Claire Stokes

Managing Director, Circle Agency


Published on on 22/02/2016

What makes a good agency leader?

Without question, a passion for what you do is the number one attribute for leadership in the corporate world and Experiential is no exception. I love what I do. I have done from the minute I first became a brand ambassador at university. If you are passionate, it is infectious and your team learn to share your passion.

I also believe in sharing your vision. Don’t make decisions in isolation. Your team (however junior) can really help to shape the agency. I find that sharing my vision, means I can gather feedback that can and has changed my view for the better. I don’t want my team to feel like they are following along on mine and Neil’s coattails, I want them to want to join us on a journey that they help us to shape.

What makes your job exciting?

We work with a huge variety of different clients, which means that no two campaigns are the same. That makes it hard graft sometimes, but I would hate to work in an environment that was static. I love that as a discipline, we are able to react quickly to the needs of our clients and their businesses and can capitalise on trends and events happening around us. To do so, we need to remain nimble and agile -always looking for the next opportunity.

The rewards, when you get it right are instant- you can see what we do working, in real time. You can see the intrigue on participant’s faces and see when they begin to ‘buy into’ the experience, the story and eventually the brand. That is the best feeling and It still gives me a real buzz.

What do you consider to be a personal professional achievement?

Clearly I am very proud of what we have achieved at Circle, and was very proud to win the Brand Experience Agency of the Year at the FMBE’s in 2011 and 2014. I love the work that we do and take an enormous amount of pride from seeing my team succeed and grow in their work.

Personally though I was really chuffed to receive the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Female Leader in Marketing award. I was surrounded by incredibly accomplished leaders in the marketing community and was very humbled to be in their presence, let alone to be recognised alongside them, it was a real highlight for me.


What are your goals for you and the team you work with?

As an agency, we are always striving for innovation, bigger creative ideas and stronger results. We don’t worry too much about revenue targets and the like, because if we keep our clients happy and keep producing award winning work (we won 17 last year- yes, I did just sneak that in there), then the financial results/rewards will follow.

It still very much matters to me, that we are a great place to work and that my team enjoy what they do. So, we will continue to prioritise nights out, nights in (we do a great movie night) and giving back through our charity initiative, Circle of Change , which has an action packed calendar of fundraising again this year, which we are really proud of.

Finally, I will be doing what I do and hopefully leading the team, in the above. At the same time, I hope to spend as much time as I possibly can with my family- not just my Circle family, but in particular my children and my partner, who at the end of the day are what makes me most happy.

What brand would you most like to work with? Why?

This is a tough question, because there are so many brilliant brands, that I would love to collaborate with. If I had to choose…..I love a brand with a story to tell. As a result I have fallen a little bit in love with Bremont watches, who are based locally to us.

They are clearly a luxury item, in a relatively crowded marketplace. They are doing a brilliant job of differentiating themselves by their heritage and aligning with relevant sports, like the America’s Cup, where they are using their navigational heritage to appeal to the affluent sporting audience. But they could do more.

What is on the horizon at work in the next 12 months?

It is a really exciting year for Circle. We have grown up a lot in the last few years and as a result, it feels like we are as creative as we have ever been, and at the same time, through clever planning and measurement, we are seeing some of the best return for our clients.

As a result, we are continuing to develop our measurement strategy and tools, to ensure we remain ahead of the curve and working on two new service offerings as a result.

We have also launched a new service, which sits nicely alongside most of our campaigns, which brings a more scientific approach to influencer strategy and social media aggregation. Both feed into the overall measurement and return that we believe are fundamental to successful experiential, and we are enjoying seeing the success that has come from our first few test campaigns.

Equally, we have branched out into a few new vertical markets in 2015, that we are really excited about and we are working on a launch campaign in our technology heartland that will be huge in 2016- all very exciting.

Who do you find inspirational? Why?

I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by inspirational people in my life. I have had some brilliant mentors throughout my career; my father is an entrepreneur and successful businessman.   I worked for a phenomenally creative and clever pioneer of our industry in Canada- Mark Ferrier, who continues to be a mentor for me.   However, as I grow older, I realise how utterly influential my mother has been in my life. She is and always has been a formidable force- creative, smart and she just never stops. She taught me that women can do anything, and have everything- a career, motherhood, great friends and still be a community leader. She also taught me, however, that you cannot do all of these things well- all of the time- and that is okay. You just keep trying and for the most part, through sheer determination and will, you make a success of it.   I look at my daughter- beautiful, creative and smart and hope that if she learns anything from me, it is that. Try your best and you will succeed. Not at everything, but at what matters most to you.

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