What is the most creative advertising idea you’ve seen recently?

Recently, I saw a nice idea from Lululemon that takes on the surge in dupe culture (similar product design, but no brand logo). Thanks to a wave of influencers promoting dupes, a growing consumer movement has seen the hashtag #dupe viewed more than 2.7 billion times. But, while giving accessibility to high-end designs, it also encourages fast fashion, and producers of dupes don’t pay workers a fair wage. 

So, Lululemon held a ‘Dupe swap’ where people who had bought Lululemon dupes could swap them for the real thing, bringing a new audience to the brand by showcasing the value of the real thing. What most would consider a threat was made in to an opportunity - using the desire for their product as a way to talk about broader issues in fashion, which the brand has strong core commitments on.

What website(s) do you use most regularly? I’ve always had an interest in science, particularly physics and astronomy. It’s funny how often I read something and, within a week or two, it’s in the national press, but as a far more sensational story without the detail. There’s always something interesting and mind-blowing on there; for instance, in the next six years, we could technically get an alien ‘reply’ from signals we sent out in 1972.

What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?

A Midjourney subscription for the agency. It’s interesting to see the different kind of things we’re all generating, sort of like a creative department pin board, or the bits of work you used to see in the printer tray when you printed something out. Quite a funny spread.

What product could you not live without?

Right now, hayfever nasal spray.

What’s the best film you’ve seen over the last year?

Everything Everywhere All At Once. Visually exciting, funny, a smart storytelling device and just fun.

What film do you think everyone should have seen?

This is one of those questions that I always find tricky. Just one? It depends on my state of mind and mood, even the time of year I watch a film. For instance, It’s a Wonderful Life still gets me every time I watch it at Christmas. I literally sob myself silly; the stoic northerner in me just dissolves.

What’s your preferred social media platform?

Remember Friends Reunited? MySpace? Bebo? There’s the ubiquitous urge to join new social platforms but, as we know, they don’t all last forever. Social is a constantly evolving area, literally week to week. I have a bunch of dormant accounts across dozens of platforms. I rarely post much; I prefer sharing thoughts/images/videos to smaller groups of people via WhatsApp or good old iMessage, to people who’ll actually be interested, rather than boring a wider audience by broadcasting images of my holiday or a bit of DIY I’m particularly proud of. 

I find TikTok really interesting; again, I’m purely a content consumer. I like how they sort of attempt to be responsible (posting in-feed ads to ‘give your thumbs a rest’). They seem to value engagement and narrative - which, from a recent article saying TikTok ads are 64% more effective than other digital media, seems to be working for brands and creators.

What’s your favourite TV show?

It changes by the week. My wife works at Channel 4, so she comes home with lots of recommendations. I am looking forward to the second series of Severance. I also thoroughly enjoyed Bad Sisters and Extraordinary, and Derry Girls [above] is an absolute work of genius. Lots of Irish comedy there. Must be my Irish roots.

What’s your favourite podcast?

I love a podcast. I’m either listening to an audiobook or a podcast to and from work. The perfect podcast is the same length as the average journey to work – 45mins. I do like No Such Thing As A Fish99% Invisible, and there’s a great podcast by Hugh Todd and Dan Dawson called Behind the Billboard - chatting to people who have done the best out-of-home campaigns, the stories behind them, where they got inspiration, how they got them sold and made. It’s like a great post-work pub chat.

What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently?

Uncommon’s Future of Nature work for WWF  [below] is a smart and impactful use of AI using the heritage of famous romantic British artists, which climate change deniers seem to hark back to. A strong idea and with the tools we have today, can be quickly brought to life in a captivating and intriguing way. Also, CALM’s The Last Photo last year was powerful, it's stuck with me.

If you could only listen to one music artist from now on, who would it be?

I’m a fan of soul music. I’d have to go for someone I could sing my heart along to, thinking I was great, but actually closer to sounding like a hungover cat. Marvin Gaye, probably. There’s enough in his catalogue to cover all eventualities.

If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?

Less research. A friend and I joke that if you put the idea of research into research, it won’t get through research. It’s flawed; just ask yourself, or anyone you know, what you do when called, emailed or stopped in the street by a person asking, “We’re doing marketing research. Could you spare a few minutes for your thoughts?”. 

It’s a particular type of person who doesn’t instantly brush them off, get on with their day, and ignore the bribe of a voucher or free sandwiches for a few hours on a Thursday evening. I’m yet to be convinced that a finger-smudged laptop camera can distinguish between my face watching my favourite comedy and watching the news, I’m one of those people who tend to laugh and be concerned in their head rather than on their face. But, when you stick those minuscule, imperceptible changes in a chart, suddenly it looks pretty convincing when it’s in a presentation.

I feel insights and findings would be truer, and more useful, if we create the work and put it in a more real world situation to test and learn. There’s much to learn from the budget brands spend with on social with content creators; they don’t research their posts they just do them. More trust and faith in creativity can improve the development process, make it quicker and more honest, and allow creatives and strategists to respond to findings.

Who or what has most influenced your career?

I’m lucky enough to have worked at some truly great agencies, made brilliant by the talent, effort and attitudes of the people there. I look up to many of those, from founders, juniors, partners, heads of strategy, and CDs - everyone I’ve admired has the same qualities in common; openness, kindness, trust, and a daft sense of humour; they care about the work and those involved in it. There are lots of those types of people who I’ve met while working at Mother; I’m sure it’s no coincidence most of them are running brilliant agencies and nurturing talent all over the world.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

I’ve signed the official secret act twice. Now I’ve told you that… I might be in trouble.