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I am a maker; always have been. Makers solve problems. In a world of talkers, we make the things they talk about. We walk the walk – and ironically talk the talk with more authenticity as a result. Making temporarily satisfies that hunger which imagination creates. I relish the problem-solving that follows the initial spark of an idea; from vision to pencil sketch to research to collaboration to crafted product. Whether the result is a painting, story, film, garden space or piece of architecture, it’s the journey I love. I have a strong track record of creating brand platform ideas out of authentic insights which can be expressed in multiple channels. Ideas that win pitches and transform businesses when implemented with conviction and imagination. Ideas that have been expressed as communications campaigns, digital platforms, products, experiences and events. I am a challenger; competition is in my blood. The second child of two, I have always had to compete. After rowing for Great Britain, I blended life-lessons learned on the water with my experiences at art college. This fusion of competition and art lead me to advertising and my first D&AD award, while still a student. Twenty years later I still gravitate towards situations where I can help level the playing field for brands, causes and agencies. I’m drawn to the underdog and challenging the status quo. I am a leader; by example, rather than by appointment. International rowing taught me that leadership emerges out of adversity. Leaders sit within teams, not apart from them. Time spent with the armed forces showed me that leadership is a fusion of inspiration, perspiration, communication, collaboration and humour. Creative leadership means ensuring you never leave a situation with less than when you arrived. Criticism must be supplemented with direction, inspiration and encouragement. Anyone can say no. Few can say why. Fewer still, can’t point the way to success.
I joined The Gate because I was attracted by the transformation opportunity, creative autonomy and the chance to work with industry oracle Dave Trott. Although the business was not as secure as a network agency I felt I possessed the skills, vision and determination to create my own security. At least I felt I was master of my own creative destiny. Responsible for twenty creatives and designers, the challenge was to help unify the remnants of two merged agencies (something I had experienced at Lowe Lintas and DraftFCB), create an effective agency positioning and revitalise the stagnant creative product. Oh…all with an ever diminishing departmental budget. This has involved recruiting and mentoring junior teams whilst instilling a sense of strategic creative rigour across the rest of the agency. The Gate previously had little film and television experience. So I have helped create a strong reel of diverse, effective work on very tight production budgets. Striking a deal to outsource TV production to Gramercy Park Studios gave us premier league production talent without the internal overheads. All our current clients have been won in the past three years, with a 60% creative pitch conversion rate, and there are now fifteen case studies for successful campaigns within that period. I co-developed Predatory Thinking into an effective agency positioning and unifying internal brand culture, delivering a strong competitive edge for our clients. In 2015 The Gate was voted the most recommended agency by its clients in The Drum satisfaction survey. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster – sprinting to stand still. I have learned huge amounts about pitching, developing client relationships and our inability to charge effectively for the product we create. I have the satisfaction of knowing that without my appointment, pitch wins, and creative leadership, the agency I joined in 2013 would no longer be in business.
I was asked to lead the creative department by CEO Kate Howe, taking over from Mark Fiddes. Succession management had always been part of my move to DraftFCB. It just happened quicker than I imagined. I led the creative output of the London office, hiring Steven Bennett-Day as Digital Creative Director and supporting Jo Wallace in her role as Creative Director on the pan-European Nivea business. I was also a member of the DraftFCB European Creative Council. DraftFCB had a broad integrated channel output encompassing advertising, digital, CRM and retail channels. In 2012 we were awarded at Creative Circle, Kinsale Sharks, BTAA and D&AD (Sported & Oreo) for the first time in DraftFCB London’s history. As much as I enjoyed the creative success we achieved locally I found the inter-network politics of the pan-European accounts a barrier to creating the best work for brands. I have always found that the greatest things happen when no one minds who takes the credit.
I joined in a supporting role to ECD Mark Fiddes, consolidating the previous creative director and digital creative director roles. The brief was simple - make the work better across the diverse channel offering: advertising/direct/retail/CRM. Over 18 months, I overhauled the creative department, recruiting talented young teams and instilling the rigour I had learned at Lowe across the Oreo, Nivea for Men, Post Office, Sported and Jamaican Tourist Board brands in particular. My digital knowledge was also enhanced by completing the Swedish HyperIsland course. In 2012 I chaired the jury at the MAA Best Awards.
VCCP was on a roll in 2009, in contrast to Publicis which had lost momentum after Nik Studzinski left for Droga5. Having met VCCP ECD Steve Vranakis on the Roses Awards jury, I agreed to an initial six month contract in a supporting role to Steve and Darren Bailes, freeing them up to concentrate on new business and key accounts. I headed up the O2 and Texaco accounts across advertising, digital, direct and retail channels. I also supported the agency new business drive, winning the advertising pitch for Totaljobs.com with the line: ‘It’s not luck, it’s totaljobs.com”. VCCP was Marketing’s Agency of the Year in 2009. With four or five teams working into me, it gave me the taste to run my own department – something I realised would not be possible by staying at VCCP. An opportune phone call about a role at DraftFCB convinced me to trade down agencies for a role with more responsibility.
I was hired by Nik Studzinski to jointly head up the British Army account. I co-wrote and art directed six award winning integrated campaigns, which were recognised at Creative Circle, Revolution Awards, Marketing Society, British Television Advertising & Cannes. During this time we took the Army recruitment campaign firmly into the digital space, including the ambitious live Army on Everest campaign, which was short-listed for the Titanium at Cannes. The final campaign “Send your message to The Best” involved a month long filming expedition to Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Afghanistan. Myself, a producer and cameraman took our lives into our hands to move the advertising beyond ‘safe visual simulation’. 50% of what we filmed in Afghanistan was retained by the MOD as it ‘breached national security’. Gutting. It was a month of finding out first-hand, how bad one part of the human race can treat another. Life-changing. On Pernod Ricard I headed up the Stolichnaya, Ballantines and Beefeater accounts and created the pitch winning global campaign for The Glenlivet.
I joined the mighty Lowe Howard Spink, in a merger where Lintas were very much seen as the lesser half. We were told immediately it was sink or swim. Fortunately I’ve always been a good swimmer. Lowe was the agency that instilled my personal creative standards. Here I learned about creating big ideas and the unrelenting craft of an art director from Charles Inge, Damon Collins, Vince Squibb & Ed Morris. Surrounded by creative geniuses, hopefully some of it rubbed off. Campaigns for Stella Artois, Reebok, Weetabix and Piz Buin were recognised at Creative Circle, Cannes, The Aerial Awards and D&AD - simply what was expected for everyone there. Lowe Lintas was Campaign’s Agency of the Year in 2000. Only the lure of heading up the British Army account, and the waning of the Lowe brand convinced me to leave in 2005.
Armed with a portfolio I had written and art directed myself, I was hired to work with senior Art Director Fraser Adamson. Call it bravery. Call it foolishness on his part. He saw something and I am eternally grateful. It was my break into the London advertising scene. Four months later we were both sent to Buenos Aires to sort out a major assignment for Unilever - the Rexona business across Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico.
After graduating, I quickly established a small client base through family contacts including companies such as Old Mutual and Rockwell Industries. Living at home and with little overheads I was able to undercut established design companies. Not great business, but a great way to learn. In the evenings I would travel to London to get crits on my advertising portfolio from industry experts. I was also able to fit work in around a training twice a day with the Oxford Brookes rowing team as we aimed for international selection.
1995 D&AD Student Award Winner - Advertising.