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simon and ewan

Strata: adding more layers

Simon Hambley (pictured left) and Ewan Hurford-Jones (right) recently confirmed a merger between their respective agencies, Crown and Communique, to create a new full-service agency: Strata Creative Communications

Can you outline Strata’s services?

Simon Hambley, CEO: Strata has brought together the best of both Crown and Communique, and this makes us a true full-service agency in both B2B and B2C markets. Everything from strategy, planning and creative through to project management, conference production, experiential roadshows, exhibition stand design and build and incentive travel.
Why now for the merger between Crown and Communique?

Ewan Hurford-Jones, COO: Mainly because of the history of working together with clients. We’ve previously undertaken numerous joint ventures and we came to realise that we had a lot of common ground between the two businesses. We share a similar culture and philosophy, and there’s also a complementary nature between
our two sites in Soho, London and Brackley. 

Crown has been traditionally quite production- and creative-led, through insight, strategy and project management, whereas Communique has been more
at the sharp end of delivery, through road shows and experiential installations. Merging all these services into one company was the right thing to do for two companies that wanted to try something new.

Will your existing clients notice the difference?

SH: Absolutely. They will notice that we’re able to offer them more, and more efficiently, as well as seeing more resources available to them. We will be able to undertake more work than before, and it will allow us to be more proactive with clients, too. 

Will you be able to target new sectors, or increase your offering in existing ones you serve?

SH: We will be able to offer existing clients services we weren’t previously able to offer. From a Crown perspective we can now offer experiential marketing, which we weren’t before.

Together we are now operating in a broad range of markets, and what Strata will be looking to do is to expand within these existing sectors. 

EHJ: It’s consolidation and making the most of the existing credentials and experience we have in sectors such as automotive, financial, government etc., and expanding here rather than – for now – attempting new frontiers. 

What are your plans for Strata’s growth?

SH: We have three things we aim to achieve: firstly, to deliver the work, secondly we will build our new brand and thirdly we will integrate our systems so we’re prepared for growth. That will come through offering a better service than our competitors. We are already on the procurement lists, and we’ll be looking to win more opportunities. 

EHJ: We’re mindful that there’s a lot of change going on in the country, so we won’t be rushing into anything. Part of my remit is to build an infrastructure to get the business ready for an increased workload. This includes the culture, people, processes and systems.

How many people do you employ and how are the skills spread across the two sites?

SH: Strata now employs 55 people, with just over 30 working out of the Soho office in London, and the rest in Brackley. There is some doubling up of the skills across the sites: for example, we have project managers at both offices. Owing to the central London location, our studio staff is very strong. There are very talented experts at both. 

How have client demands changed in recent years?

SH: It’s a well-worn path that there is an increased pressure on clients who are tasked with doing more with less resource and money. This is a key reason for the creation of Strata, that we can now offer more bang for a client’s buck through more services. I can only see that trend continuing and believe that will drive further consolidation in our industry. 

How has the line blurred between the traditional advertising industry and the events industry’s agency sector?

SH: The blurring of those lines is certainly to our industry’s advantage. There has certainly been a trend for advertising and marketing agencies to step into the events sector and to run events themselves. Over the last five years I’d say a lot of them have been successful in that, as perhaps we haven’t seen ourselves [the events industry] as good enough to compete. I think we as an industry are learning to be more strategic, to focus more on the business objectives, and to have a bit more confidence. Clients are seeing this shift and as a result are going to their events agency directly, and that is to the detriment of the advertising industry. They certainly have skills, but they are different skills to what we do.

As an industry, I think we are really only at the start of the success that that will bring, and I think you’ll start to see events agencies start to get much bigger as a result.