Flashmobs, inspirational movies and ‘Don Draper’ clauses for staff… Peter Bowles, zany PR company Dynamo’s co-founder, reveals the secrets behind a mischievous creativity that’s helped double turnover year on year
I’ve always had a good eye for something that’s going to get good media traction. I once decided to put
a flashmob under [illusionist] David Blaine when he was suspended in a box by the Thames in 2003. They were chanting, ‘What goes up must come down’ and holding up various food items. It was a bit mean-spirited but quite funny. I was getting phone calls from radio stations in Australia.
I was doing freelance PR when a mutual friend who also knew my now business partner Paul Cockerton introduced us on Twitter. He was searching for an agency for the Any Question Answered text service. We tried to find the answers to quirky things, so for the leaders’ [election] debates we worked out how often David Cameron made puppy dog eyes, found that Nick Clegg stuttered the most and so on. We were working so well that in the end we went into business together.
Where we’ve been successful is in working with inventive companies – a lot of Silicon Valley techie innovators, businesses in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Japan – and we try to implement a lot of innovative crazy ideas into our own business. We’ve only been going since 2011 but have doubled turnover every year – we hit £1.3m last financial year.
We do fun things for staff – unlimited holiday, and we have a ‘Don Draper’ clause. A member of staff mentioned that she loved chocolate, so we put chocolate in her contract. And we thought, ‘This is a really fine idea’, so now we give staff gifts with a note saying, ‘Love from Don Draper’ (because it’s an indulgence). Staff get all sorts – Givenchy cosmetics, Winnie-the-Pooh paraphernalia… Mine is one rollercoaster ride per month.
In creative industries, people generally come to you and say, ‘I want a quick and dirty idea’. I feel more inclined to say, ‘Actually, I want a slow, brilliant idea’. The theme in The Shawshank Redemption of working towards a big idea for a very long time – I find that very inspirational.
Cinema has always been a love of mine. Last year I joined Bafta, and I love going to 195 Piccadilly to see a new film – often they have a director’s talk afterwards, so you hear how they went from their original pitch to create a two-hour film.
Going for a walk is often a good way of getting a great idea. Time out away from people, relaxing your mind, wandering…
Years ago I was a DJ, and still love anything to do with audio or collecting vinyl. When Apple launched their Beats 1 radio station, I thought it’d be funny to go onto Spotify and compile everything the Beats 1 playlist was playing onto a Spotify playlist for all to hear.
A campaign we’re very proud of was for Bathrooms.com. Dynamo does SEO, and we needed to come up with a story that would get high Google traction around the [commonly misspelled] phrase ‘Bathroom sweet’. We looked at the problem differently, and created a chocolate bathroom and sold it online. It had about 90 million calories.