25th anniversary chat

3 minute read

Laura Dale

As part of our special 25th year anniversary edition of Extra, we thought we’d catch up with founding member of Chalk & Ward, managing director, Robert Chalk. We asked him about the journey Chalk & Ward has been on, his biggest accomplishments, his hopes for the future and much, much more.

How did your journey start with Chalk &Ward?

Giles Ward and I worked at an agency called ABM, which was sold to Saatchi & Saatchi’s regional agency network in 1997 – HHC based in Bristol. Giles joined as joint creative director and me as joint managing director. It didn’t work out, so we broke away to set up Chalk & Ward in 1998. We were lucky, several big-name clients like P&O Cruises, Apetito, and Wiltshire Farm Foods, came with us. We never looked back.

What do you see as your biggest accomplishment since the business started?

Learning resilience. Also, I’m most proud of the fact we built and, have managed to maintain, our reputation. It’s taken a lot of hard work to build our reputation. We didn’t want to be the biggest agency, but we wanted to be the best. We have had quite a lot of substantial clients over the years. We launched The Range, and P&O Cruises were a huge client for us – they helped catapult us from start-up to being the premiere agency in the South West.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Not to have any regrets. I’m not saying we have done everything perfectly, of course we haven’t. We started off with the right ethos of wanting to be the best, so learning from mistakes and always getting better is fine, but there’s nothing to gain from worrying about what’s already happened. Also, to build the very best team you can, at all times. We have got a really lovely team – there isn’t anyone there who isn’t fantastic – and that makes me feel good.

How would you describe the work ethic? 

Our work ethic is really good. We have a nice balance between working hard and playing hard, and wellbeing. And, again, I am proud of that. People come here for interview because they like what we stand for and how we project ourselves.

What is your biggest hope for the next decade at Chalk & Ward?

That we continue to build on that great reputation and recognition for being the market leading strategic agency in the region. My biggest hope is that AI does not have too big a negative influence on our industry, and that it can actually be used as a positive resource. It’s a concern for me, but at the same time, I think if we can embrace it and use it to or advantage, it could be helpful.

What does the 25th anniversary mean to you, as a milestone?

Tremendous pride that we built our reputation so quickly all those years ago, and that we have managed to maintain it. So many other agencies have come and gone over that period. We have had 25 years of doing lots of brilliant work for clients and we have had 25 years of fun. I have enjoyed it, managing people and the business, as well as successfully advising so many substantial clients.  

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