The thing about being a creative in advertising is that most of the ideas and work you do will, by and large will be killed. Either internally, by clients or by some weird mid-west American research group.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Originally from London, I graduated in 1995 with a degree in Design Management and spent a couple of years working in a small ad agency. I became increasingly disillusioned in the UK and decided to leave for Asia. I didn’t own a computer until 1997 and decided to teach myself Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop and back then Fireworks.

I spent seven years in Singapore. Three and a half as a web designer for a dot com digital design company. Working long hours through the night creating websites and CD-Roms. These were the years I really learnt the craft of digital. Then I followed my passion for advertising and spent four years as Interactive Creative Director at Ogilvy. It was there I began to understand the importance of ideas over technology from some  of the truly great and inspirational ad men.

Eventually I left Asia and spent three years in San Francisco. First as Interactive Creative Director for Goodby Silverstein & Partners and then at Hal Riney. In that time I was also a tutor at the Miami Ad School and Academy of Arts San Francisco, teaching non-traditional advertising.

After a decade away I was finally lured back to my hometown. For the last two and a half years I’ve been at BBH London. I’m currently the Creative Director for global projects on Axe/Lynx in all mediums from TV to digital. I’m also the Digital Creative Director on many other brands.

In the last thirteen years I’ve been fortunate to work and live within many different cultures, allowing me to appreciate things from different perspectives and to adapt to other ways of doing things.

Despite my digital roots I enjoy creating ideas regardless of their medium.

What do you do for inspiration?

Learn everything I can about the subject matter. This always helps create opportunities to find something interesting and single minded to say to people.

How do you relax or unwind?

The thing about being a creative in advertising is that most of the ideas and work you do will, by and large will be killed. Either internally, by clients or by some weird mid-west American research group. This can be very frustrating at times. Creative people just need to create, to give birth to their ideas and I think it’s important to find other outlets to help satisfy this craving.

I have always painted and enjoy doing this as often as I can. Nobody can tell me it’s wrong or try to change something about it. The important thing is that I enjoy it and it gets finished and done.

In San Francisco I had an art show with Adidas, where I was commissioned to hand paint a selection of their sneakers in acrylic. This was a lot of fun. Currently I’m working on a new set of canvases for a show in London.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

Always fancied being a shoe designer.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

My favourite part of the job is still that moment when a great idea comes me. It’s exhilarating. I also really enjoy leading a team on a journey that can at times be difficult and stressful, but finally delivers something clients and people like. It can be very satisfying.

Conversely if we have spent a year passionately working on a project, to then finally have the entire thing put in the bin, due to some business reason, or the dreaded focus group, is certainly one of the hardest things to swallow. This happened twice last year. It makes you question what you’re doing in this business. But then something does get through and things feel positive and begin to flow again.

Overall I think it’s important to understand that this is just the way things are. Creatively there will always be from time to time great highs, that are brief and fleeting, followed later by equal lows. Whichever point in time we feel we’re at, one tries to remember the pendulum will swing the other way at some point. So don’t get too down and don’t get too big headed. Not always easy of course.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

In my early days in Singapore I would often work from the morning through the night until lunch time the next day. This would happen once a week. One night I finished a pitch at 4.30am, and slipped and broke my leg on the spiral staircase as I left the building. Ten large screws and a metal plate later, I began leaving work much earlier.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Having been around many craftsmen in my travels from all mediums, and I think the one thing that could be dramatically improved is typography. I love type and get frustrated when even the most basic attention to detail seems lacking.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

My first site was for a construction company in Singapore. I built it using Flash 2 in 1997. I was pretty proud of it at the time. There’s no way I’d show anyone now, not even as a joke, it’s horrendous. Still I am grateful for that time, it allowed me to progress and follow my passion. 

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

I try to absorb as much as I can from other fields. I watch as many films and documentaries as my laptop can handle. I visit art galleries and I’ve also recently enrolled in an evening class learning the craft of portraiture using oils.

Have you been a part of a campaign that was rooted in digital and THEN reached over into other consumer touchpoints? Did this happen organically or was it a part of the plan from the beginning?

The Barnardo’s campaign last year essentially began as a series of rich media banner ads. The great thing about working at BBH in digital is that you can access all the amazing talent and relationships when it comes to film. It’s one of the ways they’ve made their name over the last two decades. ‘A’ list directors and post production houses are used to and are comfortable, working with them. This has allowed me to use this level of film production and point it towards digital.

Jeff Labbe a top director from Sonny Productions, who shot some big Levis commercials for BBH agreed to shoot these banners for us. I couldn’t believe it at the time. He flew out from the US and treated it as any other film. These ads would start out as 300x250 mpu’s then snap to fullscreen HD. He loved the scripts and despite never doing anything for digital was excited to give it a go.

After we had our first rough cuts and the interactivity hadn’t been created yet, our client immediately said she loved them and was blown away. She asked us if we could use it for TV and of course we said ‘yes’. This was the first time I have ever seen a banner go from online to TV, normally it would be the other way around.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

When reviewing work by creative teams from whatever their background at the agency, I always ask them what’s the story, what will make this idea famous? What will get people talking about it in popular culture, beyond the chatter of industry folks? At this point the story is without a medium. Hopefully just a great story. Then we figure out what’s the best way to tell it. It may be a documentary that’s viewed online, with more traditional media driving towards it. Or may be it’s just a mobile application. I’m interested in whatever makes sense for that particular idea. 

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

Myspace Fanvideo. It’s incredibly rare to get to use a famous artist’s piece of music, let alone get to work with nine of them for a bespoke piece of interactivity.

Over the years we have all seen many sites and applications that allow you to personalised upload your photo. But for the fans of these artists to receive a film with them being honoured by their idols in a way they’ve never seen, but importantly totally believe, was amazing. If it didn’t look absolutely believable that 50 Cent was hanging you on his wall then it would fail. But it worked and the fans of these artists were freaked out.

Again we were able to access BBH’s film relationships for production. The team comprised of the head of TV production as our film producer and a great digital producer amongst others. So we were able to use Pulse to direct the shoots, with very little notice, depending on the schedule of each artist. Sometimes we only had half an hour to capture what we needed. The design, editing and the music for the site was done in-house. The footage was then sent over to Absolute Post. As the name suggests they did all the post work. They also created the mattes, which were sent over to Domani Studios in New York, who did their usual magic with the Flash build.  

It was a great team effort and to the credit of the client they were decisive, able to get these artists as promised and we were all very proud of the outcome.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

Absolutely. I learnt very little at design school, except how to have fun. I taught myself from books in the evenings until it became my day job.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Disruption. Creative Directors are busy people who get very little time to look at student books. I always try to see students when I can, but I do get inundated with email requests. We’re in the business of getting our client’s products and services to stand out from their competitors. So why is it I tend to see all the same kind of books? I love to see things that are different. Certainly I’m looking for good ideas, but also ideas beyond a print ad or an obvious web solution. Again, what’s the story? 

How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?

Nowadays I tend to rely on others to keep me up to speed. 

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

The Ferrari 250 GT in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

For me creative technologists are the pipe into our creative department. We have weekly meetings where they feed us new and interesting things. We may not know what to do with some of these at the time, but we sort of bank them for when we have an idea that would be suitable for that technology. There’s also the usual blogs like Mashable and Wired.

question What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

In the last few years I’ve become really interested in film. I’m constantly trying to improve my knowledge in this area.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Love what you do or don’t do it.



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