“No one in this industry can survive by sitting still”: JSR Agency’s founder on the importance of adapting

The agency has been around since Jamie Stephen founded it in 2005 and, in that time, has had to evolve with the times. In what has been a difficult year, Jamie tells us about how JSR has continued to progress.

30 November 2020
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4 minute read

The notion that the creative industry is one of the fastest-changing and most adaptable industries is not a new one. But, if anything can be taken from this year, it’s proof of that very fact. When lockdown first hit the UK in March, many creatives and studios found briefs put on pause or dropped altogether with an air of trepidation in regard to the industry’s fate. What we’ve seen, however, is that many members of the creative community have been able to pivot their practices or adapt to a new way of working, meaning our hope for the industry’s future remains high.

One business which certainly felt the effect of the pandemic was JSR Agency, which was formed by Jamie Stephen in 2005 and which now represents over 50 artists and with a team of 15 in London. “When the pandemic hit, we had to down tools like all of the production industry and bluntly it has been tough for everyone,” Jamie tells us. All shoots had to stop until government-approved production guidelines were released meaning the agency had to seriously rethink its approach. “We adapted quickly to working remotely and proposed non-shoot-based production solutions – primarily CGI, illustration and existing imagery,” he continues.

That’s not to say that when shoots began happening again, that things were simple though as new measures had to be taken in order to ensure everyone’s safety. “Sounds easy, but for a bunch of creatives working to tight timings and budgets it meant that our production team had to be seriously on point and in control, plus there was significant additional pre-production work getting stand-by crew and models in case any member of the confirmed team became ill within 48 hours of the shoot,” Jamie outlines.

It’s been a steep learning curve for the entire JSR team but rising to challenges and adapting accordingly is exactly what being part of the creative industry is all about, Jamie believes. “No one in this industry can survive by sitting still, Covid-19 has accelerated some changes that were already taking place and has made us a leaner, more responsive and more agile agency.”


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While for JSR this has meant “coming up with innovative solutions and techniques that will hold us in good stead for the future,” it’s nothing new for the agency which has been around long enough to change with the times. “When I started the agency, agents were very much bookers – I would promote the roster and look to only confirm my talent, quoting the artists’ day rates and usage only and use external producers to budget and manage actual production financially and physically,” Jamie explains. Nowadays, however, JSR is equipped to – and expected to – handle the entire production.

Gone are the days of an agency receiving a brief and simply providing an artist to realise it. “All of our creatives are now genuine partners to the agencies and brands we work with,” Jamie says, going on to explain that it’s not just about process, it’s also about the number of mediums/formats the agency is expected to be able to deliver work in.

More and more, JSR is asked to undertake multimedia campaigns using a blend of in-house talent to create big budget film for online and TV and print executions, but also gifs, cinemagraphs, banner ads and every other digital asset imaginable. When working on these briefs, Jamie explains, “we are expected to come up with very detailed treatments, ideas and develop creative propositions that can cope with a huge list of outputs.”

This was certainly the case on one JSR content project for Asics. The agency worked with the running shoe brand to create a suite of still images and content films celebrating the Japanese philosophy of “Ten People. Ten Colours”, expressing this through ten different runners with ten uplifting, emotional stories who debuted the new shoes. The campaign was executed across multiple touchpoints, including in-store, leading to Asics’ “most integrated launch ever.”

With so much experience of watching the creative industry morph and evolve in front of his eyes, Jamie predicts that more CGI, animation and moving assets are what lie in JSR’s future. “[They] are becoming an ever-larger part of our talent portfolio and even traditional photographers and illustrators are branching out into moving image projects,” he says. Continuing to be flexible is therefore the key, as well as ensuring that their work is evolving on every project.

“The demand for digital and programmatic delivery sets to continue but we’re continually evolving to maintain our high-end production output,” he continues. “The great thing is that the JSR artists love to do new things and embrace new ways of working and creative approaches, but they do it with the quality that has made us one of the UK’s biggest agencies. It’s easy to do a lot of work, it’s much harder to ally that volume with the highest quality and here at JSR that is our mission on every project.”


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Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.


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