Your talk plans to invoke 'our disjointed world'; what aspects of that disjointedness are most worrying to you?
These are truly troubled times. The holy trinity of fucked up-ness. Culturally, politically and economically - everything looks like it’s about to implode. From our closest relationships, to our place in the world and the world we leave for our kids – everything is under question and scrutiny.
For the first time in a long time, heroes seem thin on the ground.
With so many things falling apart, it’s hard to know what to focus on. So, everything starts to feel disjointed. Social media, climate change, Trump, Boris – it’s all more than just a little bit bonkers.
So, for the first time in a long time, heroes seem thin on the ground. I’m not expecting our Prime Minister to dig us out the shit, quite the opposite. I’m not expecting Trump to see reason. I’m not expecting Zuckerburg to get a conscience. The scariest thing about being disjointed is we don’t know who to turn to.
Ahead of your talk, can you give us some indication of how that disjointedness can be - eventually - a positive force?
Our backs are truly to the wall and that’s when it gets exciting. I was born in the late 60s. I found my feet in the late 70s and early 80s. Yes, it was the era of disco, but it was also the birth of punk.
Cracks are creativity and we need to open them up to become chasms. It’s the brink of change and we can lead it.
There was a ‘the world is fucked, so fuck the world’ mentality. You could do what you wanted, because nothing mattered. You couldn’t make anything any worse. That’s where Vivienne Westwood and Neville Brody came from; in fact it’s where some of our best artists, writers, and musicians found the cracks they needed to kick through. As Leonard Cohen [below] believed, cracks are a good way to let in the light. Cracks are creativity and we need to open them up to become chasms. It’s the brink of change and we can lead it.
How important is creativity not just to advertising but to the wider world in which we live?
Creativity and the role it plays in the world is a barometer because, as creatives, we deal with the unexpected. We are not held back by what’s gone before, so we never play by the rules. When the rules are in tatters it’s great for us. I truly believe that when the world is a little bit fucked music gets better and art follows suit. Nobody starts a boyband when we’re on the brink of war. That’s not to say bad times are worth it for creativity, but as we navigate the mess we’re in, it can lead to amazing things.
My area of creativity – advertising - has been going through very hard times, but I genuinely believe the product isn’t broken, it’s the machine that’s knackered.
Do you think that creativity has suffered during a tumultuous and often divided last few years?
I think it’s found a value. My area of creativity – advertising - has been going through very hard times, but I genuinely believe the product isn’t broken, it’s the machine that’s knackered. Anything that gets us to an answer quicker and without craft suffering has got to be good. So, where as the large holding companies are creaking under the weight of organisation, the independents, those that are fleet of foot, are having a whale of a time. Good for them.
Can creativity really save the day?
Yes. I have to believe it because, at the end of the day, it’s all I’ve got. It’s what I rely on to get me into work and out of trouble and it hasn’t let me down yet.
Anything that brings the best of the best together in a sharing space, is crucial, especially in these troubled times.
What are you most looking forward to about visiting Kinsale for the Sharks?
Proper craft. Some beautiful storytelling. Some innovative ways of reaching punters and some work that I wish I’d done so much it makes me hurts. And if the odd pint of Murphy’s finds its way in front of me, I won’t say no.
How important to you think these types of events are for fostering a more collective, creative outlook?
Anything that brings the best of the best together in a sharing space, is crucial, especially in these troubled times. We need to look after each other, we need to celebrate our product, we need to sense-check our value. Critics say these are navel gazing. Fuck them, we need to celebrate our best work and get it around the world. If we don’t set the standard, who does?