Wake The Town
Stuck in Motion
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Work That Made Me: Alex Grieve


The global and London CCO of BBH London looks back at influential ads from the 80’s, his admiration for short stories and his first 'proper' commercial project

The Work That Made Me: Alex Grieve

Respectfully, Alex Grieve has been around the block. The creative block, that is. Starting in the early nineties, his prolific career in advertising has included stints at all the biggest agencies; Saatchi&Saatchi, AMV and BBH London. Working as creative director, Alex elevated the reputation of brands by instilling them into the greater consciousness. And he’s won plenty of awards doing it. This being said, Alex is a firm believer of “you’re only as good as your last project” - a pragmatic mentality that keeps him humble and removes any inclination to judge others too harshly. 

For this edition of The Work That Made Me, Alex lets LBB’s April Summers in on some of the most formative work from his career so far. 

The ad from my childhood that stays with me…

Alex> Memory is an unreliable witness. My instinctive response was to say the famous ‘Accrington Stanley' Milk Board ad, but when I checked the date I’m told it was 1989, which means I would have been 22. So, I scanned back further and came up with The ‘Shake ‘n’ Vac’ ad. It’s awful but that jingle is awfully sticky.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

Alex> I never wanted to get into advertising. I wanted to be a writer. But I somehow fell into it, realised it wasn’t as awful as I imagined, and ended up staying for 30 years. 

The creative work I keep revisiting…

Alex> I love short stories. Raymond Carver, Chekhov, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor… 
Clare Keegan is an author I’ve recently discovered who I admire hugely. Short stories have a condensed power, economy and mystery that mirrors the very best of advertising.

LBB> My first professional project...

Alex> The first 'proper' piece of work I did was for the Toyota Rav4 titled, ‘Don’t Forget Your Trousers’.  We - myself and Adrian Rossi, my creative partner of 25 years - put together a ‘crapomatic’ of our idea from bits of old film, things we shot with a video camera, type and so on. It was flawed but it had a raw energy and naivety that was interesting. It ended up becoming (for the most part) the spot that ran on TV.  

The piece of work that made me so angry I vowed never to make anything like that…

Alex> Life’s too short. We’ve all made stuff that’s pants – the trick is to learn from that. In fact, it’s only by learning from those experiences that we get any good at all. We all need to be more forgiving about this rather than angry.

The piece of work that still makes me jealous…

Alex> The VW ‘Snow Plough’ ad is still the best product demo ever. And Apple’s ‘Here’s to the Crazy Ones’ is still the best manifesto ever written. I’m also a sucker for a single-take ad so I love Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness’ runner ad.

The creative project that changed my career...

Alex> Probably the Barnardo’s, ‘Heroin Baby’ ad. This project got us talked about in the industry, in the news and, eventually, in the House of Commons. Fame is still the most important metric.

The work I’m proudest of...

Alex> Whatever I’ve just done. As I've gotten older I’ve come to realise the process is far more important than the outcome. Now I take time to feel proud about what I’ve learnt: about myself, about others, about the craft of what we do. If the work then goes on to win a shiny award that’s just a nice bonus. If I had one piece of advice to pass on this would be it because this way you’re always winning.

The recent project that excited me most...

Alex> I refer you to the answer above!

view more - The Work That Made Me
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
750mph, Tue, 04 Apr 2023 10:18:04 GMT