When Rana Reeves was growing up in Southend in the 1980s, his cultural highlight was Roller City. Now he is sitting in The Groucho Club, discussing the new office he shares with Kate Moss' friend Fran Cutler and his next meeting with Kevin Spacey.
Reeves set up John Doe Communications one year ago with the aim of ‘marrying brands with culture'.
The agency has eight staff and an impressive contacts book of cultural bods can be brought in on projects where relevant. The approach certainly works for clients such as Channel 4, Tate Britain and Ctrl Alt Shift. It also works for Sony PlayStation, a client Reeves initially won when he was at Jackie Cooper PR, and that has followed him loyally since then.
Reeves began his career in sales - first as a nightclub promoter while studying at Southampton University, and then selling sunglasses at Harvey Nichols. His first brush with PR was ‘a week spent removing paperclips from press releases' during work experience at Burson-Marsteller. But he believes his current role is not that far removed from his first.
‘Let's get honest, we're sales people. You can dress it up, but we're on the same spect-rum as a car salesman. We promote ourselves to people, and then we promote what they want us to,' says Reeves. He has promoted a range of products in his time, including ‘launching wings' when he worked on a sanitary towel manufacturer account at PR agency Fleishman-Hillard.
Reeves moved from ‘beige' F-H to Red Rooster in 1998, where he found ‘the cool kids who chewed gum'. But he believes it was joining JCPR the following year that made a lasting mark. ‘It was a blonde agency. There were lots of impeccably dressed thin girls with very strong wills, who were bloody good at PR,' he smiles. ‘I can't underplay the influence that JCPR had on me. I learned everything about creativity from there. It was a magical time.'
Jackie Cooper says that Reeves' real
understanding of British culture means his work is ‘not just sponsorship by another name'. She says: ‘Rana is one of a kind. He's an extremely passionate soul. He works with his heart as well as his head, which sometimes lands him in trouble but can also be pure brilliance.
‘He has an incredible drive to trailblaze in the cultural sector and use his networks to deliver partnerships. Brands get the art world to do things they would not do without him.'
She adds that Reeves has always treated her with enormous respect, something attested by his warm and caring manner, and his almost deferential way of speaking about Cooper and his next boss Rachel Bell.
Reeves left JCPR once it was bought by Edelman in 2004. ‘I was a Cooperette through and through, but we stopped
using Macs and we started using PCs, so I decided it was time to move on,' he says.
His next stop was Shine Communications. He credits founder Bell with educating him about how to run a business. Bell says that even when she first met him, ‘he was inspirationally creative, born out of his ferocious appetite for media and his command of contemporary culture. He seemed to emerge from university already incredibly well-networked and able to get you guest-listed to the hottest parties. His creative network is very impressive,' she says.
Eventually, he wanted to do his own thing. ‘Shine is a full-service agency and I would always have clients with whom
I wouldn't want to work,' he says, so he set up John Doe with Bell's backing.
Mandi Lennard, head of Mandi Lennard Publicity, believes this has done him the world of good: ‘Since he opened John Doe, he's become more relaxed, more laid back; like he's found where he wants to be. He still has huge hunger and totally gets off on his massive workload.'
Reeves is refreshingly candid about his reason for moving into PR. ‘I had failed to get into advertising because my name was not Tarquin and Ab Fab was particularly big at the time,' he says with a smile. But he believes that consumer PR is no less important because it is fun. ‘I take my job seriously, but if you can't have fun, what's the point? Part of what we deal with is
image, it's about glamour - and you can be glamorous and serious.'
The 35-year-old Reeves says he is now learning meditation and is more often found at home than at glamorous parties. ‘Jackie always said to me there's nothing worse than an old PRO at a party. More
often, I'm watching the box-set of Brothers and Sisters at home,' he says.
Reeves says he chose his agency's name because no brand wants to be a ‘John Doe', or an unknown. It is something about which he need not worry.
RANA REEVES' turning points
What was your biggest career break?
Two spring to mind - meeting Rachel Bell as an intern at Fleishman-Hillard, as she gave me my first break, and then starting work on the Sony PlayStation account at Jackie Cooper PR. It is an amazing client.
Have you had a notable mentor?
There have actually been quite a few, but three really spring to mind. From a business perspective, it is definitely Rachel (Bell) who has helped guide me in the setting up of John Doe and who has taught me great lessons such as ‘It's PR not ER'. In terms of learning the craft and for always believing in the style of campaigns that I wanted to deliver, it would
be Jackie Cooper PR's co-founders, Jackie Cooper and Robert Phillips. They have given me gems such as ‘assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups' and ‘you can never be half-pregnant'.
What advice would you give anyone climbing the career ladder?
Network, network, network and know your campaigns from all angles. Do not just get bogged down in what you are doing, but find out why.
What do you prize in new recruits?
Interesting connections and ideas.
2009 Founder, John Doe Communications
2006 Creative director, Shine Communications
1999 Senior account director, brands and culture, Jackie Cooper PR
1998 Senior account executive, Red Rooster
1997 Assistant account executive, Fleishman-Hillard