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“It’s an Attitude, not a Process”: How The Hallway Pioneered Connected Creativity


LBB sits down with founders Jules Hall and Simon Lee to unpick the agency’s uniquely holistic approach to ‘affective ideas’

“It’s an Attitude, not a Process”: How The Hallway Pioneered Connected Creativity

To understand what makes The Hallway unique, one needs to uncover the roots of how its two founders, Jules Hall and Simon Lee, first met collaborating on the Westpac account.

“They had Lavender doing direct marketing, NetX (which became part of BBDO) doing digital, The Campaign Palace doing brand work, MediaCom doing media, and they had a PR agency somewhere else. You wound up with an incredibly fragmented brand experience.”

So says Jules of the environment where the two men first encountered one another. It was a place where different agencies handled diverging aspects of the same brand, each striving to put their own ‘nuance’ on the platform. The result, despite the best of intentions, became chaotic.

“There are three pillars to our service offering,” says Jules. “There’s brand and design, which is getting the strategy and identity heading in the right direction; there's advertising and communications; and then there's data and personalisation. The first two are probably fairly obvious, and the third one's obvious in isolation. It's the combination - and application - of those three together which is differentiating.”

What he’s explaining is an integrated approach, one which - from top to bottom - creates a holistic brand experience.

“The industry is naturally very fad-y. It goes through trends and waves - for example, when I started the business we were entering the era of specialisation driven by fragmentation of media”, recalls Jules. “I was probably at the front end of that curve because I'd come out of the world of digital, and I could see, at Westpac, how this specialisation was creating problems all its own.”

Jules ended up joining forces with his ‘frenemy’ Simon to build The Hallway - an agency which reversed this trend. 

“The big realisation,” Jules explains, “was that digital wasn’t a channel. Digital was about data.”

The emphasis on data might seem obvious now, but The Hallway pioneered this line of thinking at a time when many were struggling to understand just what it was that made digital unique. 

Since then, of course, times have changed. “Everyone's got Adobe, or they've got Salesforce, they've got the platforms in place,” says Jules. “Everyone's effectively got similar tools, doing similar things, so that there isn't a huge competitive advantage just from having technology and data anymore.”

And yet The Hallway’s key differentiator is still built on that same holistic philosophy as before. It’s not just that The Hallway uses data more, or has a stronger digital infrastructure - it’s in how every piece (including digital) fits together to serve a larger creative whole.

“Suncorp’s a great example,” offers Jules, when I ask him to walk me through this approach in practice.

“Last year, we launched the platform ‘Banking You Can Feel Good About’. There was a whole load of advertising that was quite visible. But there was a bunch of stuff we did with the positioning that was aimed at the internal team, because any positioning is just as important for your internal teams as your external customers.”

I pressed Jules on this. Why?

“Whenever you launch a new brand positioning, you very much build the brand from the inside out. That’s our view, anyway. So if you go out and just run an advertising campaign, saying “this is banking you can feel good about,” and people ring the call centre, whoever’s picking up the phone has no idea what the customer’s talking about. But if you start by launching a brand internally and rallying your staff, then the brand becomes what it was always meant to be: the soul of the entity.”

How does The Hallway achieve this?

“It all comes back to creativity; the kind of ideas that move the way people feel. Because once you move the way they feel you can move the way they think, and then how they behave”, explains Jules. “That's an attitude, not a process. Our positioning statement is ‘Affective Ideas. Since Always’. There’s a reason that hasn’t changed for over a decade now”.

In practice, that philosophy manifests itself in an agency where people can rally around brands and work they really believe in. To that end, Jules and the team revisited their purpose earlier this year, concluding that what they really wanted to be was “creative catalysts for a flourishing world”.

“There’s an expectation and an obligation on businesses to provide products and services in ways that are good for the environment, the communities that they service, and the people that work with and within those organisations. You’ve still got to deliver shareholder returns, you’ve still got to have a business that stacks up, but you’ve got to operate that business in an ethically appropriate way.”

The Hallway has been going for 15 years - a long lifespan for an independent agency. And at the helm is a friendship between two men and a vision for what advertising can be: A tool for a better world.

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Jules what his favourite part of coming into work each day was. He didn’t hesitate in his response:

“The people.”

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The Hallway, Tue, 14 Mar 2023 21:52:14 GMT