The Interview Series // 10


See this picture above? It’s Eric! Don’t you just want to give him a cuddle? Aww, what a guy. He’s currently one of the insanely talented creative directors at Wieden+Kennedy (http://www NULL.wk Amsterdam. It’s there that he makes ads for Nike and other authentically relevant brands. He made this ad about talking arteries (http://www which we think is particularly cool. We wanted to find out how we can make cool ads too, because we have no idea where to start. So we tried to ask some insightful questions, and maybe we did, but we suppose you’ll be the judge of that, Mr and Mrs Readership. So, what are you waiting for? Go on, it’s good we swear.

Junior: Eric! It’s lovely to meet you. What are you up to at the moment? Is the weather annoying you like everyone else?

Eric: Hey! Nice to meet you too. Right now, I’m at my desk and the first hints of Spring have hit Amsterdam. Everyone is so unbelievably happy and relieved that the rainy Winter nightmare is over. I’m also nervously waiting to hear if our Nike World Cup campaign has been approved from the head honchos in Portland. Please God/Allah/Vishnu/Satan.

Jr: We’re praying too! So we hear you’re a Melbourne boy from way back. How does one of those end up at W+K Amsterdam?

E: I left Melbourne in ’98 for New York City. Worked there for 7 years, had a kid, decided to get out, and landed a job here at W+K Amsterdam. Sweet.

Jr: Did you have a job lined up before you packed your bags and said goodbye to the lucky country?

E: No I didn’t. Having married an American I had a green card, so I thought I’d just move there and try shopping my book around. See how that goes. Luckily I got there in the midst of the dot com boom, when they were giving jobs to monkeys. I say luckily because my work was very Australian – weird brands, strange humor, low budget – and it didn’t go down all that well. But honestly, there was so much money around at the time they just needed people.

Jr: You know, everyone in the world wants to work at W+K. All we hear is, ‘man, they do really cool work.’ Somehow we think it can’t just be guys shooting hoops and spending million dollar budgets. Is it really about ‘cool’ work or is there something more to it?

E: Of course it’s about doing cool work, but that could never happen if the culture wasn’t in place to support the creatives. It is the only place I have ever worked at that is genuinely driven by creative. If the account people don’t think it’s right, but the creatives think it’s cool, well the creatives win. That doesn’t mean that the account guys are muppets, it’s just that they know they will never win that fight. So they get on board and support us wholeheartedly. All W+K offices are managed by two ECDs and one MD. Majority rules.

Jr: That’s really nice to know. Advertising is generally filled with people bred to KILL creativity. Bah! What are we to do? I suppose everyone aspires to work at a ‘cool’ agency to get past that, but realistically not everyone is suited to the W+K’s of the world. What do you look for in an aspiring W+K candidate?

E: There’s such a wide range of oddballs here, it’s hard to pick any defining feature of a W+K employee other than being ‘into it’. I guess everyone here is passionate about stuff, creative or otherwise. You can’t fake that. Oh, and an above average ability to write or art direct will help.

Jr: As a Creative Director, how can a junior get on your good side? Is it all about presenting good work or are there other ways we can get you excited?

E: I just want to see lots of ideas. And I never want anyone to take themselves too seriously.

Jr: Copywriting. It’s misunderstood by so many juniors, probably because art direction seems to be the obvious choice for an ‘aspiring creative’. What would you say to a kid who wants to be a copywriter, but has no idea where to start, let alone hone their craft?

E: Study the annuals and showreels. Read and write a lot. Work with a partner. Don’t smoke too much dope.

Jr: What about the copywriters out there who are working already and are sick of writing brochures and eDMs for cooking utensils? What should they do to step it up and write better ads?

E: Well if they’re already working they should be trying their utmost to do cool stuff for every client in the building. Anything will do, a banner, a flyer, a spot shot on a mobile phone, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s cool. They should also get very chummy with the best art director in the building.

Jr: Very good advice, but as juniors we might have cool ideas yet it’s our presentation skills that need help. Any tips on how to present better, and especially creative that might seem a bit wacky, or worse, a ‘risk’?

E: I always think it’s good to explain how you came to to an idea – your thinking process – no matter how left-field it is. And by the way ‘risk’ is good, but wacky is rarely good. And tell your idea like you’d tell it to your friends at the pub. With the same level of enthusiasm and all the little additional quips thrown in.

Jr: Finally, all juniors are told to get a good mentor. What makes a good mentor and where should a junior look to find a good one?

E: A good starting point is to get a mentor who isn’t shit. Someone who has done good work. Beyond that it’s about liking the person. Any half decent human will be happy to help you if you reach out to them for help. It takes balls, but I also suggest approaching someone you admire directly with a letter or a phone call. Once you ask them for advice, there’ll be no stopping them. We all love to bang about how much we know.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 25/03/2009