Throwing Antonio’s old staff bio out of the window, we started from scratch and sat down to get to know the real Antonio Giansante. Turns out he’s way more passionate about Made In Chelsea than any of us ever gave him credit for.
You’ve worked at a lot of agencies in the past, so what was it that brought you to AHOY?
After working for advertising agencies and then a big digital agency, I’d worked on bits of branding at a third agency and really enjoyed that, so I wanted to move to a more niche branding agency. Then I met Mark and it was clear that he wanted to push the branding side of the business, and food & drink was a sector that he particularly wanted to get into – I just thought that AHOY seemed like a great fit for me. Plus, it was a small team and I knew I really wanted to go back to working with a small team.
At the first agency I worked at there was six of us, then I went to an agency of about 70 people and then the third agency was a staff count of about 120 – so it just kept getting bigger and bigger. I soon realised that I wanted to have a greater sense of ownership on the work that I did – and remember that when I first joined AHOY, there were only five of us here, so it was exactly the size I was looking for.
Given that we’re now a team of 16, how does working at AHOY differ to working at the other agencies you’ve worked for?
The first agency was strange because it was very small, but at the second agency there was 70 of us, split into four mini agencies within that. So that meant that I only ever really spoke to about 20 people – which was great because we still had that small agency feel even though we were in a much larger agency overall. But then when it came to parties that would be the full 70 people to chat to and everything.
As I said before, the third agency I worked for was even bigger still, and I just didn’t like it. You still had teams, like the smaller agencies, but you’d just get lost in a melee of everyone competing to get onto certain projects, and to work with certain clients. That said, even at a big agency, you tend to end up working in smaller teams anyway – so why be at that agency in the first place?
Whereas here you get to work with pretty much everyone on every project.
Yeah, exactly – it just means that when we pitch for a piece of work, we can wholeheartedly say that the people that clients meet are the exact people that will be working on their project, rather than saying we are insert agency name here, and the people that the client meets are a completely different set of faces to the people that are actually working on their project day to day.
The whole team spirit vibe is just so important, and I really like that we’re open about being a small team – it really shows that we’re proud of the work that we’re presenting, and are more than happy to stand behind it.
How would you describe an average working day for you at AHOY?
Well I guess one of the downsides of being a small team is that I have to juggle quite a few roles simultaneously. So on each day I’m switching between being a studio manager, being an account manager, running projects and managing print projects – whereas at a bigger agency, all of these jobs would be divided between four separate people. My day is split between those four roles, as well as going out and bringing sales in, meeting with clients and so on. It’s a lot to take on, but I never get bored of what I’m doing.
And presumably that’s really reassuring for clients, because they’ve met you, they’ve met one of our designers and so on – and you’ve been there every step of the way?
Exactly, yeah – it means that I’m completely in the loop with everything that’s going on in a project, and as a result of that, it means that the client is able to feel completely in control with everything that’s going on.
Which of our clients are you most excited to be working with?
I’m excited to be working with BimBox, purely because It’s such a new technology and they really aren’t many websites like the one we’re building. It’s going to be very new for that industry, and obviously very new for us too.
I mean, I always enjoy working on the food and drink projects, as well as the fashion projects – but really, it doesn’t matter what jobs are coming in, they’re always interesting because you’re always learning something new.
Have you got any interesting stories from projects you’ve worked on?
One of the best stories I’ve gotten from AHOY is from when we were going to a bitumen supplier over in Burnley. We were in the car, and I remember having no idea why we were going – we didn’t really know what bitumen even was, and I just thought the meeting would be boring as hell. When we finally got in there, they were a client with a really open mind and they just wanted something great. They completely put their trust in us, and the designs ended up looking amazing. It ended up being one of my favourite projects I’ve ever worked on at AHOY – it looked great, it worked really well functionally, the client [EP Bitumen] loved it, their customers loved it, we loved it – it was just a perfect job.
That’s one of the most exciting things about my job is getting an insight into these industries that I never would have heard about otherwise – you just learn so much so quickly.
How did you end up in account management?
Right, so I finished uni and was trying to start my own bar with a mate of mine – but realised after about two months that it just wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, I’d started watching Mad Men, and I just thought, “that looks like an alright industry” – so we both took our business degrees and went in opposite directions, career-wise. My mate ended up being a hairdresser, and I ended up with a placement at an ad agency. I met Ken Davies while I was there, and he took me under his wing and helped me tweak my CV– which then got me a job in account management.
So how similar to Mad Men was your time in advertising, then?
It’s funny you should ask – overall, not similar at all, but my first week was pretty much exactly like Mad Men. I was sat on a TV set in London, filming an advert for a toy company, with runners bringing me coffee and croissants – and that was when I started thinking “y’know, I could get used to this”. Which was, of course, followed by a whole week copy checking a toy catalogue – checking SKU numbers, the whole shebang – so it was very much a one time only deal. That’s when I got a taste for what account management really was!
How do you find working in Heaton Moor compared to other places you’ve worked at in the past?
It’s different – I mean, the first agency at worked at was based in Chester, in an area a lot like Heaton Moor to be honest. Then I was right in Edinburgh city centre for my second job, in a big, beautiful old church, right next to the botanical gardens. Working in Manchester city centre was similar again, dead easy to get to and it was dead easy to park at – but the problem with city centres is that you always feel pushed for time when you’re there, whereas here it feels that bit more relaxed. But we’re not far enough away from the city centre to make it a hassle for clients to get to us, or for us to get to clients.
