Way Out Radio take a look behind the scenes of Propaganda Agency, the brand consultancy firm with a punk attitude. Paula interviews company leader Julian.
Julian, you’re the driving force behind Propaganda. Can you give us an insight into your background and have you developed your tenacity?
I grew up in Huddersfield which has punk folklore connected to it. The Sex Pistols played their final gig here. My Dad was a firefighter, and I could have gone to the fireman’s kids benefit gig they put on. I didn’t realise at the time or I’d have definitely been there! In terms of tenacity, I’ve always had a rebellious streak. I think ‘punk’!
Aside from being a successful businessman, you’re a punk at heart. Can you tell us how you got into punk and where it took you?
I got into punk in the backyard of my Nan and Grandads house, alongside my childhood friend Steven Ellis. We sung the Damned’s ‘Love Song’ into broom handles, which we happily used as microphones! Steve’s brother David was one of the first punks in Huddersfield. His claim to fame was featuring at the start of the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. That little bit of film made him a local celeb! We used to sneak into his room and play his music when he was out.
We’re also a reggae radio show. Would you name a few reggae bands you like and give us some of your experiences in reggae music?
I don’t listen to reggae but I often find myself talking professionally about brand relationships. They often misunderstand youth culture. A big misrepresentation is the view that skinhead culture is right wing. Actually it’s been hijacked by the right wing. It’s always great when I tell an audience that skinhead culture was born through appreciation of both black and white kids. They worked together and shared music.
Who are the key punk bands for you? Are you a big political punk and into activism? Give us some of your top bands and why…
My original introduction to punk was The Adicts, but now I’m really loving In Evil Hour. Other than that, I have now seen The Damned more than 100 times and am great friends with the band. Of late, I’m listening to The Angelic Upstarts ‘Bullingdon Bastards’ album as it fits perfectly with my current political stance. Other bands I love would be The Dickies, The Dead Kennedys and a less well-known band from the early ’80s called Erazerhead.
As I get older, I get more political – I wouldn’t say I’m on the left, more that I have a hatred for the right. I’m incredibly active in supporting hunt saboteurs and although I make no claim to be out there in the field, I do try to compensate by raising money for them. I’m working on a project right now with a punk band, who we are set to launch a single with to raise money for this cause.
You were the Marketing Director of hair beauty brand GHD and played a central role in it becoming the UK’s fastest growing private company in 2005. Tell us about that time for you…
In a nutshell, I led the creative team that moved a hair styling tool, which was always deemed ‘white goods’, into one of the best loved, emotional brands in the world. From a professional point of view, the work we did was accredited by all of the top London agencies as ‘the’ brand build of the decade. Even now, my agency Propaganda wins work on the back of the work we did for GHD.
Your company Propaganda is an A list marketing agency. Can you tell us what projects you’ve worked on and what is most exciting about what you do?
The company have a saying that we don’t like easy briefs. We want to work with a company who is either struggling or doing so well they don’t know what their next move should be because I want to break companies’ glass ceilings. Propaganda have a tenacious attitude and put demands to our clients. We won’t deal with marketing directors, just the business owners. It is easy to look on our website and see our work but right now, we are busy working on global clients involved in super yachts and face respirators, whilst here in the UK we are transforming a brand of CBD oils called Love Hemp.
You’ve won a lot of awards in the industry including Marketing Personality of the Year and Marketing Services Head of the Year for industry bible, The Drum, and Newsco Insider’s Entrepreneur of the Year. How does it feel to get that kind of feedback about what you do?
It feels a little cheap if I’m being honest, as I have little respect for the industry I’m in. We have carved our own niche and we are openly critical of the approaches of other branding agencies. That said, it’s nice for people around me to see the agency get those kind of awards (and my parents!).
What’s on the horizon for the future? Where can people get in touch with you and the Propaganda team?
The future for me would be to get more involved in activism. Propaganda continues to evolve, whilst staying true to its principles of helping clients outthink, not outspend their competitors and we place knowledge before assumption and at this point, the agency is ready for its younger staff to step up and become the leaders of tomorrow. I’m also a non-Exec Director of a company called Razor who are a really exciting business in the tech space.
For more go to: www.propaganda.co.uk