The Interview Series // 09

paulgraham

It ain’t new, but guess what? We are dawning on a new age. An age where no medium means more than any other. We’re pretty certain nobody in the communications game is immune. Suddenly ideas, creativity and entrepreneurialism are the new order. It sure is an exciting time to be ‘creatives’; especially young ones like the prococious so-and-so’s that we are. So for your benefit we got in touch with one of the leaders of the new wave – Anomaly London (http://anomalousness NULL.tumblr NULL.com/)‘s founding partner, Paul Graham. Anomaly New York (http://www NULL.anomaly NULL.com/) has changed the face of advertising over the past five years, now Paul’s the man to show the kids in the UK how it’s done. We quiz Paul on the cold, what to put in your folio, how to approach digital and how not to make him scream like a little girl.

Junior: Hi Paul! It’s really friggin’ hot here in Melbourne. Are you freezing over there in London town?

Paul: Anomaly (http://anomalousness NULL.tumblr NULL.com/)‘s launch week in London marked the highest snowfall we’d seen in 25 years. (Here’s the proof! (http://twitpic NULL.com/1av14)) We’re therefore hoping the snow was the only freak incident that week. Is it cold now? Things are warming up nicely. Take that as you will.

Jr: Yikes! From the looks of that pic you’ve been well snowed under. What’s it like for Londoners in the advertising industry at the moment? Is everyone losing their jobs? Is the recession as bad as it sounds?

P: Any business that shares its fortune with others is going to hurt when they hurt, and the world is hurting right now. Nobody is recession-proof (NB: even in upsidedownland (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Australia)), but hopefully those with good ideas, fresh ways of approaching a problem, and the willingness to find ways to get things done on a budget, will be those who make it through.

And we all need to make sure the things we are doing are genuinely worth spending money on. A TV ad needs to be pretty bloody spectacular these days to merit that investment, when you could be ploughing it into something potentially more interesting, and with potentially more return. The trick is to think of everything with commercial eyes, and then apply your creativity to the right answer, not just the easiest one, or the one you gave last time and the time before…

Jr: We’re so glad you brought that up early – thinking with commercial eyes. It’s clearly where we need to start focusing our energy. We really admire Anomaly for thinking that way (http://money NULL.cnn NULL.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/02/01/8398979/index NULL.htm?postversion=2007021305) and obviously you do too. So what can we as juniors do to prepare our folios for an agency that operates like yours? Are the days gone of a folio full of print campaigns?

P: The days of folios full of print campaigns were over a long time ago for some. Ask yourself this question: do you prefer awards for your creativity, or rewards for your creativity? If the answer is the first, a folio of print will do you fine for a few more years, if your answer is the second, apply your clearly enormous intellect and creative mind to coming up with something cool that people actually want and are willing to pay you for. And get in touch with me…

Jr: Before this project you were the managing partner at Saint (http://www NULL.saintlondon NULL.co NULL.uk/), the digital arm of RKCR/Y&R (http://www NULL.rkcryr NULL.com/). You obviously had a lot of time to ponder over the future of digital. As Gen-Y’s, we’re supposed to be leading the charge, yet many are still coming to terms with it as a communication medium. How can we best prepare ourselves for working in an industry that is quickly hailing digital as it’s leader?

P: Don’t think of it as a medium. Think of it as a way that allows you to do all the things you do in (shock) real life, but further, deeper, more often, in new ways. What the hell does that mean? Aeons ago it took someone hours to run from Marathon to Athens to convey the news of a victory in battle, whilst today you can know what happened in a train crash before the news crews arrive due to Twitter (http://www NULL.twitter NULL.com/lifeatthebottom). In both cases, humans wanted the knowledge, but digital just makes it a whole lot easier than running 26.2 miles. Or at least I’m pretty sure Pheidippides (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Pheidippides) would think so.

So what does that mean for your career? Think of the things you like in life, the ways you talk to your friends and share experiences and compare notes, the things you wish you could do but you can’t. Then think of new ways to do all of the above, and find a clever digital way to do it. What does that mean for brands? They need to find a use in the digital space, one that benefits users by allowing them to do something they couldn’t before and in return benefits the brand by giving them a new platform to show what they’re about.

Jr: You seem to have shot up the ladder pretty quickly in the advertising game. We know it can be fickle at the best of times. A lot of juniors struggle with insecurities and backing their convictions. How have you dealt with critisism and difference of opinion to get to where you are now?

P: I’d like to hope that is exactly why I am where I am now. In each of the reviews with superiors I have had in my time, I have always wanted to know what I was woeful at rather than what I was great at. Each time I vowed to be the best at each of those things by the time my next review came around, and each time I was. I doubt myself every day. I fail at something every day. I worry about whether something was good enough, or wide of the mark, every hour of every day. I constantly question whether there’s a better way to think about a problem. Nothing’s ever good enough is it? There could always be another viewpoint, a better answer I haven’t considered, couldn’t there? And that’s ok.

Jr: Absolutely. The sooner you can come to terms with this the better we say. As a planner and now partner in a business, what can a junior do to become better at working with you in an agency? How can a newbie exceed your expectations and learn the most from you?

P: Scare the living daylights out of me, by knowing something I don’t, by having opinions I’ve barely begun to get my head around. Good people surround themselves with good people. Great people surround themselves with people far better than them. I thrive by having bright people around me, changing how I think of the world, challenging what the right next step is. My gut reaction to something is generally good with the right provocation. But I need that provocation from others.


Jr: Finally, what’s the best way to get your attention as a junior looking to get inside your agency? Will a witty email suffice or do you expect something a little more engaging to get you interested?

P: A witty email will sit with the hundred other witty emails, until I finally get to it after all the important work emails of the day (or week). But then, a ‘wacky attack’ is likely to leave me thinking you’re weird, unsurprisingly. Which means I’ll probably ignore it, or depending on quite how strange it was, I might even scream like a girl and run in the other direction. So what do you do? Think about what is important to me, what is important to Anomaly, and be that thing. Be that thing moreso than any other person in the world. And then get in touch. Because by then we’ll be listening.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 04/03/2009