For Mateusz Mroszczak joining the creative industry was akin to going into the family business, with his father and grandfather both in the profession. After making a name for himself in Brussels then moving on to New York and Vietnam, Mateusz was announced as the chief creative officer for Wunderman Thompson Singapore last month.
Since his career began, Mateusz has worked on campaigns for Unilever, Pepsi and Colgate as well as being creative director at Happiness Saigon and BBDO. With all of these roles comes substantial industry recognition and Mateusz admits that his desire to succeed is driven by his need to be better than his advertising director father, joking that awards give him bragging rights around the table during Christmas.
In light of Mateusz’s new role he speaks to LBB’s Natasha Patel about his creative beginnings and how he adapts for each market he’s worked in.
LBB> It’s interesting that both your father and grandfather worked in the industry. Would you say this has influenced your career choices?
Mateusz> It probably has a bit. My father used to bring work home. I remember when I was a kid, instead of playing football with my friends I would stay home and watch Lürzer's Archives VHS tapes with my dad, we would analyse ads from around the world, talk about them for hours. Also he would take me on shoots or to studios to do post. That whole world seemed magical to me. I saw how he was surrounded with cool people, film directors, musicians, artists, photographers, designers, actors, models. Although my dad never pushed me, I knew at a very young age I wanted to be part of that world.
That being said my younger brother is a restaurant chef and has never had any urge to get into our industry, so I guess we are still in control of our own path.
LBB> What was it like growing up with two figures in the industry?
Mateusz> I would need to lay on a couch for this question… And I’m afraid there is no short answer. On the one hand it was a curse, because there was so much pressure to fill their shoes: I never knew my grandfather (Jozef Mroszczak), he passed away before I was born, but he was a professor at the academy of fine arts in Warsaw and one of the founding fathers of Polish post war poster design, a hugely respected artist, with an amazing legacy of work.
My dad was a fantastic conceptual designer who turned to advertising and had a very successful career, becoming one of the ad-dads of Polish advertising in the ‘90s.
I was lucky enough to grow up in Belgium where both my grandfather and father were not as famous, allowing me to create my own path.
The family legacy has grown a competitive fire in me; I always wanted to prove to my dad that I could do better than him. As I’m sure he wanted to prove to his own father. I know it sounds silly, especially knowing that my dad is the nicest guy in the world and we are best friends. But it was the thing that motivated me more than anything. And probably is still a driving force behind many of my decisions.
On the other hand, a blessing: I have had a source of inspiration, advice and knowledge that no school could teach. Till this day me and my dad talk, argue and analyse cases, campaigns and anything to do with our industry on a daily basis. I don’t take that for granted.
LBB> Do you remember the first campaign you saw?
Mateusz> No, there were so many… my head is like an advertising museum but I could not tell you the first one. I’m sure it must have been a print ad or poster as that was what my father would love most about our industry and he would gravitate towards that.
LBB> Is there any advice you've received throughout your career that has stuck with you?
Mateusz> Yes, one thing that I remember my dad saying to his clients on shoots when things were getting a bit tough: “I’d rather you hate me during three days of a shoot and love me for years after, not the other way around”. I still believe that is valid. Sometimes we all need to take that leap of faith.
Trust the creatives who have a clear vision and trust the director who knows what he or she is doing and whose job it is to tell a story in film. Trust the artist who you’ve commissioned to work their magic.
LBB> Has there been a standout project for you?
Mateusz> I’ve had the chance to work on so many amazing projects and meet so many fascinating people. But I realise that what we do rarely stays with people for a long time. We make something that will live in a vacuum for a short period of time in a very specific context. So I don’t get nostalgic about work completed. I want to do better next time and think my best work is yet to come.
LBB> After working in Belgium, New York, Vietnam and now Singapore how do you change your creative style for each consumer?
Mateusz> I try to be a bit of a chameleon. I observe, learn and adapt. And trust my teams. Our job as creative leaders is to allow people to make great work. Creating that culture of freedom is something universal, but the way to get there is very different every time.
LBB> You've won so many awards, how does this industry recognition make you feel?
Mateusz> These awards have been won by my teams, not by me. I think our industry could do more to give the respect or props to the people who really deserve it. We are very quick to claim these victories. Nothing makes me prouder than to see teams walk on stage and see them gain confidence instantly when picking up awards. And on a personal level awards give me bragging rights to tease my dad at the Christmas table.
LBB> With such a colourful career are there any highlights?
Mateusz> I think it was a conversation I had with the client for whom we did ‘Coins of Hope’. During an awards night he was there with us. I remember feeling twisted about us celebrating off the back of a campaign we did for missing children. I walked up to him and tried to apologise. He said that I was an idiot for apologising.
That what we did made such a huge difference to their organisation, brought so much attention both from the public but also put this cause back on the political agenda. That if our industry’s version of celebrating success was with an awards night and some champagne, there was no amount of champagne or golden statues that could express the gratitude he had for us.
I think only then I realised how big the impact of what we do can be on people or organisations. And it was a tipping point in my career.
LBB> Are there any campaigns you wished you'd worked on?
Mateusz> So many, I think that creative envy is what keeps me going. I get very jealous every time awards season comes and we get exposed to tons of great work.