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Access and 42nd Street take on Helvellyn

Walking. A simple procedure which most of us master within the first year of our lives. Used daily to get us around the office, through the supermarket and to and from the car. Simple, easy and not very strenuous. In most cases…

As part of our ongoing relationship with Manchester based charity, 42nd Street, our Production Director John Neate proposed a ‘get to know you’ walk up one of the hills in the Lake District. Sounds like fun, right?

Together with five members of the 42nd Street staff, myself and members of the Access team headed up to the Lake District to walk up,  Helvellyn. Tackling the popular scrambling route of Striding Edge on the ascent and Swirral Edge on the descent.

Were we prepared for what was to come? Possibly not, however, I’m sure you’ll agree the views we witnessed and the sense of achievement felt at the end was well worth the effort.

Big thanks to John and his friend Keith for leading the walk. Hopefully well have the chance to get more people involved next time. Now… is anybody a trained masseuse?

Why Manchester is Europe’s second creative city

The leading lights of the Manchester creative scene got together recently to thrash out what it means to work in one of the world’s most exciting creative cities. I’ve come away completely inspired!

The Creative Manchester event, run by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and Creative Skillset and The Drum, included the very best of Manchester, from advertising and marketing to TV/ broadcast and games design – not forgetting our hosts, cloud service providers UKFast.

There was some spirited debate from the expert panel – although the affection for our history and enthusiasm for the future was clear from all. We’re not done shouting about Manchester.

I’ve always loved this city, since I moved here from London in the early 1990’s and think it deserves all the praise it gets – and some that it doesn’t. So, here goes…

Why discovery workshops are essential for digital projects

So you’ve just agreed a new web project. All the pitching and negotiations are out of the way, and the ‘real work’ is about to start. But there’s one more thing to do that could decide the success of your project – or at the very least, save a lot of wasted effort and money down the line!

Now is the perfect time to get everyone involved in the project locked in a room (not literally…) to extract information and ideas from them – in a ‘discovery workshop’.

There is no quicker and easier way for an agency to get to know a customer and what they want to achieve from their website.

Discovery workshops allow everyone to meet – possibly for the first time – and lay their cards on the table; what aggravates them about the current website, queries they have about how the project will be run, and most excitingly any ideas for how they want the new site to work.

Everyone is listened to and all comments are captured, so it gives the marketing team a real opportunity to get buy in at this early stage.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) in Drupal: Creating a Third Light integration

As part of our work with BAFTA we were tasked with creating a module that would integrate their new Drupal site with the Third Light digital asset management platform. Here's the what, the why and how!

What is Digital Asset Management?

Digital asset management refers to the rules and processes an organisation puts in place to manage, retrieve and distribute their digitalmedia, such as photos, videos, PDFs, presentations and documents. DAM is not to be confused with the software of the same name.

Why did BAFTA need Digital Asset Management and Third Light?

BAFTA has a lot of rich imagery and needs to manage this image and associated metadata across multiple locations. They also need to ensure all images are uploaded to the site in the correct sizes, with all relevant titles and copyright information.

The Third Light digital asset management platform has a lot of functionality that deals with image formats, especially around resizing and metadata - making it an ideal choice for BAFTA's content management requirements.

An added benefit of using this platform is that all images are hosted on a high availability cloud based platform which means they essentially have a CDN platform for the imagery on the site.

Integrating Third Light with a Content Management System (CMS)

The best way to integrate Third Light with a CMS is to use the Third Light Browser, which is available on the Third Light IMS platform from v6.0. This browser is a JavaScript widget that can configured to display and return data about images in Third Light in different ways. The browser allows users to select the image they want, crop it into a specified set of dimensions and then import the image into the site. The imported data is essentially a returned JSON string so any integration module just needs to capture and translate this string and store it within the system.

Third Light already provide a Drupal module in the form of a CKEditor module plugin, but due to a couple of factors we weren't going to use that module and as such we needed a different approach. Our module of choice for text editor integration in Drupal is the WYSIWYG module, which we commonly pair with CKEditor, so we needed a module to cover that integration. On top of this we also wanted to be able to store the Third Light data as a field on certain content types and so we needed a separate module in order to provide this functionality.

New beginnings

Sam King recently joined the Access client management team as an Account Manager, here are his thoughts after one week at Access…

Settling in

In just one week at Access I’ve met an amazing energetic team of people, written a proposal document to work with a children’s charity on their digital fund raising, drafted a marketing strategy for an exciting national app launch, written a set of best practice analytics guidelines and most importantly not got a round of teas horrifically wrong. I’ve certainly been given ample opportunity to demonstrate what I sold the agency on in my interview!

