Diary of a media start-up

Ed Feast, 29, left his job as media manager at AdConnection on 1 July to start his own media planning and buying agency MarketPlace on 1 September. He tells Media Week about the first "terrifying" month of his new venture, building the business from one member of staff... and no clients

Ed Feast: founder of MarketPlace
Ed Feast: founder of MarketPlace

D-Day: 1 September

Walking into my new office on the first day of business I catch myself playing air guitar. I think I get away with it though as it’s 7:50am in Oxford Circus and people seem to be more interested in a homeless person singing down a traffic cone. Having emerged from my gardening leave from AdConnection about a stone heavier I forgo my McDonald’s breakfast in favour of some nasty oat bar. This is a mistake.

As I head into work, the first thing I notice is how smug I feel having keys for an office, and as I walk up the stairs and open the door it feels good. "I’ve definitely done the right thing," I tell myself. I’m lucky because my three fellow investors, who work at a TV creative and production agency, have given me a desk in the corner of their office. This means I’ve avoided the broom cupboard in Shadwell and secured premises just off Oxford Circus – a good start.

I’m not in the office long though because I have a 10am meeting with Mike Faxholm from ITV’s business development team. We discuss what my plans are for the agency, which clients I hope to represent and how my strategy fits with his plans for the coming months.

Things you take for granted when you work for somebody else – such as credit and payment terms – also have to be arranged. It quickly becomes clear that in order to make this start-up a success it will take more than delivering results and great client service. I’m going to have to pay as much attention to running the business as a commercial venture as to the campaigns we plan.

On my return I speak to three clients I’ve been put in contact with through a creative agency I’ve worked with in the past. The relationships I’ve built over my working life at AdConnection, CBS Outdoor and Chrysalis Radio are proving really helpful, which is heartening. The rest of the day is spent putting together a list of prospective clients and gathering leads for new business.

2 September

I’m excited about today as it’s time to start calling potential clients. This means cold-calling. It’s actually not as bad as I imagined, and although there are a lot of flat nos and difficult gatekeepers, the successes are worth all the dead ends. By the end of the day I’ve set up three meetings, which is cause for celebration.

The afternoon is spent preparing for the first MarketPlace pitch, which is approaching fast. At this point I make a conscious decision to choose a house style in order to avoid presentations that look like a scrapbook.

I’ve always been against house style, as in my early days at Viacom Outdoor I thought it would cramp my style and that the people imposing it on me were short-sighted. But with the luxury of hindsight and considerably more experience I know this is rubbish. Keeping everything on-brand is imperative: presentations, website, Twitter, email signature and blog.

6 September

My agency’s first client pitch – with a clinical trials company – is tomorrow, and everything is set. You’d think I was preparing to go into space the amount of checking and double-checking I’ve done.

I back-up a print-out of the presentation, save it on two memory sticks and load it onto my laptop. I also pack enough business cards to network for a month and at least three pens. Everything’s ready to go.

I also send out a contract to a new client. I’m a little surprised when I get a call back saying that everything’s great, apart from the period and the termination clause. I explain these terms are perfectly normal but they’re still not happy.

In fact, I am – for the first time in a long time – stumped at his response. "It all looks good on paper," he says. "But what if you’re shit?"

7 September

I leave the house early to make sure everything’s in order for the pitch when I get a phone call. "Hello, this is the parking enforcement officer for Wandsworth Council. You’re parked in a restricted bay and you’ll have to move your car immediately or you will be towed."

To say I am a little concerned is an understatement. I have an hour-and-a-half to get from Oxford Circus to Clapham Junction and then on to the meeting near Camden. I’m running now.

It turns out I hadn’t noticed a tiny yellow sign half-way up the street announcing my neighbour is moving house. As I arrive in the street the removal lorry is parked in the middle of the road and there’s a huge amount of tutting as I run to the car, move it ten feet and then run back to the station.

I make it to the meeting with minutes to spare, emptying a can of deodorant over my body before walking in. I give the smokers outside a wide berth as I’m sure I’m a fire hazard. However, the meeting goes very well – I am honest about the merits of the media plans I put forward and I later receive feedback the client appreciated my "fresh and transparent" approach.

9 September

I’m not sure the creative types I share an office with have ever heard anyone buying media before, and some of them look visibly shaken this morning. I offer to go out and buy doughnuts to prove I’m not a nasty person and that the conversation they overheard was actually me talking to a good friend.

Apparently creative people don’t talk to their friends like that. Creative people don’t have to buy things from their friends though.

The afternoon is spent with Jim, one of my investors, sorting out our bank account and our company credit card. I’m glad to learn he’s already registered us for VAT, which is a blessing.

10 September

Breakfast at Carluccios with Tamsin Irving from Channel 4, which is a nice start to the day. We spend time talking about how the handover of the IDS channels will affect the market and who’s going to win the Big Brother final.

In the afternoon I write up my weekly overview, projections, business leads and client notes. Everything is going really well. I am receiving good reactions from clients and it’s great to be pitching and winning new business.

While I’m realistic about how long it will take before MarketPlace becomes a real success, I can’t help feeling great about how far we’ve already come.

Next month: MarketPlace confirms its first clients.

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