Grilled Dinosaur

Here’s the 21(ish) questions our lovely Frannie asked…

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It’s 21 years since our chief creative officer, Mark, set up Dinosaur from his flat in Manchester. So as part of our birthday celebrations, we asked Frannie, our 21-year-old account exec, to interview Mark about Dinosaur life back in 1997.

Ever wondered why we called Dinosaur ‘Dinosaur’? Or how clients found us before Google? What about who’ll play Mark in the movie when Hollywood gets the rights? It’s all here, along with a few other surprises too.

 

Francesca:
As part of Dinosaur’s 21st birthday celebrations, as the youngest Dinosaur, I’ve pulled together 21 questions to ask you about both you and the agency back in the day. Are you ready?

Mark:
I am!

1.  So, I’ve always wondered this, why is Dinosaur called Dinosaur?

Mark:

It was inspired by a sketch from Bill Hicks, that’s what brought us to the moment but really we were looking for a name that wasn’t like everyone else’s. A lot of the agencies were picking cool names or using their surnames and we didn’t want any of that, so Dinosaur it was.

Francesca:
Something a bit different?

Mark:
Something bold and provocative

Francesca:
Nice, I like it

 

2.  So, you were 29 when you set up Dinosaur. What made you want to start your own agency?

Mark:
We didn’t sit down and have a really big meeting. I was in an agency that had been taken over and I went to a first meeting with the new owners to share some creative, and they basically went off the handle in a way I’d never seen before. I thought, that is really odd. Then it happened again. At the same time, my friend who I shared a flat with, was doing loads of freelance and was getting overwhelmed by it. So I was scribbling ideas in the evening and he was working them up in the daytime. Before long, we had half a business out of the house. So we decided to get a telephone and a desk and go for it.

 

3. I was actually only a baby in 1997. What was Manchester like then? I’ve heard that the Northern Quarter was a bit dodgy.

Mark:
Yes, it was… the Northern Quarter wasn’t even called the Northern Quarter, it was just a place. Rent was cheap. The curry houses had been here for years but there were no streetlights, no police, no people after about 7 o’clock. A lot of drop in centres. It was quite hairy in the evenings.

 

4. Back in the day, what type of work did Dinosaur do mainly? Obviously not digital

Mark:
That’s true, no digital. When we set out, the new wave was to marry graphic design and advertising. There was a movement that was just starting up where you could combine them both which was done best by Kessler Kramer and their work for Diesel, amongst others. We really enjoyed their work. It also had an irreverence for advertising itself. The work we were doing back then was in that mould.

 

5. Who was your first client and how did you manage to get them?

Mark:
The first client we grew out of the bedroom was Scottish & Newcastle, a pub group. So we did loads of stuff for the brands that went into pubs, from Red Bull to wines and beers. The first client we marched out and got on our own? I think we did some A6 flyers for a model agency and we did some typography on the back that we were really pleased with.

 

6. I heard that people used to answer the phone with a growl, is that true?

Mark:
Yep. It’s not a growl it’s more of a grrrrrrrr. We used to do that just because we’d get bored answering the phones.

Francesca:
I definitely think we should start that again

 

7. Did you have a mobile phone when you first started?

Mark:
No, we didn’t

 

8. Did you have a pager thing?

Mark:
Yes we had a pager thing

Francesca:
What does that even do?

Mark:
Ha! It’s kind of like a text message before text messages. You’d have it clipped to your belt or something really cool like that, it would bleep and there’d be a message saying call such-a-body and you’d run to a phone box. That was quite cool back then.

Francesca:
Sounds hard work

 

9. How did people find out about Dinosaur without Google or social media?

Mark:
How did the world even happen without Google? Err, the Yellow Pages? Word of mouth? It’s a good question. There was a lot of digging. I don’t really know.

 

10. Please can you explain to me what a fax machine is because I don’t get the point of it.

Mark:
Ha! To get an image to someone rather quickly, rather than attaching a jpeg to an email and sending it, you would basically photocopy the thing you wanted someone to see, stick it into a machine that would then take the image in, turn it into little bits of digital stuff and send it down a phoneline and hey presto! At the other end the image would appear like magic. It was all very rough and digitalised.

 

11. What tunes were playing in the Dino office in 1997?

Mark:
There was a lot of Verve going on at the time. For me personally, quite a bit of Mansun.

Francesca:
I’ve not heard of them are they still around?

Mark:
Not heard of The Verve? Oh my lord, you’d be forgiven for not knowing Mansun but that’s a surprise you’ve not heard of The Verve, check them out

Francesca:
I will, I’ll have a look – I’ll Google them!

 

12. What’s Dinosaur’s proudest achievement?

Mark:
Maintaining a culture over 21 years not having to have to do things because you want to chase the money but staying true to a philosophy of wanting an agency that produces creative you can be proud of.

 

13. Have you ever made a slip-up with a client that you still cringe about today?

Mark:
There’s probably loads but once we were rushing to get to a meeting in Leeds thinking we were an hour late. We come piling into reception to announce ourselves, sweating, to be told that we were 23 hours early. On another occasion, back in the early days before Google, we’d met a client, wrote their name and number on a piece of paper. We spent two weeks doing some creative for them, then realised we’d lost the piece of paper and couldn’t get hold of them. We racked our brains and we never saw them again.

Francesca:
Oh dear.

 

14. If they were making a film of Dinosaur, what Hollywood actor would play you?

Mark:
Michael Fassbender did Steve Jobs so he’s out. If it was my personal choice, I’d choose Jim Carrey.

Francesca:
Well I asked round the office, here’s what they said… Keanu Reeves

Mark:
For any reason at all? Because he’s really wooden at acting?

Francesca:
Maybe. And, Owen Wilson

Mark:
I’d go with that

Francesca:
Finally, this is my personal favourite, Jason Momoa. I can really see the resemblance!

Separated at birth? Jason Mamoa as Aquaman v Mark in 1997

 

15. Describe Dinosaur in 1997 in 3 words

Talent but unhinged

 

16. And Dinosaur today?

Talent and hinged

 

17. What ad do you wish you’d made?

Mark:
I always loved the Pot Noodle ads when it was like a dirty secret to eat Pot Noodle. I thought it identified the audience – which was me – very well. There’s loads of fun stuff but yeah, Pot Noodle.

18. If Dinosaur could work with any brand who would it be?

Mark:
My favourite brand to work with would be VW. I personally love the brand and love their vans. They’ve always allowed the agencies to do amazing work, really emotive work, clever work, funny work, witty work – going all the way back to one of my favourites, Bill Bernbach, who set the ball rolling with some great advertising.

19. Say I decide to set up my own agency in 8 years’ time, what advice would you give me?

Mark:
Set off doing the work you want to do and make sure you find the people that appreciate that kind of genre of work. Just go for it and don’t worry about it too much.

20. I’ve heard about advertising agencies in the 90s, were you one of those work hard, play hard creatives?

Mark:
We were. Not sure we had a lot of choice.

21. Which is your favourite dinosaur?

Mark:
The velociraptor in Jurassic Park was astonishing so I guess that’s my favourite.

Francesca:
Aw Mark, I thought you were going to say me!

Mark:
There was a pause while I thought, are you referring to members of staff? In that case, yes, it would be Francesca.

Also published on Medium.

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Contact Us:
To find out how Dinosaur could help you get great results, phone Nicola on
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