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The Work That Made Me: Nick Bird and Lee Smith


Lucky Generals' creative directors on the influence of Adam and the Ants, working with Cancer Research and Taika Waititi's infectious creativity

The Work That Made Me: Nick Bird and Lee Smith

Nick Bird & Lee Smith are multi award-winning creative directors at Lucky Generals, where they currently look after the creative output for Amazon, Yorkshire Tea and GambleAware. They both support West Ham which makes life a little easier.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Lee> I remember marching around the playground at primary school with my mates singing the song from the Kia Ora ad…’s too orangey for crows!...and then everyone barking like a dog. The dinner ladies must have thought we were bonkers.

Nick> Adam and the Ants ‘Stand and Deliver’ - It had it all; an eye burningly vivid 80’s video feel. Big drums. And a dandy highwayman. Turns out ad director supremo Danny Kleinman had a hand in it.

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

Lee> Not strictly any of those things you mention, but I remember flicking through an old  D&AD annual in college. I was fascinated by all the people that made the ads that I'd seen on the telly….Some geezer called John Webster appeared in it a lot. 

Nick> Probably the Levi's ads of the late 80’s or the Carling Black Label ‘Dambusters’. I remember sitting in a cinema and people clapping it. 

The creative work that I keep revisiting…

Nick> Not really into revisiting stuff, but something that I always have to watch every time it pops up is the music video for Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendancies. It’s so MTV of an era and it still slaps. Really dodgy lip sync and epic acting. A plot and everything. All he wanted was a Pepsi. 

Lee> Goldeneye on the N64, it still holds up.

My first professional project…

Lee> Not sure, Nick has a way better memory than me.

Nick> Have no idea….in the industry probably some radio ad I expect. But my first paid gig was designing a gig flyer for my mate's Psychobilly band The Zodiacs. I think I was paid with a Whopper meal.

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

Nick> I think we all get a little irked by the blatant case study-led stuff, that nobody else other than Juries have ever seen or heard of. I’m still cracking up at the ‘Left handed chutney’ spot Zulu Alpha Kilo made in reference to this. Kind of hits the nail on the head.

Lee> ....or those poster campaigns for Tippex or spicy chips and all with microscopic logos.

The piece of work that still makes me jealous…

Nick> We are the Superhumans - 2016 Paralympics C4 

Every scene, every cut is perfection. The tricky second album done even better.

Also still love Whopper Freakout made by our pal Henry Alex Rubin. Just realised this is the second time I've mentioned Burger King…..erm.

The creative project that changed my career…

Nick> Hmm not sure, but I think a lot of people's careers changed a bit when we had to work through the constraints of the pandemic. We still got some nice stuff out though. Yorkshire Tea’s ‘Social distancing teapot’ and Amazon ‘Ballerina’. Both born of the 2020 situation.

Lee> All of them in their own special way?

The work that I’m proudest of…

Nick> Probably Cancer Research - ‘Cancer is happening right now’ campaign for obvious reasons. Great and humbling experience working with the team that make ‘24 Hours in A&E’. Couldn’t have done it without them, as the usual tv ad production processes weren’t an option. 

We showed what was going on, live, in terms of research, diagnosis, treatment across two of the UK’s busiest hospital oncology departments. Harrowing, but also some smiles. 

Lee> We also worked with photographer Adam Hinton, he went into the frontline of cancer treatment and delivered above and beyond with some really amazing shots that documented the stories.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

Nick> We once recorded a radio ad with George Best for a well-known brand of men’s aftershave that had launched an alcohol-free version…….we’ll let you figure out the rest. Shudder.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

Nick> A few things; the latest Yorkshire Tea ad featuring Patrick Stewart was a blast. So weird when somebody of his calibre is saying the words wot you wroted. A lovely guy, big tea drinker and huge Sheffield Utd fan.

Lee> mean Huddersfield Town don’t you…Sir Patrick would be horrified.

Nick> …Oh yeah

Lee> Working with Taika Waititi on last year's Amazon Xmas ad was a really cool experience. 

He’s this incredible creative ball of non-stop energy, and it’s infectious on the set. But also down-to-earth and collaborative. What you see is what you get with Taika. 

Nick> We’re just about to launch our first campaign for GambleAware in the next few weeks. Been working with Nexus to get some of the animation magic.

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Lucky Generals, Wed, 15 Mar 2023 14:13:45 GMT