We chat to Mike Richards, director and founder of Capital City Media, part of MRM Group, on his first job on Fleet Street, finding your true audience and why it pays to be honest to clients.
Tell us about yourself
I didn’t go to university or even do any A levels. I came straight out of school and became a messenger at an advertising company. When I was 17 an industrial psychologist told me I should go into hotel catering or advertising – so advertising it was!
My first job was to go up and down Fleet Street twice a day for three months to collect regional news where our clients had advertised. As a result, I acquired a phenomenal knowledge of regional media.
When I got promoted and was working on the media buying for Tesco recruitment, my job for them was to recruit staff for their store in Derby. Because of my first job I knew instantly it needed to go in the Derby Evening Telegraph.
What we do at Capital City Media is not ultimately that different from that, but definitely much more sophisticated. We try and achieve the maximum coverage with the least wastage in media relevant to our clients and buy it as cost-effectively as possible.
We have access to lots of research across Europe to find the correct media for our clients, as efficiently as possible.
I have a very strong working relationship with colleague, and now fellow director, Becky Ford, who I have worked with for 21 years. I employed her because she’s gobby and I knew she’d make a great media buyer. She is better than me.
Where did your interest in financial services come from?
I got into the financial services side of things when we’d done such a good job on Tesco, my boss and mentor got promoted. He then told me there could be an opening for me. Someone was going to ask if I wanted to do financial services, that I should say yes, and he would help me with it.
We’re involved very early on in the marketing planning, which comes before even the media planning. It’s very flattering and hugely constructive for their campaigns
Having clients that trust you implicitly to do a good job for them is very rewarding. We have that trust and empathy with ours. For us it’s much more than just performing tasks, it’s performing functions as a partner business.
Tell us a bit about Capital City Media
We’re a small agency, but we’ve got loyal clients who have been with us for a long time, several running into decades. Longevity in our industry is hugely important. We’re very proud of how long we’ve worked with most of our clients, we like to think we’re doing a good job for them.
For example, I’ve known and worked with John Ions, now chief executive of Liontrust, since 1997. We’ve developed a hugely loyal and close working partnership over the years. Simon Wilson of Premier Miton likewise I’ve worked with for 20 years.
We know our strengths and weaknesses. The overriding strength is that we’re honest. We have no misgivings about telling a client when not to advertise rather than just taking their money.
One of the toughest challenges for investment managers is marrying together the brand mission and the end consumer of their product. It’s so easy to misdirect marketing efforts as a result. Often a firm thinks it should be speaking straight to the end consumer when in fact it should be directing efforts elsewhere.
We’re not afraid to recommend alternatives either. Sometimes a client will come with an idea for advertising that we think would actually work better as a PR story, and we’ll recommend that wholeheartedly. It’s great to work to complementing strengths with MRM, the PR side of the Group, in that respect.
Has lockdown changed the way you and the CCM team work?
No, in that we are fortunate enough that we are able to do our work remotely without much in the way of interruption. We’ve been able to meet occasionally to catch up, but otherwise we’ve managed well throughout.
What piece of financial advice would you give your younger self?
What was it Jane Austen said? Don’t overspend, or something like that. Live within your means.
Do you have a biggest pet peeve?
Being called Michael and people who misquote Monty Python.
Do you have any hobbies?
I write comedy. Find that here: https://mikerichards.blog/
What is one column or website you read every day?
The Times, Mike Atherton to be specific. He’s very good.
What would you do with a windfall of £10,000?
Pay off some of my mortgage.