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Case Study

McCann Birmingham

Who are McCann?

Helping Brands Earn a Meaningful Role in People’s Lives

Having been let down by a previous digital marketing apprenticeship provider, the UK’s largest marketing communications agency, McCann turned to Apprentify for support. Discover how we helped McCann trust in us as an apprenticeship provider and how we futureproofed their organisation with tomorrow’s talent.  

McCann is a global marketing communications agency with over a century of experience, focused on its mission to help brands earn a meaningful role in people's lives. 

As an international agency, McCann is split into different sister companies. McCann Worldgroup comprises Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America. McCann Central, the UK's largest marketing solutions agency network, has a presence in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London and Milton Keynes.

With clients spanning multiple industries, McCann has worked with some of the world's most notable companies - from Coca-Cola, Barclays, JCB and Comic Relief, to name a few.

For this case study, we'll focus on McCann Birmingham, established in 1986 with more than 300 people and over 25 awards to its name. What's more, they're huge advocates for apprenticeships.

McCann's Challenge

Finding the Right Apprenticeship Provider

Before we approached McCann, they had recruited an individual to work as part of the Media Team. McCann enrolled their recruit on a digital marketing apprenticeship course with a different provider. This provider failed to notify McCann and the learner that an SEO assignment had not been completed. Because of this, the apprentice could not complete the apprenticeship through no fault of their own. 

Despite the apprenticeship provider's failures, McCann was impressed by the apprentice's contributions. Additionally, as McCann are advocates for apprentices and early careers, they were open to working with a different provider - they just needed one they could trust. 

So when we approached McCann in 2019, we assured them they gain a top talent who could progress their career and that of McCann. We also emphasised that they would have the support and be kept up to date throughout the journey. Ultimately, the decision to partner with us was a relatively straightforward one.

"We met with Sally Ann (Head Of Commercial at Apprentify)and Paul (Paul, Managing Director / Founder, Apprentify) here in McCann Birmingham, where they explained a lot about what they offer and how it's tailored to the specific apprenticeship we were talking about, which was digital marketing. 

(...) I remember Sally Ann talking us through the process Apprentify go through if there were to be an area of concern, we would be informed straight away and part of the solution if there's ever any elements of something that's not going well, you'll know about it straight away."


Rebecca Philbin, Senior Talent Development Manager, McCann Central

Senior Talent Development Manager, McCann Central

Rebecca Philbin

“There’s a lot of different reasons why we love apprenticeships. For me personally, it’s about the way that it's such a leveller in terms of the learning that you get is so broad. And it really prepares you and brings you into the world of work in such a structured and safe way.”

Our Solution

Shaping Success for McCann and their Apprentices

After liaising with Rebecca and the McCann team, we concluded the best solution was to enrol two apprentices on our Level 3 Digital Marketer course. Having passed our Assessment Centre, we presented McCann with Katelyn and Charlotte. Soon, the pair would join the McCann Media Team as Digital Media Assistants.

“Apprentify were great when we were discussing the different apprenticeships that they offered, and specifically, we wanted to work with them for the digital marketing apprenticeship. I was really impressed with the breadth of support that they were showing, that they offer not just to the individual and the learner, but also the amount of information I get as the Talent Development lead. So that was what really struck us.”


Rebecca Philbin, Senior Talent Development Manager, McCann Central

During the course, a similar challenge occurred to the one McCann’s previous provider had failed to overcome. Sharon Seel, The Development Coach working with Katelyn and Charlotte, notified McCann that the apprentices needed to complete an SEO-related assignment. As this was not part of the apprentice’s day-to-day role, we had to ensure McCann’s SEO team could support the apprentices in completing the required task. 

Our Development Coach arranged a call with Rebecca and McCann's Head of SEO to figure out the best solution for Katelyn, Charlotte and McCann - and that's what we did, as Rebecca explained.

