How would you describe your job to an alien?
I’d tell him I was responsible for helping blind dogs relocate their orphan child owners, in the hope he’d look kindly on me and spare my life. If he saw through that and threatened the probe, I’d probably just tell the truth and blither on about selling stuff to people or something.
How did it all start, and how have you got to where you are today?
In 2003 I started an internship at Mother with my creative partner Ben and stayed until they gave us a job. We were there for 8 years and ended up looking after a bunch of projects including PG Tips, Pot Noodle and Boots.
When we began looking for the next opportunity everything on offer felt like a side ways step rather than moving forward. Out of the blue Ed (who we worked really closely with at Mother) was approached by a company called Creature in Seattle and asked if he’d be interested in running the creative lead of their small UK office. It lead to an opportunity for us to run our own agency.
We operate autonomously and independently and 3.5 years later we’ve managed to win enough work and make enough noise to be a well-formed, exciting start-up agency
Which projects that you’ve been involved with, are you most proud of?
There are two that stand out. Our first big win was an Adidas Footlocker pitch, we were up against Mother and BBH. We did some great work during that project including an ad with Snoop.
The other is Carling, we won it a crucial time in the agencies life. It gave us the opportunity to put a stake in the ground and tell people what we were about. The ‘Good but it’s not Carling’ campaign has given us the opportunity to produce a range of work across formats and I’m really happy with the results. It recently reached the heady heights of being tattooed onto someone’s arse.
Our philosophy is that cultural impact leads to financial success for brands and agencies. If you can get people to talk about your work (or tattoo it on their arse) rather than force the conversation then you’re winning and starting to adjust that person’s behavior towards that brand.
What are the biggest challenges you’re faced with in your work at the moment and how do you overcome them?
With my creative director hat on; staying creatively and culturally relevant, continuing to understand the audiences we’re trying to talk to and doing so in away that can play out across all sorts of platforms.
From a management perspective the challenge is to build a company of smart, savvy, creative and strategically sound folk, whatever their job title. We talk about Creature trying to be the best place you’ve ever worked at, and that goes for people that work for us, people who work with us and people who we work for. If we’re getting that right then everything else should be falling into place.
What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career so far?
When I was at university my tutor said to me “You won’t really understand yet but the best piece of advice I can tell you is to give your ideas away”. He was right, at the time we had no idea what he was talking about, we were individual student teams fighting against each other for placements and as far as we were concerned we would protect every idea we had, they were very precious.
It’s only in later years that I realized it’s the truest and best advice you can give anyone because it leads to collaboration, fresh thinking and non-ego driven individuals. The most important thing is seeing your ideas come to life.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently?
They’ve been kicking about for a while now, but I still absolutely love the old pianos that have been put into public spaces. It’s such a simple idea that must have cost next to nothing but yet it brings genuine joy to lots of people and puts a smile on almost everyone’s face that walks past it.
You don’t get a much better example of user generated content (or whatever they call it nowadays?). Giving people the tools to enjoy themselves whilst entertaining others. It makes me think about the opportunities that we have everyday within our industry.
Where do you do your best thinking?
Leaving the office usually helps. I’ve also found I work best between 8 –9.30am. Anywhere that I haven’t got a desktop to tidy.
I’m really excited about the cultural projects that we’re working on. We created a comedy musical inspired by Now That’s What I Call Music 23. We took that to Edinburgh with a 30 strong choir, we co-produced a Eugene O’Neill play at the Southwark Playhouse, we published our first book, we’ve produced and co-directed four music videos (the latest for George The Poet).
It’s about putting the roots to allow us to grow and be creatively prolific outside the worlds of marketing and advertising. One of our first hiring’s was Head of Culture, his responsibility is to build our network of creative doers and find us opportunities to do culturally interesting things.
We’re in the process of co-producing a massive show that will be at the Waterloo tunnels, it’s going to me a retelling of Alice in Wonderland with the theatre group Les Enfants Terribles…watch this space.