2012 in Review with... Andy Fowler
Brothers & Sisters' Andy Fowler discusses how 2013 will be the year of making stuff & how boundaries will disappear
Brothers and Sisters founder and creative director, Andy Fowler, has had a strong creative year and believes that 2013 will be even stronger, and more creatively diverse. Here he talks about his creative highlights, how the changing landscape will impact on everyone - for better or worse - and why 2013 will be the year that brands come out from behind the screen.
How would you describe the last year, creatively speaking?
It’s been a year of joyous variety. In the face of more economic gloom, bright creative folk are saying ‘sod it, let’s have some fun’ and are making stuff that makes the world a little happier. And the best work is not being made by the big creative agencies. It’s being made around the edges, by the smaller, more experimental agencies and production companies.
What have been your creative highlights of the last 12 months?
My highlights often involve music because that’s my first love;
Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich’s new retro futurist band Ultraista.
I love this short film made for the release of Flying Lotus’s new record
Channel 4 completely smashed it with their Paralympics campaign.
The Bobby Womack interactive music video made me happy.
The beautiful melting pot of Africa Express as 80 British and African musicians went on a train tour round Britain with Mr Damon Albarn at the controls.
Stu Souter and his music and publishing label Black Maps producing small runs of beautifully formed records and books.
Adrian Palengat and his pop art show Apart in the old post office on Westbourne Grove.
What’s been your own greatest achievement over the last year?
Along with my gang we’ve taken Brothers and Sisters onto another level; winning eight new clients, moving into an awesome new space four times the size of the old one, producing some of our best work for the launch of Resident Evil 6 and Café Direct, winning a Mobile Lion at Cannes for Street Tag.
And launching our first 20% projects including mylondonstory, our beautiful location based storytelling app, a collaboration with Greg Williams from Wired magazine. Download it for free from the Apple book store.
What excites you most about working in advertising at the moment?
Everything is new, everything is changing so you can do things that have never been done before. You can push boundaries, you can experiment; it should never be dull.
What excites me is the very definition of the ad industry is changing before our eyes. It’s about so much more than making ads. It’s about designing experiences and products, it’s about putting good things into the world and contributing to culture. I think ideas like Nike+ prove that the ad industry can have a much bigger role in culture in the future. We will do more than promote products. We will create our own.
What do you think the key trends and developments of 2013 will be?
1. This will be the year of the flexible creative department.
The year when individual specialists – writers/art directors/designers/developers/planners - working in flexible project teams will take over the world. When the range of media options is so vast and technology can play such a role in emotional storytelling, you need this range of strategic, creative and technical skills working in perfect harmony. The days when rigid creative pairings could crack the truly exciting projects alone are over. I remember the CD of Forsman Bodenfors Sweden telling me a few years ago about their collaborative, no-creative-pairings model and how it had enabled them to become the most awarded digital agency in the world that year. He was right.
None of our best work at Brothers and Sisters would have happened without this model.
The agencies doing the best work next year will definitely be using this collaborative model.
2. This will be the year when brands come out from behind screens.
The work making ripples in 2013 will give people something to use or play with, it will give them tools or products that make their lives better, it will make the world a better place, it will contribute to culture. In the slipstream of the success of Nike+, brands will finally feel confident enough to invest part of their budget in making something valuable and tangible rather than just broadcasting value-less advertising noise into the ether.
This will be the year when the future of the ad industry will finally become clear.
When all that amazing creativity finds a new purpose and the new creative skills model will properly emerge. And it won’t be about making ads.
3. The boundary between the best agencies and the best production companies will virtually disappear.
Look at the difference between the smart storytelling production companies like B-Reel and Stink Digital working direct to progressive clients like Google and agencies like R/GA and Brothers and Sisters using technology to design emotional experiences like Nike Fuelband and Streetmuseum.
The skill sets and mindsets will merge to the extent that the difference will be barely noticeable at the cutting edge.
4. 2013 will be the year of making your own stuff.
The creative agency of the future will be prolific, making loads of varied stuff across all sorts of media. The best agencies are investing in their own ideas, experimenting, being prepared to fail. It's the only way to learn. You can't fail on client projects after all, so this form of experimentation will propel some agencies far ahead of the pack, especially where the use of technology is concerned.
A bit like Google, Brothers and Sisters run 20% projects, where all their creatives can earn the right to have a day a week to work on non-client based, experimental creative projects.
Do you think the lines between traditional advertising boundaries and company roles will continue to blur?
Yes definitely, and it’s all for the better. If you’ve got a rigid and inflexible structure how can you possibly adapt to the fast changing times?
We’re constantly looking at the definition of people’s roles and adapting them to get the best out of people and to help us do the most ground breaking work. I also don’t think you can survive if you have rigid separation between departments. If you have separate TV departments and print departments and digital departments who are all competing against each other, you are never going to make campaigns that tell stories that are perfectly told across media or platforms.
You are always going to need specialists, but people who can think beyond media boundaries are the jewels in the crown.
How pivotal a role will the economy play in the creative output of the coming year?
Recession has always been a time of great creative fertility, where creative people have found inspiration and new movements have been born. Out of the worst recession for a hundred years, a whole new raison d’etre for creative people is being born.
Recession plus technology explosion plus social media explosion equals new creative era. Some people get it and some people don’t. You can already see which companies are riding the wave.
What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2013?
To make the best work we’ve ever made.
To do things that have never been done before.
To start a creative mentoring scheme for inner city teenagers.
If you could give one piece of advice to the creative industry for next year, what would it be?
Take risks and don’t be scared to fail sometimes.
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