The Man in the Mirror

Reaching the top of the escalator I emerged into the Minecraft wonderland also known as Canary Wharf. I was here to meet Rob, who after a good few years spent at an agency has made the move in-house, specifically to Trinity Mirror.


Rob’s expertise lies in SEO and he was instrumental in building the SEO team at OMD (just two people strong when he joined in 2008). Having been instrumental in building this team to become one of largest media agency SEO teams, he moved into the newspaper world, and now finds himself at Trinity Mirror.

What provoked this change, how has it affected his working life and, more specifically, does he have more or less influence when designing and actioning change?

Given the nucleus of agencies in Central London the first thing I had to ask Rob about was the experience of working in Canary Wharf. As I discovered when I talked to Lucile over in Westfield, in-house jobs are less concentrated on Central London and I have to say it was refreshing to go to another interesting part of town.

Rob had built a great SEO team at OMD and I wondered whether he was having harder time getting ideas signed-off now he was in-house. “No,” was the emphatic answer. His new company has “Gone through a digital upheaval and they are onboard.” Whilst this is a great position to be in he was quick to point out that this isn’t always the case with in-house positions – “Caution should be exercised to avoid companies that aren’t bought into digital, or that don’t value or understand where SEO fits as a part of the marketing mix” he remarks.

Of course at an agency you will have multiple clients at various levels of digital compliance – some open and encouraging and others less so, or with more restrictions. Some of agencies’ greatest ideas never see the light of day. Result? Frustration. Working in-house doesn’t mean you will have more freedom to implement changes – you have to pick carefully and it’s going to be pretty subjective, it all comes down to the company you’re working for.

At Trinity Mirror, Rob finds himself in the enviable position of having highly digital-savvy employers and on the subject of influence he had a couple more useful insights. So what’s the real advantage of working in-house?

“Being embedded in-house means you get the chance to understand a brand more than when you’re jumping between multiple clients” answers Rob, “In the news industry you also have the agency-world advantage of a constantly evolving set of topics and priorities to keep you interested.”

Lastly, did Rob feel as though he was losing touch with the digital cutting edge having removed himself from agency life?

“I actually feel closer to the action” he replies “Because I am closer to the business.” – he has direct access to the in-house development team (not always the case in agencies) as well as using the normal methods of staying up to date with the market. All this led to the best sound bite of the day from Rob:

“Deeper knowledge yields better results.”

I had 21 floors to descend but I knew I’d never be forgiven if I neglected to ask about the working culture and hours. The quick answer is that the hours were more palatable – Rob has a young child and is able to work flexibly around that which is rarely the case in an agency where he was on call for clients and often spent late nights preparing pitches.

Job done I descended the 21 floors with a head full of insight, simultaneously wondering whether dogs really drove cars (see Rob’s photo) and whether women in bathtubs should be on the wall.