NABS Creative Speed Mentoring – Thursday 18th October 2012
The lovely new Karmarama offices in Farringdon served as the setting for NABS’ first Creative Speed Mentoring event bringing young practitioners face to face with some of the most prestigious creative names in the industry.
These included: • Caitlin Ryan, executive creative director, Proximity London • Dave Buonaguidi, founder & chief creative officer, Karmarama • Justin Barnes, creative director, SapientNitro • Nick Darken, executive creative director, Albion • Rosie Arnold, deputy executive creative director, BBH & president, D&AD • Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT • Steve Aldridge, creative partner & chairman, Partners Andrews Aldridge
Zoe Osmond, NABS CEO took to the raised white stage in Karmarama’s ‘Town Hall’ and welcomed everyone, setting the scene for this fun, frothy, fast paced event.
Oli Barrett (Co-Sponsorship Agency) and MC for the night then gently eased the audience into the concept of speed mentoring. Everyone was given one minute and asked to strike up a conversation with someone they didn’t know. By the time we’d all done this a few times, we were ready to speed mentor for real!
Delegates were asked to sit at a table, leaving a space for a mentor. After each ten minute session the whistle blew, and mentor or delegates moved to another table. There was a large audience on the night, drawn in by the opportunity to quiz some of the brains behind some of the UK’s most iconic ad campaigns.
Many pearls of wisdom were shared on the night, but here is a round-up of some of the advice we managed to overhear. There was only one complaint on the night and that was that everyone wanted more time with the mentors!
Some advice from Steve Aldridge:
Q: What made you hire the last person? A: It wasn’t just about her work being different – she also lived the life. She was building her own website, blogging and doing interesting things off her own back. She was interesting as a person not just as a creative and I enjoyed talking to her. I learnt something from her.
Q: What was your most difficult experience starting out? A: It was getting a permanent job. I don’t know if you are ever accepted as a creative; it’s all tied up with that creative insecurity. It’s quite hard to deal with. Every pitch is a test that demands your best work. You have to believe in yourself. Trying too hard to please people is not the right way to do your best work – your best work should be about answering the brief.
Q: How important is a digital background? A: The resurgence of craft is important. While you need people who understand digital design, it’s about ideas first and foremost that are interesting. I can always find someone who can translate those ideas into digital. The hard bit is the ideas and switching from client to client and understanding different issues and target audiences. You can find the long copywriter or flash developer, but the person who comes up with the ideas will always be the celebrity.
Q: As a creative what are you looking for from the brief? A: I need insight into the target audience and something that’s different about that audience. Some advice from Rosie Arnold
Q: What is your ideal planner? A: They should provide incisive simple thought. When we worked on Nicotell for example, the insight was about smoking in places you can’t, such as flights. It was a piece of lateral thinking. Haagen Dazs is another great example. Coming up with the adult angle and making eating ice cream sexy, turned round the category. It was a very clever bit of thinking and that’s what I want from a planner. For any category, ask yourself the question, what if, and start from there.
Q: What do you do when you get stuck and can’t move on? A: Make a cup of tea, get out of the office. If you are working on cars go somewhere, anywhere to experience them. Thoroughly investigate the product. Look at ads you really like and think about how they might look presented as a cartoon, or a thriller or a sitcom etc.
Q: Are you excited by digital? A: Yes. Having an idea and pushing it through different media is very creative. Our experiential work, a stunt if you like with the Cerne Abbas for Lynx that caused loads of commotion and got censored due to nudity was great fun.
Q: Does censorship and boundaries demotivate you? A: Don’t let difficulties of any kind hobble your ideas and don’t modify them simply to get past restrictions. If you are convinced that an idea is great you should go to any length to get it through. Some advice from Caitlin Ryan:
Q: How do you go from being a junior to the next step? A: When you start self-editing to the point that your boss knows that you have got it. You begin to know the good ideas, the ones the client would buy. After all that is what you are paid to do. You know to be commercial and the better you understand the client imperatives the more valuable you are to the agency.
Q: You can feel lost in an agency as a junior. How do you get the briefs? A: Ask for the internal briefs, things like the Christmas party etc. If you do them well that will get you on the radar of seniors. Above all be willing and eager.
Q: I’ve been a freelancer for a while now. How do I and should I get back into the workplace? A: The concept of the big creative department might be on the way out. I need a different team for different projects. I might not need a flash animator on the pay roll all of the time for example. The job of the ECD is to make freelancers feel ownership and bring it all together. Don’t forget the benefits of being a freelancer – it can be good to move around and experience different things.
Q: Creativity is a buzzword. Do you ever feel it’s marching to the beat of its own drum or to that of the client? A: I got into advertising because I’m fascinated by behavioural science. Creativity is about making a connection and doing things in a different way. It’s also about making other people see things in a different way or changing their behaviour and applying creativity to the issue in hand. Some advice from Russell Ramsey:
Q: If you could choose any brand to work on what would it be? A: Think about this in two parts. There’s the client and there’s the brand/product. If you meet the client and they are so conservative you might have a hard time of it even with the best brand in the world. But if you have a client who wants to change things then even if the brand is not the greatest, you might have a great brief. In other words, the best brief out there is probably not the best brand. Similarly a great brand can be an awful brief to work on if the client puts barriers in your way. What’s more you can win a pitch and three months in you realise you don’t want to be working on it. However the arrival of a new client can make all the difference. Remember too that the projects with the most money behind them are not necessarily the best ones to work on. The times when you know you have developed brilliant work is when the client is on the verge of firing the agency because you have pushed the boundaries as far as you can and some; and then the agency wins gold and everything is fine! Tension is good and you have to push the client almost to the brink!
Some advice from Dave Buonaguidi:
Q: What’s your best advice on working with clients? A: Some of the clients in the business are not very ambitious. Your job should be to unlock their ambition. Show them that you can help them become famous for doing something different. Take control of the situation and show them how they could spend their money in a more interesting way. It’s important to challenge things. If something pisses you off, do something about it and take control. Be a lion not a donkey! We are paid by a client to improve his/her business and help them beat off the competition. At Karmarama we don’t enter awards because that’s not about helping clients win. Clients love our attitude and find it refreshing not to see a room full of awards. Clearly too this means we attract a certain type of client. We save ourselves lots of money and time by not entering awards. Don’t worry about what other people do. The most important thing is to do work for your client. Our industry is too insular, gossiping about work and what other agencies are doing. Don’t waste your time. It’s down to you guys to make the industry more interesting. You are better equipped to do this than my generation was!