Words cannot describe how excited I was for Mike Walker’s talk. I have been a huge fan of BBH since I bought Hegarty’s book at the V&A last year so was incredibly interested in what advice and information Mike had to share. They’re one of the biggest agencies in London at the moment with over 500 people in the London office and offices all over the world (and Milton Keynes).
Mike himself started his career drawing and painting and once someone asked him for visuals for a Rolex campaign that he even began to think about advertising. This then snowballed into story boarding for kellogs where he rewrote the script and ended up freelancing for an ad agency. He then started teaching and illustrating on his day off. After this he set up his own illustration company however people still wanted advertising work and that led to his first advertising job at saatchi.
This was one of Mike’s key points, that you are never to old or committed to change and that with the energy and commitment you can do absolutely anything. This is something that really gave me drive and inspiration that I could achieve anything. This is also where he mentioned that nothing is every going to be a soft ride so don’t expect it or give yourself one. You can achieve much more with a bumpy ride.
In terms of advertising Mike spoke a lot about BBH and some of their most famous ad’s and where the black sheep comes from. I did already know this but it was great to hear some information about the thinking behind this. He mentioned that now in every ad done at BBH they always look for the zag. This comes from the Levi ad that put their name on the map where they needed to sell black jeans so used the slogan ‘When the world zigs, zag’. The whole premise that BBH stands for is standing out from the crowd and being a bit different which is one of the reasons I love them as a company so much.
Mike also spoke about why he personally loves the advertising world and he summed it up by saying ‘it’s so good because theres so many different ways to execute things’ and this is one of the reasons why I love the ad world so much. However one of the things that I personally avoid is doing incredibly simple ad’s to try and stop the ‘I could have done that myself’ comments but Mike actually said that the best ad’s are the ones that are so simple that people say those things and that although they say that, they didn’t actually thing of them. This gave me quite a bit of self-confidence because although I do feel like I have a lot of good ideas I do struggle a lot in wondering if they’re ‘good enough’. Mike commented quite a lot on the elegance of advertising and how simple it can be and one of the quotes he said was to ‘make the complex simple’ and to me this does summarise the job of advertisers.
Mike also mentioned some tips about audience and how best to make ad’s work. He spoke about how you need to get the adverts right for the audience not just for yourself and he quoted that ‘we don’t do ad’s, we create brand’s’. This was a bit thing for me as it made me think about why we buy the brand’s we buy and it’s not because of one ad, it is because we believe in the brand. He also spoke about how brand evolved and that Nike, a well known sports shoe brand, used to be ‘the comfortable shoe’ and now they’re much more focused on the actual brand values and hence the famous ‘Just Do It’ tag line. Once a brand has evolved past USP advertising it can focus much more on getting across it’s brand values and therefore we get product ad’s and brand ad’s. This is something I personally had never really thought about before, especially in the context of a brand actually evolving. He also mentioned how brand’s can turn into lovemarks. These are brands that are superevolved and have customer loyalty beyond reason. I also had never really thought about brands like this however once I’d thought about it, I actually have quite a lot of relationships with brands that would be an example of this. Part of advice Mike actually gave us on this topic was to know more about your brand than the people you’re talking to and you’ll always find a way to advertise to them. This is something that I think I really needed to hear as I do often struggle with research.
After the talk I actually received one of the BBH creative pencils. These have a scale of bad, ok, good and great on them and as you use the pencil and therefore sharpen it more the ideas you brainstorm and create will get better and better and eventually become great. This was such an inspiration and every time I work from now on I will try to keep this in mind (although I don’t know if I can bring myself to actually sharpen the pencil.)
I also stuck around after the talk to speak to Mike. He was such a gentleman and spoke to us on a very equal level and gave even more great advice and information. This actually led to myself and another classmate speaking to Mike via phone and email and arranging a week work experience with BBH. This for me is an actual dream as BBH is the one companies I would love to work for in the future so just having some work experience means the world to me.
Overall I absolutely loved the talk by Mike and all the information and advice he gave was invaluable to me. I can’t wait to for my work experience and hopefully stay in contact with Mike in the future.