Jon Wilkins

Executive Chairman, Karmarama


Did a degree in social science, sociology and psychology -graduated 1988. Guess got interested in how people’s minds works, how society works etc, sort of planning foundations.

Wanted to get into journalism; especially really high-brow stuff – like ‘World in Action’.

Applied for a job in The Guardian that was for Granada TV (who make world in action!), as a researcher. Ended up getting job working in marketing and market research in Golden Square. Good foundation, worked hard, did everything they asked me to do for programming and ad sales. Did that for a couple of years.

My boss left to join start-up MTV Europe. He asked me to come over; as a music junkie hard to turn down and i was employee 30 something for MTV Europe; wild times. Opening offices all over Europe, making up the numbers, packaging shows for brands etc. I worked in marketing and business development and we basically sold shows to brands all over Europe.

Loved the travel and got offered a job via headhunter in International marketing dept of Disney (Buena Vista International ) in Soho Square. Hated Disney, but learned a lot, travelled loads, basically helping package Disney product to TV networks all over the world (outside of USA).

Got headhunted again to go to an ad agency; didn’t know too much about ads, but managed a few of the agency relationships at Disney so turned up for interview at BMP. Felt pretty magical, so started in research and planning; plan was to keep account planning and media planning together during the start of rise of media independent. Worked with super bright people on super bright campaigns, loved it, got promoted to board at 27, ended up director of strategy.

Durden kept trying to get me to go to PHD, turned him down pre-sale to BBDO- post sale – I accepted. Ran a new dept called creative communications; we had programming, digital, data, market research, basically everything that wasn’t planning and buying and we were PHD’s secret weapon. We rocked. We won agency of year 3 years in a row, and I got made joint MD.

2000, John Harlow (who was running subsidiary of PHD- Rocket), myself and Will left to start Naked. We felt there was a market opportunity for a strategically led agency that embraced all the cool new stuff as it happened. We worked with media owners, ad agencies, freelancers, media agencies— in fact we didn’t really have a set positioning but we had a great offer. I led Naked to being in 16 countries, winning countless awards all over the world and eventually selling in 2008 to Photon for 46m dollars.

During earn out I also ran a division of Photon with all the integrated agencies (16 of them) and did stints in Sydney (2 years) and New York (two years)

Now executive chairman of Karmarama, one of the largest independent advertising agencies in the UK, with clients including Costa Coffee, BBC, Clydesdale Bank, Virgin Active and Iceland.

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