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Ocean’s Fifteen: A Heist into the Minds of the LIA Jury Presidents



Simone Nobili global GCD at Wunderman Thompson New York speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about stealing top creatives’ personal stories in a new interview series for LIA

Ocean’s Fifteen: A Heist into the Minds of the LIA Jury Presidents

In 2020, Simone Nobili, global group creative director at Wunderman Thompson New York created the TRANSATLANTIC Podcast. This interview series used the premise of ‘crossing the oceans’ of some of advertising’s greatest minds - including Sir John Hegarty, Susan Hoffman and David Lubars. Now, in partnership with the London International Awards (LIA), Simone presents ‘Ocean’s Fifteen’, a special edition series of TRANSATLANTIC, named in honour of the 2007 Steven Soderbergh film ‘Ocean’s Eleven’.

Like the film it’s named after, Ocean’s Fifteen also involves a Las Vegas setting, as the interviews were all recorded at this year’s LIA awards show in the City of Sin. However, Simone was undertaking a wholly different kind of heist…   

During his interviews with LIA’s jury presidents - Ronald Ng, global CCO at MrM, Colette Douaihy, global CCO at Dentsu Health and Geoff Edwards, ECD at Gale Partners, to name a few - Simone performed a heist into the minds of the industry’s top experts, revealing some never-heard-before details and insights into the creatives’ lives and careers.

“What transpired was that people truly opened up,” says Simone. “Joe Sciarotta [deputy CCO worldwide at Ogilvy] told me about a very traumatic episode in his childhood… others talked about their mental health [struggles], which I wasn’t aware of.”

He laughs, “I wouldn’t say they regretted them… but they were very vulnerable! Each of them was very nervous before the interview. During the interviews, they let go and told stories, but they would call me maybe one or two days after or text me and say ‘The interview was awesome, do you think I was too much?’ It’s interesting to see how they were completely vulnerable.”

The conversations largely avoid the topic of advertising directly, with Simone preferring to take the jurors off-script - something that he realised would get more genuine reactions from them, compared to the pre-formulated responses he had witnessed many creatives giving in advertising-related interviews. 

“When you ask about advertising, every single answer is literally scripted. They use the same words, the same jargon and I don’t think that’s interesting for a human being - we’re all humans with a story.”

This approach to his interviews was spurred on by the support of Simone’s former boss Rob Schwartz, chair at TBWA New York and one of TRANSATLANTIC’s first-ever guests. He says, “With the more natural questions, they were very surprised and let themselves go. That was a recurring theme from the first series.”

Filming in an event space at a Las Vegas hotel, the host built a casino-themed set that provided an intimate atmosphere for his chats. With poker chips scattered across the table - some of which were allegedly pocketed by guests… naming no names - and a team that included an editor, designer and videographer, Ocean’s Fifteen was recorded in style and high quality for people to enjoy on YouTube. Simone believes that filming the podcasts in-person added to the show and did a lot of the leg work with regard to opening up his guests and drawing more personal insights from them.

“You notice their posture, their hands and gestures which you never see on Zoom. LIA is all about creativity so they felt protected by this environment, but there was always a moment when they entered the room and were like ‘wow, I didn’t expect this’.”

Something that came up time and time again across the interviews was the theme of insecurity, Simone reveals. “All of them were extremely shy. The self-confidence they portray is all a facade. When you sit down with them and hear their story, it’s not what you expect. Ocean’s Eleven is a film about stealing things and I felt that I was able to steal their personal stories. It was my personal heist.”

After delving into so many of the top creative brains, the host believes that there is one clear takeaway that everyone can explore when watching the Ocean’s Fifteen series. This prevalent insight is the fact that these elite-level creatives are also - like everyone else - just humans. At the end of the day, they are people beyond their names on LinkedIn, and who experience all of the doubts and vulnerabilities that we all face on a daily basis. 

He says, “No matter the futuristic and strange times we are living in, we are so desperately human. My ultimate goal with Ocean’s Fifteen was to show that, yes they are jury presidents, but they are very much like you and have the same doubts and fears.”

So after the success of TRANSATLANTIC’s first two podcast series - 65 episodes in total - what’s next for Simone? Well, he’s beginning to turn his head to face outside of the advertising field - to the artists in music, writing, television, film and beyond. However, he also has an interest in utilising his platform for the betterment of the advertising industry - something that was suggested to him by Taras Wayner, North America CCO at Wunderman Thompson, during the first series of podcasts.

“He told me to use this platform for something really good, to have people come on and speak about struggles and mental health. It becomes a platform where these personal stories show you how broken the system can be and what we can do [about it].”  

To watch all of the episodes so far, check out the TRANSATLANTIC YouTube channel here.

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LBB Editorial, Thu, 27 Oct 2022 13:57:00 GMT