When news of Tracy Sorgiovanni’s promotion to MD at growing agency We Are Collider reached us, we saw an opportunity to catch up with a leading light in our industry whose career has often been associated with dynamic and imaginative brand experiences. Tracy is also keen to inspire and support equal opportunities in the events industry workplace… FMBE put the questions to her.
- What have been the main landmarks on your career journey to date?
My first landmark would be joining RPM in 2005. Prior to that I had moved through the traditional client services ranks at a few different integrated agencies before freelancing at a brand experience agency. I knew straight away that this was my calling and managed to bag a permanent position at RPM, one of the original experiential agencies.
I stayed for ten years, during which time I had my two children and moved across into New Business. This enabled me to work part-time and manage childcare whilst keeping my hand in with new business pitches and leading teams to deliver projects. Within that time, the industry, and the agency grew massively.
After a couple of shorter stints at other agencies heading up client services, I felt I had a great understanding of, not only how to deliver excellent client service and win new business, but also in agency operations.
I decided to start my own Consultancy – Built to Create – helping agencies to build operational excellence for creativity to flourish.
One of my first Clients was Anton Jerges, CEO of Collider and I signed up to a 6 month contract to help get their house in order. At the end of the contract, I was offered a permanent position as Operations Director – I loved the agency, the work and the people and as a now single mum, the stability was the icing on the cake. This was in February 2020, just before Covid hit. Fast forward to March 2023 and I’m very proud and super excited to be made MD.
- 2019 was an interesting time to change jobs. What was it like helping We Are Collider contend with COVID?
I’m not going to lie, 2020 wasn’t a fun year. Covid hit literally a month after I became a permanent member of staff leading all agency operations. A large proportion of our pipeline was in live activation so 60% dropped off a cliff in April and nothing else was coming in to replace it. We did what most agencies did – expedited virtual and digital offerings, became less fussy with the work we took on, put staff on furlough, took tough decisions and had difficult conversations to streamline the agency structure. I learnt a lot, not only about leading in a crisis but also about myself – how resilient and relentless I can be in the face of adversity!
- How exciting has it been at WAC through the last couple of years? What has stood out?
It’s been a very exciting couple of years. In January 2021 we were a team of seven people taking a leap of faith in a still uncertain industry. A stand-out moment from that year was being asked by Riot Games to launch Netflix series Arcane across Europe. We had to sell our idea in to the Global Team at HQ who liked it so much it became the global idea and suddenly we were delivering a complex activation in six global cities with a 9-week lead time. Thanks to the brilliant team, we smashed it, Arcane knocked Squid Games off the No. 1 Netflix spot and the campaign won Best Brand Experience/Event at Marketing Week Awards and bagged a Gold and a Silver at the FMBE Awards (where we also got Silver for Brand Experience Agency of the Year).
Another stand-out was winning the pitch to be Waitrose’s events agency – definitely a David vs Goliath moment, looking at the pitch list. The Riot project also opened doors to further gaming work and we became Red Bull’s go-to agency for E-Sports tournament activations. As the world opened up, our legacy clients also returned.
We are now 18-strong and on track to deliver £12m+ revenue this year. Juggling growth with delivering work and building a pipeline hasn’t been without its pain points but I love a challenge!
- What part of the new role as MD excites you?
It’s difficult to identify a specific part of the role that excites me. We have such a strong and talented team of people who have a brilliant work ethic and live and breathe our company values, so I really believe that the world is our oyster. And the chance to be at the helm, steering that ship alongside such a wonderful CEO is what excites me. Also, the opportunity to bring in new talent, give them interesting, fun and rewarding work and watch them flourish.
- How important is it to be a role model to women in the industry?
Incredibly important. Apparently only 28% of the leadership roles in the events industry are held by women although we are well represented across the industry as a whole. It’s a complex issue and one that I hosted a webinar to discuss with female experiential leaders on International Women’s Day. I saw a meme yesterday that resonated with me – “I am a woman that a younger me had always admired but never really imagined they’d be and that’s my greatest accomplishment”. I never imagined it because there was a distinct lack of female role models as I went through my career. Living, inspiring examples of the fact that it is possible to overcome barriers to female development in the sector (unconscious and conscious bias, poor recruitment practices, lack of flexible working to support parents, imposter syndrome/lack of confidence…). Being a mentor and role model is important to ensure our wonderful industry benefits from a diverse range of experience, insights and approaches that only equity and diversity in the workplace can bring.
- What ambitions do you have for WAC going forwards?
At the moment, for me it’s about building on an already strong foundation and optimising across people, profit, process and profile. Putting us in the best position to attract the best talent and serve brave and exciting clients who will value brilliant work. I’d love for We Are Collider to be seen as a ‘top tier’ agency within the sector and to make the major players nervous when they see us on pitch lists! In terms of silverware to give us some formal recognition – an Agency of the Year trophy and a ‘great place to work’ mark certainly wouldn’t go amiss.