ON HORROR VACUI: 2021, A YEAR IN REVIEW
Horror Vacui -
“In visual art, horror vacui (Latin for 'fear of empty space'), is the filling of the entire surface of a space or an artwork with detail.”
- by Stefano Marrone, CEO & Founder of Nucco
I have always had a strong case of horror vacui. As an illustrator, first, with the need to fill up a blank page with minute details, then as an entrepreneur and business leader, where there's nothing scarier than a quiet day. Conversely, nothing gives me more joy than a day where there are challenges, big or small, to be tackled and progress to be made. This fear of emptiness has always fueled me and is probably one of the main reasons behind my personal drive, even in the face of less-than-great prospects. It’s no secret the marketing and comms industry has struggled in the last two years, thanks to the dreaded pandemic crisis and its repercussions.
In this context, I can say with confidence that 2021 hasn’t left me in the position to feel horror vacui on any single day of it. To demonstrate it, here are some of the highlights that made 2021 the busiest yet for Nucco and for me.
1. Delivering innovation for our recurring clients
In a recent call concerning 2022 planning, I heard a marketing director say possibly one of the most positive and challenging statements at the same time: “2022 is going to be a hard year, now that our team is known as the innovation hub across the marketing department”. It’s great to be simultaneously recognized for innovative work and challenged to better ourselves next year.
We have been rewarded for this commitment to deliver great work with clients that believed in us and renewed their trust for yet another year: UBS, DeBeers, UKRI, Anglo American and many others.
With these clients, we had the chance to work on truly innovative projects; notably the interactive event experience for UBS “Climate Conference” (shortlisted for a B2B Drum Award in the Best In-Customer Experience, Live or Virtual Event category) . The results that this project achieved demonstrates that exploring new content delivery and production possibilities, as well as being up to date with the current media landscape, is the only way for brands and organizations to stay relevant, especially when a naively fabled “back to normal” is nowhere to be seen.
2. New clients trusting Nucco
We all thought that 2021 would have been the year of bouncing back. Instead, the volatility of the current pandemic situation has created more than one false start in marketing initiatives, making it difficult to have confidence in any specific planning direction. That’s why we are both grateful and proud to onboard and work with a roster of new clients, including GSK, GfK, GSMA and Qatalog. To them goes our biggest thanks, since it is never easy to take the leap and trust a new agency, especially given these uncertain times. We can’t wait to share and celebrate the work we’ve made together in early 2022.
3. Nucco Brain becomes Nucco
Defining exactly what your agency does is never easy. Finding that nugget of uniqueness and articulating it for future clients and new hires is the ultimate challenge for a service-led industry like ours.
Our creative partner, Alistair Robertson, and his team managed to distill our ethos in the line “make it beautifully simple”, which inspired our brand refresh and updated website. It expresses our passion for tackling seemingly complicated subject matters and turning them into engaging content across an array of industries, from banking to tech, that deal with complexity on a regular basis. With it comes a simplification in our name, too, from Nucco Brain to simply Nucco, a more memorable name. This wouldn’t have been possible without the effort of our marketing department and internal creative talent, in the persons of Sarah Hindley, Mathilda Holmqvist, Jukka Virkkunen and Andy Thomas.
The change is not just aesthetic, though. It reflects the new structure of the business itself, with new partners including the aforementioned Alistair and our Head of Production Camilla Zucchi and UK Managing Director Mark Iremonger. Meanwhile, Adam Blumenthal and I are leading the US expansion plan...
4. Opening the NYC office
After much planning and lots of bureaucracy, we have taken the key step of strengthening our US presence. With a significant portion of our revenue coming from North American clients, it was essential for us to better service our clients in this geography.
Despite all the opportunities offered by technology and the limitations presented by the pandemic, there is nothing quite like the option to meet for a coffee or run a workshop with project stakeholders in person to move a project forward.
I’m honored to expand our US foothold. The big difference, as opposed to when I started Nucco eight years ago, is that I have a fantastic team in the UK and Europe to support me, guaranteeing the highest level of creative output and production quality, also thanks to the UNIT9 Group capabilities, from filming to tech development.
The fact that UNIT9 keeps delivering innovation in the creative production field and being recognised for it consistently is one of the highest points of pride for me when presenting our capabilities (“Tech Company of the Year” with Campaign for two years in a row is no easy feat to achieve). It feels amazing to be able to say to clients: “We’re the agency with the best production house in the world at its disposal to tackle your challenges”.
Our LA office is the main point of contact for the entertainment industry and the tech startup world. Still, our fantastic new base on the waterfront of Downtown Brooklyn is key to service fintech, banking, professional services and education industries on the East Coast.
5. Focusing on our people
For an agency like Nucco, the main asset is, and will always be, its people. We have some incredible talent and have seen them not only deliver for our clients but also overcome the challenge of working from a distance on complex projects, without the benefit of sharing a physical space to quickly iron-out challenges or misunderstandings in person.
I am not going to lie; onboarding new talent in this new context has not been easy, and it will keep being a challenge as the level of uncertainty about office presence and new COVID variants increase. Learning the little nuances of a new work environment and absorbing a new culture is hard when there is no passive way to take in positive behaviors from the colleagues sitting next to you.
We have also seen some very human, amazing events worth celebrating across our teams, despite hybrid working, including three pregnancies and two weddings (one of which was my own).
Lastly, on the initiative of Mark Iremonger, we have taken an important step towards transparency by publishing our gender pay gap data. Only companies with more than 250 employees in the UK are required to do so, but, as a leadership team, we believe this will help drive the change that our industry needs. Our ambition is to be a business that people love to be a part of because of our culture and our output.
In short, 2021 has been nothing but an incredible roller coaster with no horror vacui. I am grateful to all the people that made this full-on year possible and proud of the results achieved by everyone at Nucco, leaving me with the confidence that 2022 will be our best year yet.
Here’s to a fantastic 2022!
Founder of Nucco