The Interview Series // 22

JUSTIN

For those of you living under a rock, stuck down a well, or ‘have real life’, the Three Drunk Monkeys (http://www NULL.threedrunkmonkeys NULL.com NULL.au) are a Sydney based ad agency that make ads (http://www NULL.threedrunkmonkeys NULL.com NULL.au/index NULL.php/work/), write books (http://www NULL.threedrunkmonkeys NULL.com NULL.au/index NULL.php/case-studies-i-can-do-anything/), direct short films and have even created a television series. We hear so many junior creatives mention their name it’s not funny. “I’d totally move to Sydney to work for Three Drunk Monkeys,” they say. “I’m gonna put my book together and go and see them. My auntie’s cousin is the cleaner at Justin Drape’s mum’s house. They’ll put in a good word.” Then we say, “Sure they will man. You’re a shoe-in. Go for it.” Which of course never happens. So just because we can, and because we’re awesome journalists, we used our emailing skills to woo Justin Drape into giving us an interview. Now you’ll have no excuses when you take your book to see them, because you’ll already know what they’re looking for in a junior, how to present scary work, whether to travel the world, how to deal with industry politics, and whether you can have a life outside of advertising.

Junior: Hey monkeys. So Google tells us your agency is set up to create both ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ outcomes for clients. When and how do you decide what you’re going to do with a brief and whether it’ll be an ‘ad’ or ‘not an ad’?

Justin Drape: A brief might ask for a TV and press ad, but you can always take an idea beyond these channels. For UBank (http://www NULL.ubank NULL.com NULL.au) we created press and TV ads but we also created an 8-part web-series called MoneyBox (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=z7VkPJB2WoU). It’s been a great success for them and is currently playing as part of Qantas’ in-flight entertainment.

It’s also best when the relationship with clients works both ways. If we come up with an idea that we think is great for their brand without a brief we’ll always set up a meeting and try to sell it. And if we come up with an idea that we like that doesn’t necessarily have a brand involved we’ll try to find a way to make that too.

Jr: Sounds like you’re doing just what every junior wants to be doing these days. Have you got any advice on how to present work like that to clients? How do you sell-in non-traditional work that seems a little ‘scary’?

J: Be passionate about the work you present. Passion’s contagious. And let clients know that you’ve got an idea that’s different to what they may have seen before and try to sell them in on the idea of your idea. Don’t suddenly turn up with a smoke machine and tell them how you want to launch their new product in space. They’ll think you’re insane. And they may not like smoke.

Jr: That’s simple enough. So who would you hire first: A script-writer or a copywriter?

J: Both roles have a similar mindset, but they require a different skill set so it depends on the project a writer would be working on and the quality of their ideas. There’s no point reading beautifully written pap in any medium.

Jr: That’s totally true. I guess you’re saying that if you’re a good conceptual writer then you’ll be just the writer the monkeys will be interested in. So TDM is one of ‘those’ agencies that every AWARD and RMIT kid knows about. What’s the actual chance you’ll hire straight out of school? Where does ‘fresh talent’ fit in your business?

J: Again, it depends on the quality of their ideas. We’re not ageist in any way. Becky Alperstein joined us recently and she finished in the top 10 at AWARD this year. And Michael Hughes – aka Cousin Mick – works with us. He won AWARD school in 2008.

Jr: So if you were eighteen again, fresh out of high school, and wanted to work for an agency like yours, would you go straight to AWARD school? Or would you do something else?

J: It can work both ways. I didn’t do AWARD school until I was 24, so I’d travelled around the world and lived a little. But having said that, it took me a lot longer to grow up than it does for most people.

Jr: Did you have a life in your early twenties? Or did you devote yourself to getting a job and settling into your ‘career’?

J:I found it hard to devote myself to anything in my early twenties. I set up a design business then sold the rights for my artwork to appear on greeting cards, t-shirts, clocks, etc… Moved to London, exhibited and sold some paintings there and in the US. Worked as a porter in a fancy hotel. Travelled across Europe. Lived in Miami for a bit. Arrived back to Oz completely broke and was advised by friends and family that ‘maybe it’s time to get a ‘real’ job.’ I’m not sure if this is what they were talking about.

Jr: You guys have collaborated with some big companies in New York, London, Tokyo and elsewhere. Do you think it’s possible to be a global competitor in Australia?

J: Yeah, thanks to the wonders of the inter-web everybody anywhere can see your work now, so if a client thinks your work’s great they’ll find a way to work with you. I guess the challenge for any agency is to maintain a great standard of work that attracts clients in the first place, regardless of where they’re based.

Jr: We’re not sure if it’s just us, but the Australian advertising industry seems to be bitchier than most. And when you’re a tall poppy such as yourselves, you can be in the firing line quite a lot. How do you deal with the politics of this industry and what’s your advice to the kids who are about to become part of it?

J: Only listen to people who you respect and trust. They will only critique your work in an attempt to make it, and you, better.

And don’t listen to Anonymous. He’s the most prolific critic around. Legend has it that nobody has actually met him because he’s too scared to deal with people in person. He lives in a cave of self-loathing somewhere with a kick-ass wireless connection.

Jr: That’s some pretty crucial advice for sure. Here’s a good question: Do you guys have a life outside of advertising? Is that something we should be leaving until we’re older or is it possible?

J: Pop legends Milli Vanilli once sang All or Nothing and there’s certainly some truth in those lyrics, even though they didn’t actually write them, or sing them…

It’s now 11.43pm and I’m still in the office so I guess that’s kind of the answer in itself. I better go home now.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 14/10/2009