CBA20 Winners Stories: S3 Advertising

Winners of the Employer of the Year, kindly sponsored by CPS Group UK; S3 Advertising let us know what they thought of the awards and what their future plans are for the business.

1) Why did you enter the Wales Cardiff Business Awards?

S3 Advertising has gone through tremendous change over the last year. Now, with a new management team at the helm, we have begun doubling down on our ability to champion the little – in this case, ourselves.

Staff at S3 have always been encouraged to take bold steps no matter their background – something which is evident in S3’s record of finding and nurturing young talent. We’re proud to have a team made up of recent graduates, ex-journalists, plucky locals, agency veterans, the audacious, fanatical… and everything in-between – every one of them an expert in their field. We therefore wanted to showcase that advertising talent doesn’t just live in London, but in all parts of the UK – including right here in the Welsh capital.

This was an opportunity for us to give something back and recognise our staff for all their hard work during what has undoubtedly been an extremely challenging year for each and every one of them.

2) What does winning a Cardiff Business Award mean to your business?

As an independent, regional advertising agency made up of 35 talented people, winning a Cardiff Business Award is one big step forward in our mission to put the Welsh capital on the Adland map.

While the agency’s growth has been exponential over the years, staying true to our humble beginnings has been key, with employees remaining the bedrock. Winning this award is real recognition of our culture, which is and always will be everything to S3. With a full-time ‘Culture Exec’ on staff, our people have always been the lifeblood of the agency — and it feels like that has been acknowledged. After all, they’re the heart of everything we do and why we do it.

3) How do you strive to make a difference in the Cardiff Business market?

Our new brand identity ‘Where the Little Bite Big’ affirms our belief that the seemingly ‘little’ have the power to overachieve. In a world where all too often only the big are seen, we’re on a mission to help those with untapped potential become the overachievers they deserve to be.

Our philosophy is attached to a focused business mission: to do work that truly bites big for clients that hold a desire to take on the big guys in their markets. The clients who may not be the market leader (yet) but believe in the power of advertising to change a business.  

The marketers and business leaders of these brands we’re out to work with might be feeling like they’re not where their skill, passion and tenacity should be getting them. That’s where S3 comes in.

We want to celebrate all those, like us, giving the big names a run for their money – especially in a moment when bricks-and-mortar location matters less than ever.

4) What are your goals for the next 12 months?

We’re off to a good start after just kicking off the New Year with a raft of new business wins from the retail and e-commerce sector – a key target for the agency.

Next on the agenda is unveiling our new brand identity to the world, which is the culmination of months of collaboration. All staff fed into its creation so it’s a project close to the heart.

As well as a new website and brand video, expect to see campaigns from us throughout the year, too, as we cement our ‘Where the Little Bite Big’ proposition to businesses looking for their next agency.

While the pandemic has seen us introduce a number of new measures, so our staff are comfortable, we look forward to also establishing a permanent new way of working. We’ll also be restarting our intern and graduate programmes, which is where many members of Team S3 started their careers.

Finally, as we challenge our team to never stop learning, we’ll continue working with the likes of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) to continue supporting their development.

5) What is the biggest lesson you have learned in the past year as a company?

We always knew how incredible our staff were, but this last year has gone to show how resilient and determined they are. Their loyalty, hard work has been incredible and campaigns they’ve delivered for clients have been nothing short of outstanding.

The pandemic’s been a chance to introduce measures that will create an even more comfortable working environment for them moving forward, with staff surveyed on how they imagine their future workplace looking and a decision made to welcome blended working as a more permanent fixture.

Recent months have also seen us increase flexible working, introduce a more generous sick pay policy and carry out quarterly team-building events.

S3 Advertising has always worked on an open-door policy. Managing partners, who know only too well the ins and outs of agency life, work amongst staff – not hidden away in cushioned offices with their feet up. Therefore, the last year has also meant our staff’s mental health has never been far from our minds. We’ve kept a close eye on this through internal surveys and open discussions in our weekly agency meetings to address wellbeing trends. Subsequently, upgrading employee benefits to include mental health cover as part of their health insurance policy felt like an important decision. This includes access to a confidential counselling service.

6) What one piece of advice would you give to any aspiring business owner?

It actually relates to the above point.

Mental health is more important than your career, bank balance, other people’s opinions. Sometimes, your family’s wishes, taking care of yourself and your staff will mean having to let someone down, but that’s OK. Success comes from humanity. Don't be afraid to show your human side.

7) What did you think of the virtual awards ceremony?

We loved it! Although of course it would have been lovely to all get together and celebrate, we really enjoyed the whole process from entering to the awards night itself.

Well organised from start to finish, we’ll definitely be looking to enter again in 2021.

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