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Creativity Squared: Always Having an Optimistic Approach with Will Holloway


Smarts creative director on having a desire to learn new things, being driven by curiosity and collaboration

Creativity Squared: Always Having an Optimistic Approach with Will Holloway

Will is an award-winning creative director with a track record of generating high profile, strategic and integrated campaigns for leading consumer technology, FMCG and entertainment brands. Will specialises in harnessing culture to connect brands with their audience.

Will joined Smarts from Fever Unlimited where he worked across clients including Sky, NOW TV, Logitech, Amnesty International, Google, Red Bull and PlayStation. Amongst a number of industry awards, his work for NOW TV was recognised as 'Best of the Best’ at Campaign’s Brand Film Festival and shortlisted at Cannes Lions for work on the launch of ‘Succession’.

Before joining Fever, Will was a culture journalist and critic, writing for publications including NME, Q Magazine and FT Weekend.


I’m an optimist both in life and in my creative approach – I tend to focus more on possibilities than practicalities i.e., how things could be rather than how they are right now. 

I’d also say I’m driven by curiosity and a desire to learn new things – I don’t think you can function as a creative without an insatiable desire for new knowledge. So much of what we do is about creating connections and the more information in your brain, the more possibilities you have to play with.

We are a product of our habits and so if creativity is present in your routine from an early age, then there’s a good chance those creative habits will manifest themselves in your later life. Creativity is a by-product of curiosity and I think the more curious you are about the world around you the more creative you are. 

I think with the right amount of dedication and passion it’s never too late to harness and unleash your inner creativity.

Growing up I was hugely influenced by the DIY ethos of punk, particularly the DC Hardcore scene in the US where integrity, honesty and social consciousness were valued over pursuit of short-term profit. Those values are important to me as a creative. Today I still find myself gravitating towards punk musicians like Jeff Rosenstock who embody that DIY ethos and still manage to be successful without betraying their values.

One of the biggest influences on my work is probably the Canadian provocateur Nathan Fielder – his stunts as part of the series ‘Nathan For You,’ are incredible. I love how he takes an insight and then pushes it to absolute extremes, which is something that I like to do with my own work. If you’ve not come across him before I’d really recommend searching for ‘Dumb Starbucks’.

I also love the work of comedian Joe Pera, whose work is quiet, thoughtful, contemplative and often moving. It’s the complete opposite of the loud, brash, attention-seeking type of comedy created to exploit algorithms on social media. Sometimes the best way to stand out is to do the absolute opposite to everyone else.

Would I consider myself an introvert or an extrovert? The honest answer to this question is that I’m not sure. I have periods in my work life where I’m laser-focussed on a project and prefer to work in isolation and away from any distraction but then at other times I’m a huge ball of energy who needs the type of burstiness that you can only unlock from social interaction with others.

When routine starts to feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again then it’s probably time for a change. I like having some constants in my life to give me some direction, but I hate work routines.


We sometimes forget that in the world of marketing we’re in the business of mental rental – we rent space in our audience’s brain and if we’re successful, our work sticks around in their minds for minutes rather than seconds – hopefully long enough to get them to do the thing we’re asking of them.

I hated the recent We Buy Any Car spot when I first saw it but then I saw West Ham fans on social media chanting “Just Sold My Car to Lucas Paqueta” and realised I’m an idiot and that the ad had crossed over into popular culture.

I’m proud of the Jurassic Jeff installation created for NOW TV to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park. We created a 25ft tall statue of a topless Jeff Goldblum to celebrate the much-loved Goldblum related memes that fans loved to share on the internet in the decades since the film came out. The work was really taken to heart by the public – there was a campaign to have the statue moved into the Tate as a permanent exhibit and someone liked it so much that they created a Wikipedia page for it (that someone definitely wasn’t me – I don’t have that level of patience). It’s the piece of work that helps me explain what I do to people I’ve just met at weddings. 

I’m also really proud of a recent campaign created for Amnesty International to raise awareness of their PayUpFIFA campaign putting pressure on FIFA and the Qatari authorities to pay compensation to migrant workers who built the World Cup infrastructure. We presented migrant workers like footballers and used the language of football to tell their stories and explain why they deserved compensation for their labours. The work put the issue back on the news agenda at the World Cup and led to 1 million people from over 120 countries signing a petition demanding FIFA take action.

There’s a saying that was doing the rounds recently on social media which really resonated with me: “the music you listened to when you were 17 is the best music”. Music doesn’t get better or worse, the ears of the people listening to it just change. I think the same can be said for the industry’s creative output as well – as creatives we have a natural bias towards the work we were exposed to during our formative years or the work of our own era. Work today is no better or worse than it ever has been. Good work is still being made but the market is a lot more crowded than it used to be. 


The process for making creative work tends to go something like this…


Initial thoughts


Better thoughts

More collaboration


More thoughts

More collaboration

Eight hours spent locked in a meeting room where you decide the idea you dismissed at the beginning of the day was the right one

A quiet cry in the accessible loo

Bringing the idea to life through words and visuals

Pitch the thing

Tweak the thing

Make the thing

Worry about whether you’ve made it right

Make peace with it

Release it

Worry about it even though there’s nothing you can do about it

Move onto the next brief


I grew up in a part of west London that most people will only visit if they fall asleep on the Central Line. The upside of growing up in London is that a world of culture was always readily available and I was always being taken to museums, galleries, concerts and events from an early age. Music was always present in my house growing up both on the radio and from my mum singing round the house. I was encouraged to start playing music from an early age and I’ve been obsessed with music since. The upshot of that is that I’m incapable of coming up with ideas without some kind of music playing.

Honing my craft was never a conscious process, it just evolved from doing – when I was a teenager, creating posters to publicise the punk band I was in, promoting my own club night at uni, which involved creating a brand identity, designing posters and coming up with a strategy to get people to come to it. 

At the time I never thought, I’m being creative, I was just trying to come up with solutions to the things that popped up.

After that, loads of writing… student journalism, followed by news and features journalism. My mindset when I come up with ideas now is the same as it was when I wrote and pitched features – what’s the element of the idea that makes this interesting to a wider audience? 

I’d say my better ideas tend not to come in the heat of battle – they tend to come about as a longer-term process of connecting the dots. They evolved from having the time to look for interesting insights and then spending further time reflecting on how best to bring them to life. Pressure can unlock good ideas though and sometimes having a definitive deadline makes you more decisive in your thinking.

The best way to get the most out of your teams and agencies is a healthy dose of time, budget and faith.

I think agencies can best facilitate creativity in terms of culture and design by nurturing an open environment where all ideas are given room to be appreciated and people are given the opportunity to contribute as early as possible in their career.

Making time for creativity is also important; understanding that there will be periods where creativity feasts and then more fallow periods where ideas just don’t flow as well. Creatives aren’t jukeboxes who constantly churn out hits, there’s a bit more nuance to it than that.

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Genres: People

Smarts, Wed, 13 Sep 2023 09:45:00 GMT