Celebrating 20 years of Dare

As we mark two decades at the forefront of digital innovation, our Managing Director, Chris Woodward, comments on 20 years of Dare and reflects on how they position us for the next 20.

Happy birthday

Later this year Dare will celebrate its 20th birthday. That’s a nice age to be – no longer a child but not quite an official grown-up either. Some responsibilities perhaps, but not so many that we are burdened by them. Two decades in and Dare has had a journey that Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/ Fernandez-Versini would surely describe as: ‘An emotional roller coaster’.


Cast your mind back

When Dare was formed ‘digital’ was the equivalent of marketing’s Wild West. Painfully cool characters in Adidas high tops were making digital black magic happen that mere mortals had never been seen before. Or understood. Brands lapped it up – but exactly why they did is itself a mystery. So much of early digital marketing rarely did anything useful for the brands that bought it.

We might have entertained the idea of the Adidas trainers, but we weren’t one of Them.

Dare dared to be different.

With talent spun out of that most respected of ad agencies – BBH – the birthright we inherited gave us the values, integrity and sheer big business bloody-mindedness to shape Dare’s specular growth over the intervening 240 months of action.


It's all about the sell

Because founders John, Mark et al. were from BBH they knew that the role of any agency is to 'sell'. To use insight and creativity to help brands communicate product benefits to target audiences. Nothing novel or unique in that; but back in 2000 Dare was the first proper digital agency to not only remember this but also execute against this brief brilliantly.

It worked. Dare drove results for our clients and that, in turn, made us stronger. The agency went on a massive growth spurt and, incredibly, was soon employing more than 600 people.

The accolades followed in these halcyon early days, among them Campaign Digital Agency of the Decade.


Growing pains

But like with most adolescents, growing up can be a pain. The mid teen years proved tempestuous for Dare. We were acquired and merged with the (equally good) ATL agency MCBD. Despite the ingredients being quality, the combination did not equal the sum of its parts, and the new entity soured.

Feeling a bit lost in the new creative landscape our luck changed for the better when Dare was bought by Simon Martin and the Oliver Group. Even then things have not been entirely smooth sailing. We have had to navigate our way carefully to fit in and perform within a mega-successful group that continues to grow at light speed.

But as we all know, after teenage tantrums comes a time to grow up. As Dare enters its third decade it does so growing in confidence and rediscovering its famous Adidas-wearing mojo.

With finances now on a surer footing, we are winning business, while clients increasingly value the contribution we make to their bottom lines.

It’s still all about selling our customer’s wares, and we are still bloody good at it.


So, what next?

I consider myself to be fortunate on several levels. I am in a group that has a clearly differentiated proposition – we help clients win through our combination of Technology, Talent and Teamwork.

Within this group Dare has found the home that it has been searching for.

Oliver is Dare’s alter ego, the other side of the coin – a (largely) harmonious marriage that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Where Oliver drives enterprise level efficiency, Dare unlocks marketing effectiveness. Like all dynamic duos together we are providing a deal-making advantage for our clients.

So that is the good news. We are well brought up and have a nice family. Lovely. But this is no time for indulgent complacency. Our 20th birthday coincides with arguably the most challenging business environment outside of wartime for more than a century. Fortunately, we are well equipped to excel, even now. Rest assured that our creative industry will play a fundamental role in helping UK plc get its own mojo back again.


It's still all about the sell

Our enduring message is something that has never changed. We are here to help brands make money. So that they can employ people. So they can have roofs over their heads, heat their homes and put food on their tables - for them and their loved ones.

This next decade is going to be the clincher at Dare. It’s time to put aside childish things and grow up. The opportunities the next 10 years offers must not be squandered. We have to make our mark – to use the power of our creativity and technical prowess to help brands win on the digital path to purchase.

It might even be time for some new trainers…

Happy birthday to everyone at Dare and all who have contributed to our 20-year journey. And, thank you in advance to those colleagues, clients and partners who will help us shape the next 10 years.

Join us in celebrating 20 moments that helped make us the agency we are today.

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