Last month saw Grey appoint Graham Drew as its ECD. Drew has had extensive experience in through-the-line advertising, with focus in cross platform creative ideas. After starting his own PR agency in 2004, Drew later founded VCCP Kin in 2010, the branded content arm of VCCP partnership that is a subsidiary of Chime Communications.
We asked Drew about his journey so far and here’s what he had to say.
Howâd you stumble into this industry?
Iâd always loved reading. One of my clearest memories is having myÂ mind blown by Roald Dahlâs âDanny the Champion of the Worldâ when IÂ was 7 or 8. I soon found out that was one of his less imaginative ones,Â as I inhaled his entire catalogue reading at every opportunity I could.Â That led to me studying English and wanting to be a journalist â thatÂ didnât work out (straight out of uni, saddled with debtâŚusual story). So IÂ applied for any job that looked interesting In the media and got on aÂ grad scheme at a PR agency â it wasnât journalism, or writing a novel,Â but my god was there a lot of fiction involved.
â¨Harshest thing anyone has said to you
âYou canât write for shit.â That hurt, especially as at the time they wereÂ right.
â¨Meanest thing youâve heard someone say to anyone on the job
Thatâs a tough one. Anyone whoâs sat through countless reviews grows aÂ thick skin. The honest answer is unrepeatable, suffice to say it involved aÂ degree of physical abuse as well as verbal. But personally, as long as itÂ isnât personal, Iâm a fan of arguments, it means you care enough to make itÂ uncomfortable. If youâre not prepared to defend your work you shouldnâtÂ have made it in the first place.
â¨Meanest thing youâve personally said to anyone (And do you regret it?)
Said lots of harsh things, but Iâd not class them as mean as Iâd alwaysÂ meant it. Iâm not a natural arguer, but it is a sad reality that sometimesÂ you have to tear a strip off people. I remember, last year, shouting two inches from a planners face in a stairwell because they had just totallyÂ undermined a very important piece of work right in front of the client. IÂ regretted making them tearful, but I donât regret what I said.
â¨Proudest moment in your career
Yet to come. More clichĂŠâs available on request. But one that sticks in the head is everything we did for Stella Artios â veryÂ happy days.
â¨A mistake in your career you wonât forget
Myself and the MD of my previous company jumped ship and started upÂ our own agency. It was hard, really stressful at times, but we managed toÂ get on a roll, we became a hot agency, we kept winning stuff and it was theÂ best feeling in the world. Because of this, we got the opportunity toÂ merge/take over an older, larger agency. We almost tripled in sizeÂ overnight, moved from our quirky East London warehouse with a roofÂ terrace to a big office block andâŚ. Well, we murdered the culture, becameÂ far too much like a âbusinessâ and never really recovered.
â¨Weirdest thing youâve ever done in your career
In the early days we were so lucky. We had a few clients who wereÂ prepared to run with us. We created a Real Bloody Mary (made with RealÂ Blood), staged the world first Cash Mob (throwing ÂŁ5k into a crowdedÂ street), commissioned a football ballet with the English National Ballet,Â sent fake bombs to Fleet StreetâŚ
â¨How do you get inspired when you arenât?
Iâm a huge advocate of theft. Everyone knows that all ideas are aÂ Frankensteinâs monster born of kleptomania. The more things you see, theÂ more you can steal, the better you will be. As you progress, you just getÂ better at hiding the stitches.
My creative hero is Thomas Heatherwick â heâs an inventor withanÂ incredible aesthetic, the aesthetic is the idea. I first saw his bridge whenÂ walking in Paddington, I had to know who did it. Then I saw the SeedÂ Cathedral, the chair, even the agency Christmas card each year is brilliant.Â Along with the 1,657 other things heâs come up with.Â Also SXSW is by a mile the best conference in the world for what we do.Â The caliber and variety of the subject matter is truly awe inspiring. IâveÂ been for the past three years and every time the things I see there trickleÂ through over the next 12 months.
â¨Mentor you look up to most?
There have been a few. My old business partner Michael Frohlich is still aÂ great friend, he ran the business and shielded me from all of the numbersÂ that made me go cross-eyed. He was also the best sounding board forÂ ideas Iâve ever hadâŚ.but that may have been the gin.
â¨What makes the difference between an average creative and a mind-blowing one?
People who are passionate are irreplaceable. But more than that, anyoneÂ whoâs prepared to be wrong. The good ideas are always different,Â everyone loves a risky bit of creative. But the best ideas have an elementÂ of âwrongnessâ about them, they donât feel right, but they are the ones thatÂ burrow into your head and donât leave you alone.
â¨Most frustrating thing about being a creative
Never having enough time to make it quite as good as you want it to be.Â That and seeing an idea that you had on the tip of your tongue done byÂ someone else.
One of my favourite definitions is one about modern art. Modern Art is â âIÂ could have done that. Yeah, but you didnâtâ
â¨A dream brand you would like to work on and why?
Iâd love to work on Ikea â there is so much scope with their brand. TheyÂ are always trying new channels, new ideas. The thought of marketing IP,Â or products that are intrinsically marketable is exciting.
â¨How you wind down on the weekends
Family. Weâve just uprooted from London and have so much to see and doÂ over here. That said, the lure ofjust staying at home and making upÂ stories with my kids is always tempting. I take great pride in the fact that,Â despite getting older, both girls still have personal mythical characters thatÂ look out for them and they write to each other regularly. Keeping a senseÂ of wonder for as long as possible is a huge part of what being a parent is allÂ about. Plus, itâs infectious and the best tonic to any stress this job canÂ throw at you.