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Sustaining creative engagement

Rob Steeles
29 Apr 2019 · 3 min read

Rob Steeles, Executive Creative Director of AmazeRealise discusses the principles of marathon running and how to apply these in our working environment to produce results that last the distance.

mountain running

This weekend saw the 38th London Marathon and if you’ve ever run a marathon, you’ll know that for many it’s a personal challenge, a way of giving back, or a thing to tick off the bucket list.

But for some, 26.2 miles is just a warm up. 100 miles in a day anyone? Welcome to the world of the Ultra Marathon runner.

To become an Ultra Marathon runner means training on a whole new level. You have to build up to a prolonged and sustainable effort to achieve what so few can.

Pretty much anyone can run 100 metres, right? Some just do it quicker. And this is where I bring our industry and the way we produce work for our clients into this post.

It seems the majority of our industry is geared up to serve clients by doing repeated mad-dashes to the line. This Usain Bolt approach to thinking, effort, preparation and focus on short-term strategic objectives means the brand’s long-term potential is seldom truly discovered.

I believe today’s clients need agencies that know how to create sustainable engagement to improve the quality and depth of the work. To get to that, agencies that are willing to shape things for the longer duration will be rewarded with more insightful and creative output, and a client that is running with the agency rather than cheering on from the sidelines.


Fartlek. Great word. It always makes me snigger. But schoolboy humour aside, this is actually a runner’s training method that translates from its Swedish origins as “speed play”.

It’s effectively long distance running designed to condition and improve pace and duration by purposefully varying the tempo at key points.

Apply this methodology into how an agency and its creative department works, and the end product gets consistently stronger. And we get faster and better at producing it.

Ask any creative when they produce their best work and most will say that pitching seems to bring out the best ideas. There’s something in the process that focuses the mind and makes it perform to its best. The intensity of a pitch means creatives often find themselves having to dig deep and endure to push through and deliver brilliance in a time critical period.

There’s nothing slow about a pitch. But it seems we only use it when new business is being chased.

Working as hard to keep existing clients is another key component to building sustainable engagement for their brand and their customers.

Agile, nimble and smart

Think of the typical long-distance runner. Physiologically, they are built for the task. Not an ounce of fat, supreme flexibility, low heart-rate and massive lung capacity.

An agency also has to follow this thinking to set itself up for the long-term for clients. Processes have to be light and agile methodologies brought into play to keep the pace up. The formation of production hubs at the critical points mean that, along the way, the work is enhanced quickly but not held back. Things keep moving – sometimes quickly, sometimes a little slower – but the pace is always sustained.

There’s a saying amongst runners that “90% of running is mental, the rest is physical”, and it’s true. An Ultra Marathon runner can have the best preparation, diet, training and team around them, but if the mind isn’t where it needs to be to cope with the psychological barriers the end will always feel unachievable.

So training the minds within an agency to sustain a greater effort for longer is also key. And I don’t know a client who wouldn’t want a team relentlessly thinking of new ways to help their business.

Results that last the distance

Being a creative, I may be a little biased about how you measure the impact of sustained engagement. But I believe you only have to look at some of the work that’s been produced over the years to acknowledge its power.

Instantly springing to mind are campaigns such as The Economist’s ‘Red and White’ campaign which ran for nearly 20 years and grew in its intelligence and sophistication.

Guinness’s ‘Good things come to those who wait’ which included the fabled work including ‘The swimmer’, ‘White Horses’ and ‘noitulovE’ has been etched into the minds of the British public over an 11 year period.

And while I’m not comparing the work above to the work AmazeRealise has done or is doing, we have our own sustained engagement stories to tell. We’ve been Co-op and Lexus’ digital agency for strategy, design, build and campaigns for over a decade.

The best bit is...we’re just getting warmed up.

Rob Steeles is the Executive Creative Director of AmazeRealise
Twitter @robsteeles
Instagram @robertsteeles

To find out how we can help you produce results that last the distance, use the form below to get in touch and we’ll be happy to start you on your journey.

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