The managing director who is tackling the London-bound mentality of global brands

Greg Clark, managing director of Sheffield based creative design agency Uber. Picture: Steve Ellis
Greg Clark, managing director of Sheffield based creative design agency Uber. Picture: Steve Ellis
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His new campaign is a dig at brands who think creative design only happens in the capital. Greg Clark, managing director of Über Agency, tells Lizzie Murphy why they shouldn’t ignore local talent.

Greg Clark’s creative design agency receives about 14 calls a week from people looking for taxis.

Über Agency in Sheffield was founded six years before the ubiquitous taxi app but that doesn’t stop late night punters trying to hitch a lift from them.

“If I’m working here at night and answer the phone it’s always for a taxi,” the managing director says.

“You don’t even know where to begin - explaining we’re an advertising agency, Uber taxis is an app and you can’t even ring them. Sometimes it’s just easier to say “Yeah, it’s on it’s way.”

Über Agency rebranded this year and Clark says there was a two minute conversation as to whether it should change its name but he decided against it.

“We’ve been top 30 agency in the country for 15 years and we’ve been top five outside London. All that equity would be lost if we changed the name, so for obvious reasons we don’t want to do that. We’ve got a good reputation and people know us.”

Über Agency, which has a £2.7m turnover, creates consumer retail advertising for clients including Tombola and BAFTA.

It’s made its name from television advertising, creating 4,800 television commercials in 15 years. At one point it was producing three adverts a month for DFS, which was a client for nine years.

When I arrive at the company’s office at Park Hill in Sheffield, Clark is putting the finishing touches to Tombola Arcade’s new ident campaign for its sponsorship of the new series of I’m a Celebrity…”

“I’m A Celebrity sponsorship is definitely one of our favourite projects to work on,” Clark says. “This is our second year and it’s a much bigger campaign.”

The current trend is moving away from expensive television to cheaper digital advertising but Clark believes television will still have a big part to play in the future.

“TV is it’s still by far the biggest media there is,” he says. “Digital and television are coming together and eventually they will be in one place. But right now, it’s still treated separately so the trend is to move away from TV.”

The company invested in rebranding the business this year after acquiring Doncaster agency Public Image. The acquisition strengthens Uber’s business-to-business credentials.

“We’re expanding our digital team but we’re looking at whether to grow organically or acquire another business,” Clark says. “Whatever we do has to be a good fit. The most important thing is that we all enjoy working here. We’ve had a very low churn of staff in 15 years and I want it to stay that way.”

As part of the rebranding, it launched its London Bound campaign - a tongue-in-cheek video talking about how some global brands insist on using London agencies when they can get the same level of service and talent in Yorkshire for less money.

The main video had 70,000 views in the first week. “We’re a London agency in Sheffield,” says Clark. “Our abilities and our products and what we do are comparable with a London agency but you don’t have the costs of doing business in the capital.”

He adds: “The campaign’s also about getting people to be proud to stay where they live and work where they live. We’re churning out some exceptional talent from our universities in the north. Graduates need to know there are some great opportunities in creative companies here rather than thinking they’ve got to go to London.

“The decision by Channel 4 to move to Leeds is fantastic because that’s one of the most creative brands in the country saying there is life outside London.”

The film was born out of a recent incident with a global brand. “A woman arranged a meeting with her and her two bosses from Switzerland,” says Clark. “We believe in ourselves and what we do but at one point someone here said ‘Do they know we’re in Sheffield? We contacted the woman and she said ‘yes, I’m fully aware of this’. So we told her exactly where to find us.

“We got the posh biscuits in and we did a bespoke presentation tailored to that brand. The time of the meeting came round and we got a phone call saying she’d just been to our office and we’d moved.

“We said: ‘you’re in London, aren’t you? We told you we were in Sheffield’. She replied ‘I thought Sheffield was in London’.

“It just emphasises the point that they weren’t willing to talk to us at all if we weren’t in London. They wanted to see us for all the right reasons but for all the wrong reasons it never happened. In this day and age location is irrelevant.”

Brighouse-born Clark trained as a graphic designer but left a week before his final presentation when he was offered a job at a design agency in Elland, West Yorkshire.

He moved through a number of agencies before being spotted by Paradigm - now Jaywing - for his work in the dance music scene.

“They were pitching for Kiss and didn’t know anything about dance music so they brought me in to advise the team and they won that account,” he says. “I was working somewhere else at the time so their creative team ended up working nights so I could do my 9-5 job, drive to Sheffield, work with their team, get some sleep and go back to work.”

Clark went to work for them after that, moving into art directing and TV advertising.

He set up Über in 2003 with 13 former colleagues who wanted to join him. “We set out to create a place we’d always wanted to work,” he says. “The irony of that was six months down the line we realised we didn’t work there, we owned it. Everyone else was having a great time but for us it was quite stressful.”

Looking ahead, Clark says Über is focusing on using its TV and branding experience to grow its digital work. “It’s getting people to know that what we do for TV, we can do cost effectively for digital solutions and online content. Creativity is not stopped by any particular media.”

He plans to grow the digital team to be at least half of the workforce by the end of next summer. At the moment it makes up about a third of the team.

The married father-of-two enjoys snowboarding and cars in his spare time but he’s also passionate about creating a fun work environment for his staff. “If I didn’t enjoy it I just couldn’t do it so why should I expect anybody else to do it?” he says.

Curriculum Vitae

Title: Managing director of Über Agency in Sheffield

Date of birth: July 21, 1970

Education: Rastrick High School; Percival Whitley College in Halifax

First job: Junior designer at David Mitchell Design in Elland

Favourite holiday destination: The Alps

Favourite film: It’s a tough one because I love films but probably I’d have to say Iron Man

Favourite song: Dock of the Bay, by Otis Redding

Last book read: The subtle art of not giving a ****, by Mark Manson

Car driven: S Class Mercedes. My six series Gran Coupe BMW was written off a couple of months ago

Most proud of: My children. I have two daughters