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5 Minutes with… Damon Stapleton


Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer of The Monkeys Aotearoa, part of Accenture Song speaks with LBB’s Casey Martin about his journey through a constantly-moving industry

5 Minutes with… Damon Stapleton

Damon Stapleton is an award winning creative, CCO and founder of The Monkeys Aotearoa. He’s won over 70 Cannes Lions - including the Grand Prix - and 10 Gold Lions, 11 One Show Gold Pencils, and the first ever ADC Black Cube.

Previous to The Monkeys, Damon was CCO of DDB Aotearoa, ECD of Saatchi & Saatchi Australia and group ECD of TBWA. His work on the 'Trillion Dollar' bill campaign for The Zimbabwean is a part of a permanent collection at the British Museum. Over 200 international awards have been awarded to his work, ‘Penny the Pirate’ for OPSM and Samsung I-Test. 

Along with his high-profile work in the ad industry, he runs his own blog, Damon's Brain. Under the tagline, ‘Stuff I think about instead of world domination’, he shares insightful, artistic and all together fun thoughts on all things creative.

Here, the CCO reflects on finding his creative feet in South Africa, the limitations of AI, and how brands can be more interesting…

LBB> Can you share with us the journey? How did you get started in the industry and what led you to establish your own agency?

Damon> Being a creative when I was younger was an odd space. There was no clear path in South Africa to what that meant job wise. You had to try a lot of things and go down a lot of strange avenues to figure out what to do with this word ‘creative’. So I did. I went to film school, became a photographer and did a shoot for a very cool agency called TBWA Gavin Reddy. It just had an amazing energy and it was the first job where I felt like I belonged.
With regards to starting at The Monkeys Aotearoa, part of Accenture Song, for CEO Justin Mowday and I, it was all about what we think the future of advertising and communications will be. Our fundamental belief is that creativity has to become bigger. If you look at creativity today, it is becoming impossible to separate it from technology. We think you need a place that can join the dots and use data, technology and creativity. I think this is the future and why we decided to open an agency right in the middle of the covid pandemic.
LBB> In the constantly evolving advertising landscape, how do you ensure that The Monkeys stays at the forefront of creativity and continues to deliver impactful campaigns?

Damon> I think it’s just a part of the job. Every week there is some new development or technology. Having said that, what hasn’t changed is you still need an idea. Recently, I was judging an advertising show that had plenty of campaigns that used A.I. Many of them were not very good. And, many were very similar. It reminded me you can have all the tools, but you still better know what you want to build.

LBB> Can you discuss a project or campaign that you are particularly proud of, and why? What were the key elements that made it successful, and what lessons did you learn from it?

Damon> I will always be proud of the Zimbabwean Campaign because it taught me that with creativity you can literally make something out of nothing. Recently, Samsung I-Test taught us that you can literally do the impossible if you hang in there. And just last week, we did a piece of work for ASB Bank and Youthline called Benee Bagels. We worked with neuroscientists and the brilliant musician Benee to create a song that is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety. This became a free tool that anybody could download. This taught me that all the limitations you have are in your head. There really are no limits.

LBB> Collaboration is often key in the creative process. How do you foster a collaborative environment within your team and encourage diverse perspectives to create work?
Damon> I think collaboration today is just how work gets made. For example, 20 years ago, there would be far less people involved in a campaign. Recently, we put out a piece of work for our client ASB. The credit list was massive, and it included neuroscientists, animators, and music artist Benee. This is often just how big campaigns are these days. The trick is not to close your point of view down when you start making the work. Stay open to diverse thoughts from all the creators. One idea or tiny conversation can change everything.

LBB> In today's highly digital and interconnected world, how do you ensure that your campaigns resonate with consumers across various platforms and channels?

Damon> The adage: “Don’t interrupt what people are interested in; be what they are interested in”, springs to mind. Channels may have changed and will keep changing. Relevance and being interesting will always remain. In fact, today that has become more important than ever before with the proliferation of platforms. The trick is how you join them up and create consistent experiences. And, let’s not forget that very important and occasionally ignored word. Quality.

“It doesn’t matter how fast shit reaches you, it’s still shit.”

This is probably one of my favourite quotes of all time and comes from the late great David Abbott. I think this will always be true. 
LBB> And finally, what do you believe are the essential elements of a compelling and impactful brand story?

Damon> Tell the truth. Be entertaining. Be relevant. Make a promise. Have proof.

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The Monkeys, Wed, 31 May 2023 02:00:00 GMT