Microsoft, Ricoh Europe, American Express, UPS, ANFI,
ABInbev (Stella Artois), William Grant & Sons
What is your most vivid memory?
1.17am on the night I proposed to my wonderful wife in Seville’s Alphonso XIII. Though watching Johnny Cash play Glastonbury from the Pyramid Stage monitor desk runs a close second.
What facts of your biography have changed your life?
The responsibility of fatherhood has immeasurably changed my life, both for my three beautiful sons and for my wonderfully talented creative team.
If you had to choose a profession again, what would it be?
I’d found a ‘bootstrap’ space engineering company to expand people’s minds with sustained exploration of the solar system.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Other than never meeting Alexei Leonov and not being an astronaut, life is too short for regrets.
Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Who is this man?
Mentoring the next generation at Momentum’s talent incubator in New Orleans and being respected for my decades-long legacy of coaching creative talent in the art of the total brand experience.
What is something you could never give up?
Hope. Family. My work and the occasional single malt.
What do you fear and what do you want the most?
The thing I fear most is fear itself - particularly the fear of freedom to try new things and challenge the accepted views of what’s possible.
Which traits would you like your children to inherit from you?
Curiosity, humility, get-things-done attitude, and sense of humour…
How did you find yourself in this profession?
I was first bitten by the event-bug as a campus entertainments manager at film school in the late 1980’s, where booking live music gave way to producing dance music events. This experience, along with a few post-college years spent on live music tours, was the foundation of my love for events and their potential as collective cultural experiences.
Back in London and working in TV production, I missed the energy of the live experience and wanted to create more than music events. Luckily, a fledgling event production company in need of immediate and inexpensive help came to the rescue. The next few years producing Burberry fashion shows, launches for Virgin, and trade shows for Rolls Royce were my hands-on grounding in all the technicalities of event production.
With the ambition to transform events into event marketing I found and joined Momentum as a lead producer. Here I honed my creative skills as part of a production team that were also the creative team. Working with great international brands, I quickly rose to the position of Head of Events, but in 2005 decided to concentrate on the agency’s creative product as Creative Director, followed in 2013 as Group Creative Director.
During my 17 years at Momentum, I’ve had the pleasure of creating events across sports and entertainment, corporate and consumer, technologies and automotive, luxury to FMCG, from Brazil to China and almost everywhere in between. During that time I’ve learned that relationships are the key ingredient in creating great event experiences. Trustworthy client relationships are necessary in order to invest in the creative vision and nurturing the relationships I have with my creative team is essential to continually drive fresh thinking and creativity.
The art of listening is the cornerstone of my creative method.
Which event has had the strongest effect on you and why?
In a career packed full of events, I’d say they have all had an effect on me. Keeping an open mind and learning from each one in order to input something new into the next is essential to fresh creative thinking. That said, specific events that have impacted me the most are meetings with great people who have taught me that self-belief makes anything possible as long as you try.
What is the most difficult part in the process of creating?
The most difficult part of the creative process is completing the creative process. Knowing when to let go of an idea is just as important as conceiving the idea in the first place. We are all hugely invested in the nurturing of ideas, but we must also recognise when over-development threatens the initial concept’s simplicity, meaning and truth. In other words, we must use our self-belief to accept when an idea has reached its point of perfection and set it free.
Are there some clichés which you cannot stand and never use in your job?
Clichés are excuses for not having anything else to say.
Which methods do you use to find successful creative ideas?
The art of listening is the cornerstone of my creative method. By that I mean listening to clients to understand their challenges, as opposed to just hearing what they’re asking for. Listening to my team to help them unearth and appreciate the brilliance in their thinking. Listening to my own experience, instinct and gut reaction to ideas as they are conceived and developed. Listening to the audience as they experience our ideas, as a measure of how well the idea resonates and connects.
What skills does a person need to develop in order to be a successful creative director?
First and foremost, creative success comes from being a creative leader rather than a director. In other words, using life’s experience to capture, curate and nurture an idea’s initial spark to realise its full creative — and commercial — potential. Personally, I believe creative leadership is less about skills and more about competencies. Technical skills will always be important, but competencies are essential to finding and developing the meaning and emotional connection that elevate events into memorable experiences. Those competencies — such as Listening, Awareness, Adaptability, Intellectual Horsepower, and Fearless Curiosity — are key to understanding clients’ needs and inspiring the right ideas to meet them.
How do you motivate your team?
Team motivation comes from active encouragement and trust in their ability to create, develop and execute great ideas. My job is to guide and nurture the team to discover ideas for themselves. Simply giving in to the niggling temptation to make everyone’s lives easier by handing over a solution is counterproductive. It undermines team members’ self-confidence and gives them permission to revert to waiting for the solution to be provided rather than facing the challenge of discovering it themselves. In other words, my team produces great creative work because I entrust them with the responsibility of doing so. There is no greater motivation for a creator than being recognised for a great idea made real. Further motivation comes from stimulating the team in a collaborative, multi-specialisation environment where conceptualists, designers, technologists, strategists and producers learn from and work directly with each other. This co-creative approach motivates team-ownership that transforms our events into total brand experiences.
My job is to guide and nurture the team to discover ideas for themselves
Regarding cooperation with clients — what is the most difficult thing for you? Is it always easy to fit creative ideas with a client’s expectations?
It’s very easy to blame a client for poor ideas and execution, but as creative leaders, we must appreciate and counter the challenges they face. Comprehending and responding to their commercial needs establishes relationships in which ideas can be shared and discussed that go way beyond their expectations. Creative ideas should always be fearless, but must also be grounded in market realities. Think of it this way, very often I ask clients who I’ve never met to invest in MY creative vision. Therefore, it’s MY responsibility to convince the client that our expectations creatively and commercially align.
How should the ideal creative brief look and what should it contain?
Short. With to-the-point business context and inspiring insight explaining why the brief exists. Without either it’s pretty much impossible to create ideas that deliver true client value or meaningful audience connection.
How do you bring ideas to life after the campaign?
Making an event a total brand experience ensures longevity beyond the actual ‘live’ campaign. Our belief at Momentum is that it’s what brands do, not what they say, that matters. Our ideas create meaning and connection between brands and their audiences, turning the client’s message into meaningful action that resonates long after the moment has passed.
How deep do you have to merge into the local specifics when creating a production? In which case is it better to go “local” or “global”?
After many years of working with international clients, the perfect production merges both global and local solutions with open-minded collaboration. My team will often offer global governance of the creative idea and core message, but it must always be reproduced with local, on-the-ground expertise and knowledge. Attempting a one-size-fits-all approach to deliver an idea across diverse territories will achieve nothing but a misunderstanding of that idea. If we are trying to create a meaningful connection between brand and a localised audience, it must be delivered with appropriate cultural sensitivity. Without it, it is impossible for the event to be the total brand experience we — and our clients — strive for.