(L-R) Dave Lucas, Kevin Sung, Kevin McEwan and Steve Underwood, co-founders of Bonded.
Chloe Shakesby

"The importance of people has been sidelined": Bonded founder Steve Underwood talks human connection in digital media

Four digital media experts are championing human connection as they launch a new agency in the North East.

Bonded, which launched last week, has been founded by Steve Underwood, former managing partner of Dentsu, Kevin Sung, who was also part of Dentsu and WPP, Kevin McEwan, former director of Carat, and Dave Lucas, who managed Mediavest until 2011.

Bdaily spoke to Steve Underwood about the importance of human connection, the decision to launch the agency and why it fills a gap in the market.

What does Bonded do?

We provide full funnel digital and media services, which means that we will create a strategy that we will then deliver and go through a four stage connected planning process.

Firstly, we will connect to the client, and from that we can establish objectives and what audiences are relevant. Then we’ll look at ad activity, whether a mix or single channel is appropriate.

This can be anything from digital advertising and out of home, above the line media, TV, radio, press, search marketing, social media or emails - basically anything that will engage the audience.

So how does Bonded differ from other digital and media agencies?

All four of the founders have more than 15 years of experience working in the sector. I previously ran an independent agency and from that experience I came to understand that the market is cluttered.

Off the back of that, we were keen to establish a belief, a reason that we exist - and we are based on a belief of connection, to clients and to audiences.

It’s aligned with the belief that the importance of people has been sidelined by the amount of cutting edge technology that is available. That’s the value behind the ‘Bonded’ name.

Why did you decide to launch Bonded now?

We’d all worked together before at global agencies and we share the same belief. Also, we could all see that there’s a gap in the market. We’re bringing our experience to the North East market.

To be honest, it’s an idea that sparked at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was very unsettling, so it was this conflicting set of emotions whether with timing this was a good idea. But it’s a better time than ever to launch this. There’s exponential growth in the digital market.

How do you think the aftermath of the pandemic will affect the launch of the agency?

This has been hugely considered. It’s such a unique period to be launching a new business, but ultimately we grew in confidence. We have minimal concerns about growth in our area, and the reason is twofold.

Many companies are pivoting towards ecommerce and digital enablement and we can help brands grow. There’s almost been a compression on ad spend that’s now being released. It almost feels like a lot of brands are looking to catch up on an amplified need.

A lot of agencies talk about being specialists, but we’re going the other way. We offer a broad range of services so that we can fulfill that desire to connect - and it’s hard to connect if you’re a single service agency.

What does the future look like for Bonded?

We’d like to grow - we have plans and active conversations about apprentices and so on and are setting up a training academy. There’s real value in the North East to be a hub. We do want to expand into other cities, but for now we feel there’s a real sense of excellence for digital media here.

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