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New Talent

New Talent: Matt Dunn

Art director on how he’s protecting London’s lewd graffiti in the name of safe sex

New Talent: Matt Dunn

We’ve all seen them. Drawn into the mucky windows of vans, adorning bathroom stalls at your local pub. Hell, even Ancient Romans couldn’t help themselves. The humble hand-drawn penis plagues secondary school desks and grotty alleys alike. 

Matt Dunn, a London-based art director currently on placement at Publicis London, decided enough was enough. Unable to stand the sight of these unprotected penises, he took to the streets with a condom stencil and spray paint, vandalising vandalism in the name of safe sex. 

LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Matt to find out more about his one-man cock crusade.


LBB> What were you up to before you found your creative calling? 

Matt Dunn> I’m originally from Gloucestershire (which does mean I have a farmer twang) and worked in a couple of local supermarkets before tapping into anything creative - career wise. I studied art while at college n’all… but I never knew advertising was the route for me.

I studied illustration at Portsmouth University, which led me to work as a designer at a law firm in Reading (trust me, this is one rocky road that’s led me here today). It was during this job that I entered a One Minute Brief and had a full-page ad for NABS in the Campaign Annual 2016. This was the ‘bang’ firework moment for me and everything kind of happened like a snowball effect.

I found a copywriter and we worked solidly overnight/weekends, anything that would help build a portfolio together. Then I moved from Reading and took the plunge into the big smoke.

I’m a little nervous it’s going to backfire, but we’re lucky enough to now be on placement at Publicis London. They’re an incredibly talented bunch of people, really really nice people. Especially the ECD, Dave Monk. ‘Hi Dave! Pint next week?’


LBB> So, let's get right down to business... What inspired you to start this ri-dick-ulous (sorry) project? 

MD> I absolutely love these puns, keep ‘em coming! 

I always have ideas that creep into my head and I’m a little obsessed with wanting to make great work so it’s a never-ending cycle. 

With this idea I was simply walking past a lot of graffiti penises on walls and thinking to myself, why hasn’t anyone gone out of their way to make something of this? Let alone remove it? It was this one rare penis that stood out to me one morning and I just had enough of seeing them. 

I did some research, found out that one in four new cases of sexually transmitted infections are detected in London each year, which is over 100,000 a year. So I pulled an all-nighter, had a beer or two, then stencilled a simple message and went out on a mission to get the ball rolling.


LBB> What kind of reactions has your city-wide cock crusade received? 

MD> So far the Instagram account has been disabled. I’m not sure if someone reported it… but I kind of knew it was going to happen at some point as it’s such a marmite idea. I’m still waiting to get it back – it’s only been a few days, I have hope.  (N.B. The Instagram has since been brought back up)

A lot of the comments are really positive though, it’s so lovely.

Apart from that, some publications kindly featured me, and Stefan Sagmeister even shared it on his Instagram page which received a lot of positive responses as well! I think 3,000 likes overnight, which isn’t bad at all.

LBB> It's pretty funny how you're effectively vandalising vandalism. Were you worried about getting into any trouble with authorities? 

MD> Haha yes! I think it’s for a good cause though, it’s taking something that you see as vandalism, turning it on its head and re-producing it into something informative which could hopefully reduce the STI statistic. I don’t think authorities are that much of a worry when an important message like this is being projected. It needs to be done. 


LBB> Did you work with anyone else on this project?

MD> It’s just a side project of mine, I really didn’t expect it to have this much positive reaction! I always work on things outside of advertising, it keeps me ticking!

LBB> Are there any other projects you've been involved with that you're particularly proud of? 

MD> I got involved in something back in March 2016 when I was working in a law firm, it was against Costa. Yep. Against Costa. I tweeted a responsive ad online when I saw how many coffee cups they wasted – 399 out of 400 are not recyclable yet they had a recycling logo on their cup. Madness. I got Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall involved by tweeting him to share this ad which projected it to reach more of an audience. The copy was something along the lines of ‘Coffee cups shouldn’t cost the earth’… Dead simple and it’s just a truth. They later removed the recycling logo off their cups and brought in a coffee cup recycling scheme. So rad.


LBB> What's your creative process like? Do you do anything in particular to help get the gears turning or is it more of a 'spark of the moment' deal?  

MD> I tend to go for walks but half of the time it’s just listening to your instinct during that spark moment. It helps if you think you can change the world haha.


LBB> What do you get up to in your free time to let off some steam? 

MD> I kind of live and breathe ads. As much as I didn’t want to be that guy… I’m becoming that guy.

I cannot stop the urge to find insights and different things that turn people on. It’s amazing and I love it! I do have a thing for films, that’s kind of my breathing time as I love the visuals as well as the stories. I have this one friend, we do fun stuff together, like eating habanero chillies with chocolate fingers, it’s so cool. 


LBB> Who and what are your biggest influences?

MD> I have a lot of love for the British lot in advertising. Vicki Maguire is a top favourite for sure, and Dave Dye.

I also love Lee Clow, he’s the maverick that I admire and look up to.