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5 Minutes with… Duncan Bone


Colenso BBDO’s group creative director tells Esther Faith Lew why being a multidisciplinary creative lets him thrive in integrated campaigns

5 Minutes with… Duncan Bone

Duncan Bone was struck by the idea of creating art when he was just 14 years old and living on the tiny island of Malta. He was introduced to the world of typography and design in the context of branding, packaging and poster design from a friend’s partner. It planted the seed. 

The design world lost a potential architect, but the creative world gained a multidisciplinary creative; one who didn’t fit the typical mould. Duncan studied industrial design, which was the only creative option back home at the time, but it proved to be the advantage that got him to a good  starting point. “The biggest challenge early on was for people to pigeonhole me… I spent more time in the photography lab and shooting stills and film than I should have. When I moved to London, I would go for interviews, and they wouldn't know what to do with me as I wrote, designed, shot and directed campaigns back home as that's how I worked.”

Duncan’s perseverance eventually led him to Wieden + Kennedy London where he fit in perfectly. “They embraced the idea of a multidisciplinary creative before everyone else did,” he says. It was a career milestone that cemented his creative path and gave him the opportunity to meet and work with “some real incredible people”. 

“It was the perfect balance of creative freedom and personal responsibility to create 'the best work of your life'. And the best platform to allow me to work on some of the greatest and boldest ideas. There was an energy to continuously create more, which was always celebrated by clients and everyone around you. This had an everlasting impact on how I work today,” says Duncan.

Not only is Duncan a man who thrives outside the box, he is also an extremely adventurous one. Once he has his sights locked in, he takes a giant leap forward, and his vision has led him on to 72andSunny in Amsterdam, Wieden + Kennedy and BBH in Shanghai, and now Colenso BBDO in Auckland. It is his first time in New Zealand, and since his recent arrival, he has been immersed in the rich creative vibes at Colenso BBDO as a group creative director.


LBB> As a multidisciplinary CD, how have you seen creativity + digital innovation + film + tech come together for you in the way you approach your career development? 


Duncan> This has always been a continuous path to exploring the boundaries of creativity. All the different mediums feed off one another, allowing you to learn the best solution to any creative goal. Through experience, you navigate through all of this with more ease. 


LBB> Can you elaborate on the significance of these disciplines in some of your works?


Duncan> Some time ago, I worked on a Honda App which allowed viewers to capture characters from their TV straight to their phone and interact with them. This felt like magic to everyone who experienced it. It was a world-first app of its kind. The idea stemmed from a simple trail of thought: If Shazam can recognise all the tracks in the world, can we identify one TVC soundtrack? Then can we place audio fingerprints in there? And can we use the accelerometer on the iPhone as you launch the app and swing it in time to capture the correct 3D character as they appear on TV? 

The answer was yes to all of these questions. And this offered a solution that had never been done before. No special syncing was required. Those who experienced it couldn’t quite figure out how it was happening because it was so simple.


LBB> For a creative to be successful in the new era of creativity + technology, what kind of mindset shifts are needed to be able to leverage on them successfully?


Duncan> Having an interest in multiple fields will allow you to approach things differently. At a time when everything moves at a faster pace than ever before, this is what will keep you pushing the boundaries. Some of the work I am most proud of has come from the marriage of two very separate creative worlds. I have never separated digital from 'traditional' creative work. It all comes down to story telling at the end of the day, and you should always use the story at hand in the best way. 


LBB> In the context of creativity + new tech, what is a successful campaign to you?


Duncan> Colenso BBDO's Beyond Binary is a perfect example of beautifully delivering a very timely and simple idea through design and technology. It brought across the message of gender versatility very powerfully and thoughtfully.

LBB> Could you share with us some of the campaigns that were memorable for you and enabled you to push boundaries and set creative benchmarks that are important for you?

Duncan> Working on The Barbican Centre account was a personal achievement as I have a lot of respect for the place. This was done through Disarm, an advertising studio I had set up with Chris Condron, a Wieden + Kennedy colleague in London. We pitched against two of the largest advertising agencies in UK, and we won. Our strategy, design and contemporary approach succeeded in appealing to a younger target audience for the Barbican. The campaign ran across 500 sites across London. It picked up a lot of media interest and was covered in the likes of Wallpaper and other magazines. It was the first time the centre had done an unbranded OOH campaign, and it generated nearly 40% increase in ticket sales.

LBB> You have gained valuable exposure from stints in UK and China. What insights have those experiences shed on brands, campaign development and consumers?  


Duncan> No matter where you are, the goal is always to create the best work. And as you meet different people, clients, and projects in various parts of the globe - the problems and solutions are mostly the same. The major difference is through the experience you gain, as it’s priceless to sit with a client in Germany whose leading market is China, and you know first-hand how this market works and the same the other way around. 


LBB> How does it impact the way you approach a client brief and in campaign development now?


Duncan> Having the opportunity to go head-to-head with people in the industry from different cultures and perspectives will always leave its mark. And it's irrespective of where but more with who you meet and build your skills with. This is why I am here at Colenso. I can bring my experience to the table and yet learn so much from being surrounded by the incredible talent in the building. The amalgamation of the above allows you to respond effectively to any brief. 

LBB> What are the important issues and trends you see impacting your work in New Zealand next year?


Duncan> From the rise of AI to the impact of the climate crisis, we are in a state of flux which most of us haven't experienced before. If we continue to go ahead with repeating old mantras, we will fail on every count. This is why we must remind ourselves that we work in an industry that can shape the narrative and use our powers to do so.

LBB> What's on your dream list of projects that you would like to work on?


Duncan> I have been fortunate enough to tick a few boxes with the opportunity to work on various international clients and brands. Our ever-evolving industry presents us with new clients, people, and goals as things change at a pace that always brings new goals and opportunities. One focus of mine has always been to do more projects with purpose. And although I have done some work with Fair Trade, Nike Girl Effect and others in the past, we can all do more in this sector and bring our creative minds together for good. 

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Colenso BBDO, Wed, 15 Feb 2023 04:49:55 GMT