The agency of tomorrow focusing on the youth of today

26 April 2023

Company Spotlight in Creativepool

We Are Futures is a brand and social impact agency, which specialises in the youth markets of tomorrow. They analyse how young people think, react, talk and behave, and help businesses connect with young people and their families.

This week, we spoke to We Are Futures CEO & Chairman, Mark Fawcett. Mark started off his career in the Army training soldiers, then moved to World Challenge to run expeditions before becoming MD, and finally founded National Schools Partnership, which in the last few years has rebranded into We Are Futures. The company is about creating engaging activity through smart creative, activations, partnerships and more. 

Mark has always had a fascination with youth culture and now helps brands connect with that audience in an authentic, impactful way, to create the customers of tomorrow. The thing is, brands want to help, but they need guidance on how. It’s next level purpose marketing and we’re about to learn a lot more about it from Mark himself.

How was your company born and where are you based?

I’ve worked with young people throughout my career, starting out as an Officer in the Army where I was involved in training new recruits and going on to run the youth expedition organisation World Challenge, so understanding how young people tick is something I’m hugely interested and, dare I say it, very experienced in.

We Are Futures was borne from an observation – I had spent a few years visiting schools and working with young people with World Challenge, mainly in the UK and also the USA, and had seen how different companies, brands and charities were communicating and interacting with that generation. I could see how important that connection was but could also see how much better much of it could be.

We created a vision to better connect businesses and brands with young people with multiple benefits, be it social impact, future talent or simply to make a positive engagement with the mass market of tomorrow.

That was almost 20 years ago and today we work with 30 major businesses – from Sky, Unilever and Samsung to Natwest, Warburtons and L’Oreal – to help them create meaningful connections with young people through programmes, education initiatives and experience opportunities. We now have teams based all over, with our main offices in London and Edinburgh.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

Initially our biggest challenge was to show clients why and how things could be done differently. They couldn’t easily put us into the boxes of Creative, PR, Media Channel or Sponsorship agency as we’re all of those – and more.

We had to demonstrate how they could have both a Social Impact and a Brand Impact at the same time in a Win:Win for them and for young people. And, not having ever worked in an agency before, I had to learn all the basics from Day 1.

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

Winning the opportunity to work with Morrisons to help launch their ‘Let’s Grow’ campaign in 2007 was a big step. We collaborated with a range of other agencies and the campaign had a very high profile, winning numerous awards.

It helped build our reputation in the early years and is something we remain immensely proud of more than 15 years later.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

The merging of consumer and employer brands means that younger audiences are making decisions about whether they want to buy from you or work for you in the same breath. Coupled with a growing skills crisis in the UK, businesses are increasingly realising the importance of young people to them, both as brand makers, and as brand destroyers.

This has added another significant dimension to our offering. Because we are uniquely placed to help brands understand and better engage with this new generation, we are a very effective addition to their strategic planning and creative execution. And with the importance of real Purpose within a brand’s activities and communications, we can drive an increasingly important ROI.

Can you explain your team’s strategy / process? What makes it unique?

Our approach joins together a business’s brand and social impact aims along with the needs and ambitions of young people. So our processes must find and then create that perfect meeting point.

We articulate this as Consult – Create – Impact. This takes us from deep Insight work and strong Strategic Planning through to the big Creative Ideas and then into on-the-ground Delivery. All underpinned by a deep understanding of how young people develop, engage, and respond with the world around them.

Into this we bring our unique networks: our National Schools Partnership of over 100,000 teachers, our Young Leaders Network of creatives and inspirations, our Partnership Network of over 130 youth specialist organisations and our newer Family Network.

Today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s shoppers, employees, leaders, parents and activists. Businesses who have an eye on the long game and make concerted efforts to speak to that generation now, creating memorable interactions and establishing trust, respect and positive connections, will be the brands that those people automatically turn to when they hold the control, as decision makers, budget holders and more.

The combination of all our individual expertise and vast network resource makes us unique, with an unrivalled insight into tomorrow’s consumers.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

You’d be better asking them! But I think there are two main factors – the work and the people. The projects are always different, so we get to work on a variety of campaigns that challenge our thinking and our creativity. We are delivering digital, experiential and communications-led activations so we stretch ourselves and our clients.

It’s never dull. And we have the added benefit of knowing that every campaign, whatever the size, is having a positive impact on a young person – sometimes small, sometimes life-changing. That puts an extra spring in your step.

And then the work, and the success of the agency, brings us in touch with some brilliant and inspiring people. When I think now of the talent and energy within the agency, I’m in awe of the teams I work with and the passion they have for what we do, and how we do it.

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

In the end, it’s made us stronger in many ways. Not that it wasn’t a scary and emotional situation at the start of 2020 – it was, both in taking care of our colleagues and in making plans for the business.

People really stepped forward, they took personal responsibility and came up with brilliant ideas. As one example, a small team repurposed most of our teacher-facing education content to make it accessible for parents doing home-schooling during lockdown. These resources were rapidly downloaded over 500,000 times – all free of charge.

Post-pandemic it matters more than ever that businesses and brands show they have a purpose beyond just products and profit. And that’s the space we play in, so it’s good to see the market is moving our way and, more importantly, we’re ready.

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

I wasn’t an agency person before setting up We Are Futures, so I don’t have any heroes in that sense. We have worked in collaboration with a wide range of creative, media and PR agencies and I think I have always learnt something from each of them. David Pattison (co-founder of PHD) was a great help in our early days.

We also have people join us from other agencies and they always bring some of that experience and training with them, so that helps to continually improve and develop our skills.  So, a big shout out ‘thank you’ to all those agencies – I just couldn’t name the people within them.

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

‘Your story is your soul’ – develop it, tell it, be true to it. The practical differences between agencies can often be fine lines, but a Story is limitless.

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

By never, ever stopping. By being relentless in starting new conversations and creating new relationships. Our type of work is different to that of any other company, and we can’t be put as easily in an ‘agency-type box’ so we must work doubly hard to ensure clients understand what benefits and impacts we can bring to them. But once they get it, they see it with such clarity.

And by building a reputation, driving a strong and positive level of awareness of the work we do and why we do it. Of course, we pitch for work when that is the right thing to do, but we focus on conversations and relationships first – some of our clients came onboard 5-6 years after we first met them.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

That it continues to do more to use its strengths for good, not just good business. You really can have them both.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

Dan Kirby’s Honey I Blew Up The Business is a great listen that never fails to teach me something. Dan interviews entrepreneurs about the reality of that life – it’s very real, not just bullshit! I aim to absorb insights and insider tips from smart people doing interesting things at any opportunity so there are limitless opportunities to be inspired with this pod.


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