We had an element flagged by the Development Coach that the teams needed to get a bit of exposure into SEO, which was just the example that I gave at the start to say that is what tripped us up in the past. (I) jumped on a call with the curriculum leader, with the manager and with the Development Coach, where the curriculum leader asked, ‘right, what can we do then?’ We brought the Head of SEO in and he said, ‘would this project be OK? They can work on this?’ Great, sorted! So we were able to really quickly find a solution that worked for everyone, that made sure they (Katelyn and Charlotte) got what they needed to get that distinction. So for me we're just really impressed.

When we spoke with Rebecca for this case study, it was clear the solution we provided had exceeded McCann's expectations. In addition, Rebecca was highly impressed with how we consider the local community and diverse candidates when sourcing tomorrow’s talent. 

Rebecca Philbin
Rebecca Philbin
"Apprentify have been brilliant for us, taking our brief that we wanted to see candidates reflective of the communities that we work in. This aligns closely with our approach to inclusion, we look for entry level candidates who are local and can travel easily to our sites. We aim to open doors into our industry which has struggled with diversity but is making progress by focussing on attracting diverse talent and supporting them to progress."

Rebecca Philbin

And myself, I'm from a working-class background in Manchester, so I may not have thought advertising was a career I could go into and then here I am 12 years later.”

Without going off topic too much, we wanted to highlight how Rebecca, the Senior Talent Development Manager at the UK's largest marketing communications agency, is currently completing an apprenticeship herself - albeit with a different provider. It shows that no matter what level you are at, whether you're starting or experienced in your field, there's always room to better yourself.

Rebecca would add how impressed McCann and herself were with the calibre of talent we presented and how we worked with them.  

“There's things like the calibre of the applicants and the candidates that you get because of that robust assessment centres, that everyone goes through. And when it comes to the things like coach to learner ratio, that's just where you want to see it in terms of the, the coaches don't have 60 people that they're looking after and and you know that you're apprentices are going to get that attention. And I think the way that they work with us in terms of keeping us up to date on all we've got this new apprenticeship out isn't pushy.

When it comes to the learning, digital is the way now, so working with a digital first learning provider, they've worked out a lot of the kinks that a lot of us have then struggled through in the last two years trying to adapt things. So when it comes to the way the learning's delivered, it's seamless as far as I can see, I've not heard of any problems from the teams.”

Rebecca Philbin, Senior Talent Development Manager, McCann Central


Two Distinctions and Two More Recruits

For me, results speak for themselves. The first apprentice that we enrolled has come out with a distinction. Now. I'm not saying that's all on Apprentify, Charlotte has definitely done a heck of a job with everything. But for me, that's where you the evidence kind of speaks for itself, where we are getting people, through great people, who are wanting to stick with us. And that will be the testament, that people are staying with us and their career is just going to progress and progress.”

Rebecca Philbin, Senior Talent Development Manager, McCann Central

We’re proud to say that Katelyn and Charlotte passed their Level 3 Digital Marketer apprenticeships with Distinctions. It's safe to say McCann has been more than happy with the pair's contributions, and they both have bright futures ahead, as Rebecca emphasised.

They've (Katelyn and Charlotte) come in and the feedback has been incredible throughout the teams where they've just absolutely flown. And of course, they've got all the support that we can give them and that they've got through Apprentify.(...)They're doing so well. I've not heard anything other than they're doing bloody brilliant. We'll see them progress and I won't be surprised if we see progression and promotion happening fairly soon.”

The future looks bright

In the future, our partnership with McCann won't stop here. After Katelyn and Charlotte's success, McCann took on two more digital marketing apprentices with us. What's more, McCann is interested in seeing how our solution and other courses can benefit the different departments of their business, as Rebecca would say. 

“Well, for me it is about how we're able to bring apprentices into other parts of the business, we've got such good case studies with the media team in terms of the success that they're having, the track record that Apprentify have had. I would love to bring more apprentices in and maybe do some of the higher level apprenticeships with Apprentify.”

McCann Birmingham 

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