Starting as a small operation working out of Shepherd’s Bush, Liquid was founded in 2000 by Steve McGauley. Despite its small size, the company immediately began servicing clients such as Radley, Ben Sherman and Staples in its fledgling years – before relocating to Liverpool.
Today, the creative agency has an industry-wide reputation for delivering campaigns that force you to pay attention. Over the past 15 years, the company has worked with some of the UK’s largest food, drink and fashion brands.
Liquid offers an integrated service across design, photography, video, marketing, digital, PR and social media. Clients include major brands such as Levi’s®, Warburton’s, ASICS, Tessuti, Grosvenor – but also a host of more locally based companies. One of their more local clients is Southport Flower Show, “we’ve had an awful lot of fun working with them for the past two years” Steve tells us.
A few years ago, they launched a new ASICS Tiger store in Liverpool by pretending a tiger had been let loose in the city – complete with fake news reports, roaring tiger sounds echoing through the streets, ‘mauled’ actors wandering around etc. “We managed to project a tiger print onto the Liver Building for a night too, which caused quite a stir. The whole campaign was a bit mischievous, which suited us down to the ground” he says.
“When we launched Warburtons Sandwich Thins, we had Vanilla Ice write a rap for us about well… wraps. It was one of the most irreverent campaigns we’d ever done at the time and the silliness of it was infectious” he tells us. “We absolutely loved every minute of it, it’s not every day you get to muck about with Vanilla Ice, and luckily, so did consumers.”
If you think back to when you were in school – there was always one class in a year group that was notoriously naughtier than the rest. That’s Liquid. “We’re bonkers. We’re undeniably loud, a touch outrageous, perilously honest – and it’s not uncommon to be reduced to tears at your desk for laughing at least once a day.” The office pranks are elaborate, and Steve’s booming laugh can be heard approximately 5 miles from wherever he is at any one time.
There’s a method in their madness, however. “Naughty people are undeniably good at two things: bending the rules, and getting attention. The company has done a sterling job of finding an array of mischievous characters and pointing their rebellious nature in the right direction – creativity” he explains.
“It’s our mischievous nature that gives us an edge when it comes to winning work. Fostered the right way, a talent for ‘bending the rules’ turns into outside-the-box problem solving, and a knack for ‘getting attention’ turns into impactful creative work at breakneck speeds”.
The company culture here seems to be the catalyst to enabling daring and wonderfully ambitious work. Once hired, you’re actively encouraged away from ‘playing it safe’, accepted for who you are (flaws and all) and celebrated for your talents. “Hierarchy is a loose idea at Liquid – all employees are given trust and ownership over their projects from a very early stage,” he tells us. What this cultivates is a set of highly accountable employees who are fiercely responsible for their work… despite their apparent naughtiness.
But of course, they’re not completely wild. They will still get told off by their Mum and Dad (Creative Director, Karen Spencer – and Steve McGauley himself). They still have to do timesheets like everyone else.
Maybe it’s because of Liquid’s culture is why they’ve been able to do something so many others have and still are struggling with. Aside from Steve, the entire senior team at Liquid is female. Karen Spencer, our Creative Director, has led the design side of the business for over a decade. Likewise, Anthea McKnight acts as their Operations Director, leading their client-facing departments. With less than 12% of creative leadership roles in the industry held by women – Liquid bucks the trend considerably. “We’re firmly part of the 12% and rather proud of it”, he reflects.
While other businesses will have growth strategies and objectives for the future, here they like to be a lot more flexible and let the work they do carve out a path for them. “We have no idea what the future looks like most of the time,” he tells us, “something new and surprising comes along every couple of months. Liquid is guided by enthusiasm and pure instinct… there is no business plan”.
Over the past few years, they’ve worked on an increasing amount of high street and designer fashion brands, as well as large-scale events. That niche happened naturally for them and moulded who we are as a company and what type of clients approach them. “As long as we’re enjoying what we do along the way – we’re happy to be guided by fate,” he finishes.