What’s the best piece of industry or work-related advice you’ve ever received?
It’s a simple one, but one that’s so important for account managers, or people in general – “be nice to people”. That’s not just clients or suppliers, either, it’s internally too. You never know when you’re going to need a co-worker to pull you out of the shit!
Don’t ever act like you’re above people, just be nice to everyone – because one day, they’re going to need you and you’re going to need them. You might not personally get on with everyone, but you can always be polite to everyone. Do people favours and be nice to them because you can always call it back!
That’s true of AHOY as a whole, though – we all get on, and though there is a hierarchy on paper, it never really feels that way.
That’s a point actually, because obviously both you and Paul are our account directors – do you find that you work together quite a lot and help each other out, or would you say you worked relatively separately?
Generally, we work separately – there are times when we work together, but we do tend to stick with our own clients and stuff. I mean, at the end of the day, we do exactly the same thing, but we both do it in very different ways. I’ve found that a lot with account management, really. There are loads of different ways of doing exactly the same job, and some agencies can be quite dictatorial with how they want you to manage your accounts – but that doesn’t always fit to every personality style. So yeah, we both manage people very differently, but our long-term vision for AHOY, and our objectives with our clients are exactly the same – so as long as you’ve all bought into the same philosophy, it almost doesn’t matter how you both choose to go about putting it into action.
How would you say your approach differs to Paul’s?
If I’m honest, I don’t really know what his is! But mine is quite a trusting approach. So I trust people when they say they’ll do something, and I think that when you do put that trust in someone, nine times out of ten, they’ll absolutely be able to deliver. I’ve never believed in watching over people’s shoulders and picking apart everything they do – just put your trust in them, and they’ll find a way of doing the task at hand. I think it’s all too easy to over micro manage people – and if you do that, they’ll feel stifled by you, and that tends to make them not want to do whatever you’ve asked them to do.
So I’d say it’s putting that trust in people, and making sure that I’m available when they need my help.
You can see clients operating on a similar policy – some are happy to have fairly infrequent updates on our progress, whereas others want regular phone conversations or emails. It means that every relationship we have is specifically tailored for that client; I would never push a particular management style on a client. If they want daily contact they can have it, if they want a weekly meeting – whatever is going to be right for them and put their minds at ease.
Now that you’ve moved up from being an account manager to being an account director – would you say that there were any strings that you would want to add to your bow?
I guess that when I came to AHOY, branding was really my focus, and we’ve done a lot of work to hone our branding process and get across the AHOY way of thinking when it comes to branding. I want us to develop that, and basically become thought leaders in why we do things – it’s that kind of positioning that would let us work with even bigger brands than we’re already working with, almost on a consulting type basis. I’d love to look at more companies with branding bases already established, seeing as we’re so well versed in building brands from the ground up by this point – it’d be a new challenge, and I think it would be a fairly natural transition for us.
Where are you from originally?
Born in Chester, raised in Ellesmere Port and I still live there to this day.
How does Ellesmere Port differ to Heaton Moor, would you say?
It’s very different to Heaton Moor – it’s not a leafy suburb of a big city, it’s very much an industrial town that’s been built up over the last ten years with retail parks, cinemas, big aquariums and stuff like that.
So it’s on the up and up?
Yeah, exactly – it’s becoming a better and better place to live.
Have you always been creatively inclined?
I’d say so, yeah. I’m a Piscean-
…You didn’t just say that.
…And Pisceans are always creative. I think everyone that works in an agency must have a level of creativity within them, whether you’re a developer, a writer, or you work in search – you can always bring something to the table, you can chip in on campaign ideas – whatever it is, if you’re creative, you can always make a useful contribution. Without any kind of a creative bone in your body, I don’t know if you can really fit in at AHOY.
Any albums or songs on repeat at the moment – apart from Meridian Dan’s German Whip or Skepta’s That’s Not Me?
Well I am a big fan of the UK grime scene, but apart from that I’m listening to a lot of Action Bronson at the moment – nothing else springs to mind just this second.
What’s your favourite night out spot?
In Manchester it’d be the Northern Quarter, in Liverpool it’s all around Seel Street – which has pretty much the same vibe as the Northern Quarter, to be honest. I’m very much a Northern Quarter boy, I’d say, especially seeing as I lived there for a few years, I know it so well.
What TV series or film do you recommend at every chance you get?
I’m not big on boxsets or anything, I just never get through them. My TV watching is pretty much just sport, and then Made In Chelsea, Georgie Shore, Big Brother – it’s reality TV or sport, basically.
Would you ever actually recommend reality TV to people though?
I would recommend Made In Chelsea to everyone because it’s the closest thing to real life you will ever see. They should put that in schools, and show lads how women’s minds work, and vice versa. It sums up life perfectly – Made In Chelsea should be on the school curriculum, there are no two ways about it.
Well, I mean with that kind of plug for it you may as well go the whole hog and tell us when it’s on.
It’s on Monday and Tuesday nights on E4, and it’s all available on 4oD if you miss it. #MIC.