Studio Liquid: Anton Jerges
The design agency looking at the big picture
Given the very nature of the industry, it may appear slightly odd that Studio Liquid founder Anton Jerges feels that design agencies are often guilty of a lack of imagination.
However, Jerges’ frustrations with agencies’ over-emphasis on budgets prompted him to launch a business that offered a fresh approach. Founded in 2003 with business partner Derek Manning, Studio Liquid claims to be different. “We felt that there was scope to build a business that was very strong creatively and not tied to a particular discipline,” he explains. “If you’re a DM agency, for instance, you’d sell direct marketing to a client, whatever the nature of its problem. We don’t just push clients down the most profitable route for the agency.”
Differentiating yourself tends to work, and support for Studio Liquid’s ethos has been strong. “Clients were keen to work with an agency thinking on their terms, rather than just looking at budgets and how much money could be made from them,” says Jerges. “We didn’t lose a pitch in our first two years.”
And he didn’t even have to undercut rivals. “We’re looking for clients who appreciate the value of good design. If they’re making a decision based purely on the monetary aspect, they’re failing to see how design can add value.”
Studio Liquid’s client list is certainly impressive. Brands such as Bentley Motors, Samsung Mobile and Qantas Airways have been successfully lured, with a clutch of smaller clients padding out a wide-ranging portfolio.
The Guildford-based business’ financial outlook further validates Jerges’ approach. The current financial year should see turnover top £2m, with a 21% operating profit comparing favourably to an industry average of just 7%.
Its services – brochures, direct marketing, website design, viral campaigns and exhibitions – demanded the assembly of a highly skilled, 11-strong team, and Jerges only hires senior staff with at least 10 years’ experience.
Potential employees are put through personality profiling to ensure they’ll fit within the team. Such attention to detail soaks up time, but Jerges feels the process is vital in ensuring Studio Liquid’s client-friendly reputation. “We put a lot of time and investment into our people, nurturing them and introducing them to other design disciplines,” he explains. “They all understand commercial imperatives. They can be creative, but with the client’s objectives in mind. Plenty of agencies have account mangers – we don’t. We let our senior creatives deal with clients.”
Turnover is projected to hit a heady £45m by 2009, although the highly ambitious Jerges feels the target could be achieved sooner, powered by existing clients using a wider range of the company’s services, coupled with an extensive marketing drive for new business.
“We are conscious of the problems that extremely fast growth can cause,” Jerges adds. “Because we’ve managed growth, we are able to bring in the right systems and structures at the right times. We’ve got a plan and we are going to stick to it.” Certainly worth watching.
Company: Studio Liquid
Proposition: Creative design agency
Co-founders: Anton Jerges and Derek Manning
Turnover: ?2m projected 06