Innovation is the key to Leeds digital agency twentysix’s success

Gail Dudleston at twentysix's offices in Leeds.
Gail Dudleston at twentysix's offices in Leeds.

Gail Dudleston, global CEO of Leeds-based digital agency twentysix, writes for Digital City.

I was honoured last week to win the Barclays Yorkshire Women in Business Award 2018 in the SME category.

I was delighted to hear, in particular, the judges hail our restructure of twentysix in 2005 from advertising and digital to digital alone as ‘visionary’.

But this is something I’d like to think we’ve always been – innovators. Disruptors.

In 2009, we were the first team to create a virtual 360-degree tour of a UK submarine with the Ministry of Defence.

In 2010, our bit-of-fun campaign ‘10 Downing Tweets’, as well as being multi-award winning, meant that we knew the results of the 2010 General Election before they were announced.

And in 2014, our app for the Design Museum was voted one of the top 500 apps in the world. And our desire to innovate is still as strong as ever.

Earlier this year, we opened the doors to our new biometric UX lab. Our Leeds HQ is now home to world-leading technology, such as facial expression analysis, galvanic skin response and eye-tracking, used by academics all over the world.

We can integrate all of the data from these technologies into one synchronised live stream of quantitative emotion that can be analysed and used to make changes to websites that will provoke the right emotional response in your target audience.

We estimate that we’re the only digital marketing agency in the North to have this technology in-house and, potentially, one of only three agencies in the country!

Our approach to paid marketing is a point of innovation and differentiation too.

We’re one of only two agencies in Yorkshire to have our own affiliate team.

Traditionally a very London-centric skillset, we’ve brought affiliates up north so that our clients have access to the full range of services they need, all under one roof.

Affiliate marketing is a huge channel, with almost every major retailer having one.

Typically, brands would use one agency to do their pay-per-click (PPC) or display marketing and then try to do affiliates in-house or appoint a separate agency (usually a London one).

With us, they can plan their paid budgets more strategically, have one point of contact for all of their paid services and move spend easily between channels.

Investment in people is also key to innovation. This year, some of the talented people I have the pleasure of working with at twentysix will be celebrating 18 years with the agency (formerly banc and CMW North)!

This is almost unheard of in our industry and testament to the type of career that people can forge with us.

A considerable part of our innovation comes from our investment in people – our ‘grow your own’ approach.

This year will also see us expand our apprenticeship programme to four apprentices under the Government’s apprenticeship scheme.

And, this month, we’ll be launching our new twentysix website and we’ll be at the forefront yet again.

We’re using emerging technologies and techniques to create features and visuals that weren’t previously possible and it’s certainly not something we’ve seen anyone else doing.

Innovation is in our DNA, I think it comes with the territory.