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Will Brookwell: “Boundary-Pushing Work Is Crafted up to the Eyeballs”

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The Saatchi & Saatchi creative director on being brave enough to go all in and the difference between topic-poking and taboo-breaking

Will Brookwell: “Boundary-Pushing Work Is Crafted up to the Eyeballs”

At OKAY STUDIO we’ve become known for eye-opening campaigns, made by creatives that go that little bit further - ensuring that the work really means something. 

We believe that advertising, and film in particular, has the power to enact cultural shifts that will take us closer to a society that is fairer for all. That is why we are thrilled to support this LBB interview series to hear about our industry peers’ favourite ground-breaking work, the kind of pieces that make you stop and think.

In this interview, we’re joined by creative director Will Brookwell from Saatchi & Saatchi London who shares the work that has made an impact on him and how he pushes boundaries.


LBB> This interview series is all about boundary-pushing creativity. What does that look like to you?


Will> Firstly I think it’s about work that pushes boundaries for people who are detached from our industry. Better still, if we can push boundaries for people who are perhaps cynical about what we do, then that’s an incredible achievement. 


Secondly I think boundary-pushing work has to go the whole way. Both into its genre and into its craft. If you’re using comedy to push boundaries, it has to stand up (excuse the pun) against the comedy people are watching on YouTube or Netflix. You can’t embrace the genre by 50% - boundary-pushing work goes all in. Then once you’re all in, it’s crafted up to the eyeballs to make it last in the minds of the audience and also make this industry proud of what we can create. If we don’t enjoy making it, nobody will enjoy receiving it.




LBB> Great advertising has the ability to break social taboos, and transform society. Looking back, was there a particular campaign or piece of work which really resonated with you in your formative years?


Will> Nike – Find Your Greatness (jogger) certainly did that for me. I grew up with football as a huge part of my life but also was never the slim kid in the team. For years, the sports brand narrative was about elite level performance, abs you can shave parmesan on, Ronaldo, Lebron and beyond. With one overweight boy, a tracking camera and Tom Hardy’s voice, I distinctly remember feeling like something had changed in the way brands were speaking to the masses. Sometimes simply acknowledging the reality of how many of us feel about our bodies is enough to be boundary-breaking. Bravo team swoosh.





LBB> What have you learned in your time as creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi? How would you describe the experience and journey?


Will> If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes an agency to raise an idea. I’ve learnt that influential ideas take a lot of hard work, from a lot of passionate experts. Our industry is incredibly complex and navigating it alone is nigh on impossible. 


I’m learning how to get those teams up and running fast, once the idea is in place, how to surround it, protect it, beat it, rewrite it, sell it, sell it again (to another stakeholder you didn’t know existed) and then finally, if you’re really lucky… make it. It’s a fun journey though. Saatchi & Saatchi has a clear vision to make influential ideas that represent modern Britain. That’s a great thing to wake up every day and try to do.




LBB> Can you highlight any recent work that’s been particularly taboo-breaking?


Will> I think the work AMV BBDO has been creating for Bodyform over the last few years stands out above anything I’ve seen. There’s ‘topic-poking’ work and then there’s taboo-breaking. From Blood Normal to Womb Stories, the work has grown into something the industry should be inspired by. 


The proof is right there in this work that we are still a very important part of culture and society – but as I mentioned before, they didn’t go halfway there. They attacked this issue with the craft and confidence needed to make it so original. Many brands have skirted around the subject of periods but never achieved what this work has. 




LBB> What of your own projects stands out particularly to you?


Will> We (my partner Nathan and I) have been working on a project for BT called Hope United over the last year. In short, we created a new football team that doesn’t play football, it plays against online hate on social media. To walk into my local in Bethnal Green and see someone wearing a Hope United shirt beats any other feeling. I haven’t had social media for around 6 or 7 years now, so it was something close to my heart – to use incredible footballers to stand up to this bullying and toxic abuse is something I’ll be proud of until the day I retire.


To my previous point, it took the best of Saatchi & Saatchi, the eyes of Nomad Studio, the ears of Mark Hills at Factory, the vision of Matilda Finn and the trust of some exceptional clients at BT to make it happen. 




LBB> How can the industry do more to support young creatives, and to allow them the space to make great work? 


Will> From my own experience it would be around the cost of city living. I got into huge amounts of debt whilst on placement (granted it was a while ago) just to survive the first few years of this industry. I don’t think that’s acceptable, and all I can think about is the talent we’re missing out on because of it.


At Saatchi & Saatchi we started a scheme called Saatchi Home that provides affordable accommodation for talent trying to break in, I think that’s leading by example. It’s all well and good speaking about attracting people from less privileged backgrounds, but the real world doesn’t give a shit about that. It’s about time agencies with the power to make life easier did just that.  




LBB> And to close - where do you find your own creative inspiration? 


Will> I surround myself with friends that make me like who I am when I’m with them. If you’re stuck in an environment where you’re scared to be your true self then finding your creativity is an uphill battle. Surround yourself with great people and being creative doesn’t feel like work at all.

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OKAY STUDIO, Fri, 08 Apr 2022 14:05:30 GMT