'I really don’t know why people see me as a threat,’ says Bagnall. ‘I find it highly flattering and highly amusing, but my office is only 400 square foot.’
Vertigo, Bagnall’s new offering, opened its doors for business on 2 April. Now with four staff members and six part-time associates, it has won two clients within four weeks of trading.
Slim and energetic, Bagnall says she is making her comeback now, because the Manchester PR scene has become stale. ‘No one’s made a significant impact since Brazen. It’s about time someone bold shook it up,’ she says.
Her arrival is causing consternation among rival agencies, but the loquacious and confident Bagnall shrugs this off:.‘I think it’s a real shame that people can’t just concentrate on their own work rather than sticking the knife into others,’ she says.
‘It’s such a waste of energy – I would be most unsettled if I was one of their clients.’
If this sounds familiar, it probably comes as no surprise that Bagnall is good friends with Brazen’s founder Nina Wheeler – Wheeler being no stranger to feather-ruffling herself. Bagnall quips: ‘I think Nina is hoping I’ll take some of the pressure off her’.
Later at Vertigo’s launch party the troublesome twosome joke about which of them is more aggressive. Wheeler says: ‘Agencies here have become complacent so it’s a good thing she’s back on the scene. We will be supporting each other, although I still want to beat her in a pitch – and I’m sure she’d say the same.’
All four of Vertigo’s permanent staff worked together previously at Communique, and Bagnall’s eyes light up at the mention of the agency where she says she spent the best five years of her life.
Bagnall, now 35, laughs as she remembers her first interview with Paul Carroll, then CEO, with whom she has a two-year old daughter. ‘At the end of the interview he ushered me to the door and said, ‘You have an over-inflated opinion of yourself and earn far too much money. No one would like you here.’
But in 1999, Bagnall was headhunted to a group head role at his agency and was made MD in 2001. She raves about the strong team ethos and successes noting, ‘The year 2000 was a golden period – we won everything.’
But despite high hopes for the agency when it was bought by Burson-Marsteller in 2001, the promised investment never materialised after the economic fall-out of 9/11. Bagnall became disillusioned with ‘big company culture’ and resigned.
Bagnall vows never to stifle her agency’s creativity with a corporate mentality saying ‘that is a get rich slow scheme’. Her aim is to build a boutique agency with no more than 10 staff and bring in £1-£1.5m turnover. Asserting that she will only work with like-minded clients, she argues that the agency will be successful because of its collective experience, knowledge, history and contacts.
And Bagnall is not short of business experience becoming a board director at IAS at the tender age of 24 and presenting her first business plan for a PR agency to the IAS CEO back in 1998.
Former Communique employees are bursting with glowing reviews. Tim Downs, now group account director at Brahm, says: ‘She was always incredibly organised and a real operator. It’s a good thing she’s back – Manchester has been missing something without her.’
But for someone who has plenty of stories to tell, she claims she is actually rather unsociable. ‘Someone once told me I’m like the sun. I’m charming and warm when I’m out, but when I go down, I don’t want to go out. I’m great when I’ve got my face on.’
Underneath the chatty exterior, it is clear Nathalie Bagnall means business. She is certain to breathe new life into the North-West grapevine.
CV - Nathalie Bagnall
Zuma 01 director
Communique PR – group head rising to managing director
IAS (now IAS Smarts) – started as media planner and made board director in 1994