Challenge, Change, Make Better: Something We Can All Believe In

by Otto Marples at September 7, 2016

A couple of years ago, Alex and Charlie (our Content and Design Directors) worked on defining the inner belief of fst – the ethos that sits at our core. Back then, it was a little too tribal and directional, as it related back to team sports: “You’ve got to be proud to wear that shirt” type of statement.

In the end, we discovered it was all about having confidence in what we’re good at. Unusually for an agency, we’re naturally quite humble and don’t shout about ourselves from the rooftops. Over time our belief evolved and we arrived at ‘Challenge, Change, Make Better’.

It began with the ‘why’ – why does fst exist? We exist because we want to challenge, to change and to make things better. Our key message is not our great service, because every agency must have excellent levels of service. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why and how you do it. So, ‘why’ do we come to work? ‘Why’ am I writing this article?

It all comes back to Challenge, Change, Make Better.




Of course, you have to challenge in a collaborative way – there’s no point effecting change based on simple opinion, or just for the sake of change. People are more likely to sit up if you have some research or data behind why you’re making a challenge.

For us, the biggest challenge is to have the confidence to be more strategic in our approach and to build client relationships from this point of view, not just with pure creative. We want our clients to buy into the thinking behind the creative.

One way that we do this is through simple honesty. We’ll tell a client if we believe there’s a better way of achieving their marketing goals. If a client asks for a video but the data suggests a campaign would have more impact, we’ll explain that. Understandably, the client may not always agree and we then work together to deliver their brief to the very highest standards, but it’s important to have that open and collaborative approach from the offset.

With our new wave of clients, like the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), we set off with strategy, and enjoy a relationship where we have the understanding to challenge them – not in an arrogant way, but with confidence – to make their projects better.




Change is hard and people are frightened of it, but there’s always room to change for the better. There are young people in our agency – people with motivation and passion – who want to make a positive change with our clients. That’s where our belief came from. It wasn’t born from the board, and we didn’t tell people what to believe in. The mind-set already existed and the ‘Challenge, Change, Make Better’ concept developed from our people and the way they already approached their work.

As a leader, you believe you’re going along the right path but sometimes can’t quite see the wood for the trees. This is when you need your people to feel empowered to challenge the established norm and make things better. With this freedom to speak, they can say if they feel something isn’t quite as it should be, and one of the most important strengths a leader can have is the ability to listen and say, “they’re right.”

It doesn’t have to be a huge change – the mentality is about making marginal gains, a tweak here and a tweak there.

Even our recent office refurbishment wasn’t fundamentally massive. Essentially, we simply knocked one wall down and built two more. But it’s given the whole business a revamp and renewed motivation.


Make Better


Small companies often find it easier to implement change, which is why we’re so proud of our work with Canon Europe on View magazine. We challenged its purpose and creative, delivering a magazine more closely aligned with Canon’s objectives across Europe, Middle East and Africa. The last magazine was sent to the parent company, Canon Inc., in Tokyo as a proud example of a piece of internal communication. This is an impressive achievement, as the EMEA is a huge territory of over 117 countries and produces many hundreds of communications each year.

Innocent are a great example of this mentality. Founded by two guys who went to a music festival, selling their smoothies and asking the public whether they should give up their day jobs. It has become a phenomenon in a saturated industry. They challenged and changed the market by making drinks that are actually good for you. Big ideas are the start of everything.