Getting up-to speed

The entire agency have been immensely welcoming and knowledgeable, there is a great collaborative attitude here with open frank conversations and all inputs given attention and acknowledgement, the kind of atmosphere you dream of working in and ensures a great standard of innovative work gets produced.

Being brought into projects in progress is always a challenge, you don’t want to step on any toes or bring up areas already agreed upon but every new starter wants to feel immediately useful. The control and clarity of projects combined with the openness of staff have made the transitions seamless so far. I don’t think I’ll be the ‘new guy’ for long.

Just the beginning

When I started my search for a new agency I didn’t know it, but Access was exactly what I was looking for. An ambitious agency with a pragmatic view to the work and exciting marketing on the mind. Access has a great approach to encouraging and facilitating professional growth to get the most out of their people and I’m looking forward to finding out how far I’ll come and contribute to the agency.

My time here has only just begun but the signs are very promising...

Top 10 skills you need to be a (super) Digital Project Manager

What is Digital Project Management?

Dark art, witchcraft, science? I would like to say it’s a culmination of all those things (well, maybe a little less of the witchcraft).

Project Management is a broad field. Everyone has their own style and areas of specialism, which is why it can be difficult to define the role. Fortunately, we’ve been interviewing for an apprentice project manager so we’ve been thinking about this a lot!

Want to know what makes the ideal digital project manager?

Our 15th Birthday in Pictures

“We’ve just got our photos back from the developers!”

No smart phones. Few had even seen a digital camera. People went to shops to get their photos developed. Can you imagine?

Records indicate this was a very different time. Computers only had two digits to record the year. Everyone was worried about this.

Not Simon Landi and John Neate. This was 1999 and they’d just celebrated the launch of their new advertising business. In just seven more years they’d be able to post pictures of their celebrations to Facebook.

One Millennium bug and a Mayan apocalypse later…

Access, we are fondly told, started as a conversation in the back of a taxi. No one can quite agree where this taxi came from or where it was going to, but the last 15 years have left plenty of landmarks for us to trace the evolution of the agency.

The 15 years of Access timeline tells the story of the agency – the work, the people, the clients, and era defining events that influenced us all.

Unlike our esteemed founders, we don’t have to wait five years to share a picture. Today, Access has all the developers it needs in-house. Here’s a selection of images from our 15th Birthday celebrations.

Here’s to the next 15!


Access celebrating 15 years in integrated marketing

Agency supporting continued growth of Manchester digital sector

I founded Access with John Neate back in 1999. 15 years on and we're thrilled to say the business is recognised as one of the North West’s premier full service digital marketing and advertising agencies.

Together with Sarah Parker, Creative Director and Mark Hope, Digital Director, we've grown a diverse roster comprising multinational B2B engineering and manufacturing companies, consumer brands, public sector departments and charities.

Access set out to provide ‘big’ agency quality with a personal touch. We’re proud to have stayed true to our original goals while contributing to Manchester’s elevation to Europe’s ‘second digital city’ after London.

A member of the Government backed GrowthAccelerator initiative, we're currently enjoying double digit growth year on year with clients such as BAFTA among our recent high profile wins.

Our work clearly shows we love this city, but we’re not exclusive. Becoming the lead agency partner to the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 was an early highlight, but half of our recent client wins have come from London and the South East. It’s an exciting time for us and we’ve been busy recruiting some of the brightest talent in the North West.

Among several appointments this year, we recently announced the launch of a new Content department to enhance our digital offer and provide clients with a seamless inbound marketing service. Meanwhile, our development team is multiplying in line with several new contract wins.

To remember the last 15 years, we've created an infographic juxtaposing the agency’s milestones alongside major industry developments and era defining events.

Check out the infographic

View of the infographic

South By South West (SXSW): So much greater than the sum of its parts.

Mark Hope trying out Oculus Rift

From its beginnings as a music conference and festival in 1987, attracting 700 registrants to Austin TX, SXSW quickly established itself and grew – fuelled by the growing international interest from the creative community – with Film and Interactive components being added in 1994.

"SXSW's original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or interactive technologies.”

The Interactive element (SXSWi) is now a thing in its own right, attracting huge crowds to Austin every year, with official attendance doubling within the past four years to reach 32,000 for 2014. It’s the annual conference where it's expected that ‘the next big thing’ in tech will be revealed - possibly as Twitter ‘launched’ there (or at least gained traction and a lot of buzz) in 2007, and expectations are therefore high.

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