performance and we have to be advanced in our thinking, if you’re behind by even a year now you’re quite far back because things are moving at such a fast pace. A big part of what we do is try to help everyone we work with understand where we are, what we’re doing and also the challenges that comes when you are working with new technologies.
We also have our sister company Robot Corp which was formed out of an obsession for creative and tech innovation. Robot is a new type of pre-seed investment company – we create smart, social digital products and services by investing our skills instead of cash.
Founded in 2012 the company has already helped launched Intro, an app designed to grow your social business network by making new introductions for you, and One Memento, a unique photography experience to collect 250k unique moments through a one-shot digital camera.
How did you get to where you are today?
Well I’m originally from New Zealand. I started off working client side for a large company for a couple of years. I was moved over to the ad agency of the company which was Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand, where I spent 2 years working for one of the brewery accounts which managed the likes of Heineken,Tiger, Sol and some other mainstream beer brands. At that time Saatchi New Zealand were becoming internationally renowned for doing a lot of great work and winning a lot of awards. I went into advertising because I wanted to be an entrepreneur and by doing that I could learn a lot about how different markets and industries worked.
I came to London 5 years ago and worked at The Red Brick Road which was a great agency but it wasn’t creatively what I was looking for. I decided to leave there and went to Saatchi UK where I worked on T-Mobile for about 6 months. They were going through a real transitional period while I was there and ultimately I decided it wasn’t the right place for me. During those experiences I had decided that I wanted to focus more on digital, along came rehabstudio and I haven’t looked back since. I started here as a Senior Producer and have grown with the company to become the Managing Partner alongside Tim and Jurgen. I have helped develop rehab into a place where no matter what your role is, you have an opinion and that opinion is valid. It’s a hard model to create and we’ve learnt a lot over the years. For instance we don’t have account people, my theory is that a good Senior Producer should be a master of all trades including client services, because ultimately they are the ones closest to their projects. We don’t manage the large corporate clients that require an account person as a mediator. I love the UK and I’ll be staying here with rehabstudio and Robot Corp for long time. I think the next few years are going to be extremely interesting.
What are some of the projects that you’ve been involved with that you are most proud of?
From a UK point of view the T-Mobile Liverpool Dance campaign was definitely a really interesting one because it was a really nice idea that was content based and also digital. Since moving to rehab, the Life in a Day project was a big one that I was was involved with the whole way through. At the moment I’m really proud of all of the projects we are working on. They range from the AVE project which is a social network we created for Google Ideas in New York, to a large multi platform product with Droga5 in IDGUM. Ultimately I think the biggest project for me and the one that I’m most proud of is rehab itself and where we have got it to. We are now a place that is relatively well respected in the industry, and its a hard industry to get respect in because we are always at the delivery end where things can go wrong. Its been a hard few years but we’ve built some great relationships with a large group of varied clients, and we are all really proud of that.
What are the biggest challenges facing digital production agencies at the moment?
Process, the ability to have a consistent way to deliver a project in relation to timings. You’re constantly faced with lower budgets, bigger ideas and shorter timelines. I think one of the biggest challenges is helping agencies deliver projects to their clients and managing the stakeholders. There is also a constant need to be innovative. We believe that its about the best use of technology rather than a certain use of technology just because its the hot buzzword of the moment. We like to bring our agency partners into the creative process in a collaborative way, it means that they become part of the evolution of the idea.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently?
I would say the evolution of how digital adverting is working, I don’t tend to look at one idea, I prefer to look at the industry as a whole. There are some really great brands out there that aren’t just focusing on building an app with a life cycle of a month. Instead they are creating long life product based ideas that gather user bases, have on-going usage and work with new revenue models. Its much closer to the start-up world, I think the industry will evolve like that even more so. There has been a huge swing within the industry in the last 6 months and I think the next 2 years are going to be extremely interesting for everyone involved.
What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career so far?
Working in this industry is about being empathetic to the people around you, it can mould people into many different things depending on the agencies and clients that you work with. Its not a factory and everyone has different ways of working. My biggest learning is to have an understanding how other people work. There is a lot of in-fighting and its often forgotten that we are all human and we all make mistakes. As long as people are moving forward and learning from those mistakes there shouldn’t be a problem.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A good idea can come from anywhere. Working in a really collaborative way with a number of people with different skills and backgrounds is the best way to come up with great, robust ideas. Collaboration is the way to solve problems.
If you could be someone else for the day who would it be?
Who do suspect of being an alien?
Who’s your favorite villain?
Where do you do your best thinking?