Gerry began his career 20 years ago as a management consultant at BBDO Consulting in Germany. He has since worked in Singapore, Melbourne, and Sydney.
His work has been recognised and awarded in most of the major award shows (Effies, Cannes, D&AD, One Show, Clio, AWARDS, etc.). The Won Report named him the 2nd most awarded Planning Director in the world. Whilst shiny metal is nice, the real accolade that matters to him is effectiveness. He has judged many of those and scored a few along the way.
LBB> What does creativity mean to your brand?
Gerry> I am a strategist by trade and work across a broad spectrum of brands and a wide range of categories. Without creativity, applied in lateral strategic thinking and ideation, we’d blend into the clichéd sea of sameness. We’d create boring, undifferentiated strategies that lead to conventional thinking and predictability. Aiming for creative impact is a much better way to drive brands and create tangible business results. Long gone are the days when you could use your hard-earned media dollars to bore people into buying your products. I much prefer giving people something unusual they can’t help but talk about, something impactful that moves them, something they connect with.
LBB> And more broadly what does creativity mean to you - outside of work, outside of the sphere of advertising and marketing?
Gerry> Creativity moves us, surprises us, and allows us to feel differently. Creativity cuts through the clutter of options and operates as a North Star. Follow me, feel me … buy me.
LBB> What was the moment or experience in your career that really helped ferment the importance of creativity in marketing?
Gerry> I am a product of the 80's. A time when brands and communications exploded to new heights. I always loved brands and their creativity in strategy and communications. I remember, watching ads with my sister trying to guess which brand was responsible for the 30 seconds of top notch entertainment. Later in High School, I stumbled across Vance Packard’s ‘The Hidden Persuaders’. Weirdly enough, I loved the idea of understanding how people tick; why they buy, what drives them, their motivations, and desires; and then use that understanding to build creative strategies and brand narratives for commercial gain, social change, and/or behavioural change.
LBB> What have you learned is the key to nurturing fruitful relationships with your creative partners?
Gerry> Listening. The best creative partners I have ever worked with were highly strategic. They understood the brands they were working with and the context these brands were operating in. Developing a strategic narrative that is creatively fertile can only ever happen when you listen and learn from each other.
I actually find ‘listening’ is totally underrated. We often jump to conclusions or agree with the strongest opinions in the room, but the nuances are in what’s not being said or how things are said, that spark creative thoughts. Maybe that’s it’s just me.
LBB> Which creative campaigns from other brands (past or present) have inspired you most in your career and why?
Gerry> Wow. From Apple’s 1984, Playstation’s Double Life to British Airways A British Original, and so much in between. All of the above, I like because of three reasons. One. They solved a real business problem and weren’t just good advertising to win awards. Two. They all identified an opportunity in the market to creatively exploit; be it by repositioning the competition in the category, tapping into deep consumer motivations, or elevating a brand truth to new heights. Three. They all were fresh and unusual from the message, tone and executional craft point of view. Thereby allowing the brands to stand out of their cluttered categories.
LBB> What campaign that you’ve worked on has been the most creatively satisfying and why?
Gerry> I don’t have favourite children. The most awarded campaigns I worked on had three things in common which made the end product immensely creatively satisfying. Determination - a belief in the idea and the importance to protect it at all costs. Collaboration - within the agency but most importantly with clients to build on a shared vision. Sweating the detail – in craft, media and planning.
LBB> Of all of the puzzles facing marketers right now, what’s the topic that’s perplexing your team the most right now?
Gerry> AI. The progress is so vast and plentiful and its impact so stark, it’s hard not to future cast threats and opportunities. The worst thing about my answer is that now all the self-proclaimed AI experts have even more futter to pretend to be just that.
LBB> You must see so many ideas pitched to you - and have had to sell in so many ideas to the rest of your company. So what’s the key to selling a great idea?
Gerry> Don’t sell. Nobody wants to be sold to. Collaborate along the way then the solution is the only answer to the problem you ventured out to solve.
LBB> In your experience how can marketing teams drive creativity throughout the rest of an organisation?
Gerry> I think of creativity as language. When it comes to language, we have to agree on the fundamentals like meaning of words and grammar. Same with creativity, we need to agree or at least articulate what creativity is, feels like. Just like language, you must be exposed to creativity for stints and/or as frequently as possible. The more you are exposed to it, the blander, colourless and less expressionistic a world of non-creativity becomes.
LBB> How do you encourage creative excellence among your team?
Gerry> Surround yourself with diverse creative outputs. Music, fiction, articles, film, paintings, it doesn’t matter. Ideally seek out something that you would normally not default to. Being surprised, challenged, shocked are all great feelings to stimulate creativity. From a strategy perspective read stuff you would normally not read, look at things that you would normally not look at. Creativity comes from finding connections where there were none before. If you dig in the same places as everyone else, you unearth the same as everybody else.
LBB> The big question. We know creativity is effective but when you’re assessing an idea that’s totally original and new, how do you figure out if it’s brilliant or indulgent?
Gerry> I don’t think you ever know with 100% certainty and accuracy if an original idea works in culture or not. I think you can have a real good gutfeel but certainty, I don’t think so. As for indulgence, I think you can feel pretty quick smart if the idea is full of shit and only talks to the advertising community or jumps on the latest tech for tech sake.
LBB> Tell us about a time you’ve really had to fight for a creative idea - what was the idea, what was the obstacle and why was it worth it?
Gerry> No names and brands will be harmed in this answer. But working in agency villages can put stress on the idea integrity and ownership. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. An idea with potential can quickly get hijacked and bastardised. Keeping a particular idea in fact resulted in Effectiveness Awards, plenty of Lions and other industry accolades.
LBB> What one piece of advice do you have for marketers at the beginning of their career who’re still figuring out how to drive impactful creative marketing?
Gerry> Learn the fundamentals first. They don’t change and have not changed for yonks. Know your distinctive assets from your brand’s relative differentiation within the category. Know your brand’s category entry points. Understand how brands grow and how to achieve mental and physical availability. And then use these fundamentals for lateral, creative thinking.