What have you learnt from your 20+ years running Adido?

This was a question I was asked in a recent interview for my son’s school newsletter. It's something I very rarely stop to reflect on, preferring to keep both feet firmly in the present, with one eye looking ahead to the future.

But perhaps now is the right moment to take a brief nostalgic step back in time. Next month, Adido turns the ripe old age of 21. It's quite a significant milestone and a pretty good innings if you ask me, especially when you consider just how competitive digital marketing can be as an industry. What began as a tiny start-up in a dingy student front room, is now a successful, award-winning agency with over two decades’ experience under its belt.

Let’s take a trip back in time.

It’s June 2003. Tony Blair is Prime Minister (a Labour government – imagine that!), George W Bush is president, Beyonce has just dropped Crazy in Love and Google looks like this:

Google 2003 image

My Co-founder Alex and I (along with our two other founders Gary and Ross) were just fresh-faced graduates with a pocket full of dreams rather than a wallet full of cash. Fast forward to 2024 and while we might be a little less fresh-faced, we still have the same desire and drive to deliver great results for our clients.

No rose-tinted glasses here though – we’ve had many ups and similarly, we’ve had our fair share of downs too. But one pandemic, six (I lose count!) office moves and several hundred cups of coffee later, here we are. And why are we still here? Thanks to our brilliant team and clients past and present who have pushed, challenged and motivated us to be the best agency we can be.

I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about something that has really come into focus in recent years. It's sometimes hard to believe that four years ago we were in the grips of lockdown. During the pandemic, myself and the Adidio team had a lot of time for introspection - a chance to take stock, stop and think. What did we want to stand for? How did we want to act? After playing with many words to describe our values, one word in particular stood out.


Candid is one of those words that can have negative connotations (similar to the often-used ‘disrupt’ which crops up a lot in brand marketing) but after a lot of back and forth, it has remained one of our anchor values.

Can being candid ever be a good thing for an agency? For many years, we'd often been credited (sometimes slated) for being too candid and honest as an agency. Most clients welcomed this approach, appreciating being told what we felt they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. Some didn’t welcome it though and promptly legged it over to other agencies who were more than willing to promise the earth. Oh well. Their choice.

Our greatest successes nearly always come as a result of being able to give the client straight-talking advice and having those clients take our guidance on board. Does it sting when clients dislike this approach and subsequently go elsewhere? Oh goodness yes. Does it mean I’m tempted to alter the way we do things? Not for a second. Compromising our integrity is not something I’m willing to do. After all, in terms of building trust and respect, honesty can go a long way. We want the client to succeed, and we can only help them achieve that if trust is at the heart of our working relationship.

It's one thing to litter the word ‘candid’ throughout shiny marketing material, but it’s another when reality bites and money is at stake (lost clients = lost jobs). But our candid approach in recent years has been incredibly helpful in setting out who we are from day one. Case in point - this Spring, I was asked to pitch to a large Dorset-based business. We had a chat for an hour at their office and at the end of the meeting, I had to explain (with a heavy heart) that we weren’t the right agency for them. Quite simply, we couldn’t give them what they wanted, despite the sizeable budget being dangled before us.

Herein lies the problem - there are many agencies who are all too happy to charge for work that will ultimately end up being of little value to the client. Adido will never be *that* agency. By being candid with that particular client in Dorset, I was able to leave them with a better understanding of what would actually help, rather than selling them a pipedream. Was this a case of cutting of our nose to spite our face? Possibly. After all, we didn't win the contract, but what we did do was make damn sure the client left with a good impression of Adido.

The trade-off of course is that we will never be the biggest agency in the world, or even in Bournemouth, and in truth, we don't want to be. Being a small agency means we can really put our heart and soul into delivering for existing and new clients, offering a truly bespoke – and honest - working relationship.

Here's to another 21 years?

What will the world look like in 2045 I wonder? Will Google *still* be the go-to search engine? (I’d be surprised if it makes it to 2025 on its current course, let alone 2045!). Will AI have finally stopped churning out sub standard content littered with words like ‘elevate’ and ‘leverage’? Will I still be here? Will Adido still be here??

I hope so. I love this agency and the fantastic group of people who have made it a successful, inspirational place to work during the past 21 years. I also love the broad spectrum of incredible clients we’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past two decades. From PPC and SEO to web design and development, Adido has only been able to evolve and thrive as a result of the many businesses we’ve delivered for since 2003.

As a final note, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Adido. One thing is for certain though – whatever happens, we will always stay true to our core values.

Happy 21st birthday Adido - it's been a heck of a ride!

Adido boys 2003 min image
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Meet the author ...

Andy Headington


Andy has been part of Adido since it was an idea in a pub nearly twenty years ago. He loves to work with the Adido team and all of the clients on board asking challenging questions and ...