Simone Nobili’s international career began in 2003, during his time at Leo Burnett in Milan where he was assigned to work on McDonald’s global campaign ‘I’m Lovin’ it’. He wrote rap lyrics in both Italian and English, and then flew to Los Angeles to record a series of music commercials at the Record Plant Studio in Hollywood.
After being chosen as one of the 12 best creatives in the world by the Clio Awards in Miami in 2005 and a stint at Jung Von Matt in Hamburg, TBWA\Chiat\Day NY came knocking. He’s spent time at TBWA in New York, London and Los Angeles, was personally hired by Chuck McBride at Cutwater, and spent time at AKQA San Francisco as a creative director on Activision. He has also freelanced on a global level for the likes of LinkedIn in San Francisco, Byton in Shanghai and Zurich University of the Arts in Hong Kong.
In January 2022 he joined Wunderman Thompson New York as group creative director.
Simone also is the creator and host of TRANSATLANTIC, a video podcast that has hosted legendary names such as Sir John Hegarty, Bozoma Saint John, Jeff Goodby and Cindy Gallop.
We’re thrilled to get the chance to pick his brains as part of Creativity Squared, a profile based on the four key factors that psychologists have distilled creativity down to.
[My personality is] addictive. Curious. Borderline obsessive. Too many question marks and not enough answers. So, I am always riding on the edge of uncertainty.
[I see the world] through the eyes of my two little girls, Oriana (6yo) and Malena (10yo). I’ve been working on a book for the past two years that ‘s set to be published at the end of 2022. It’s called ‘The Savage Kid’ and it’s a series of stories written through their eyes. I used their words and feelings and reworked them into short paragraphs of narrative poetry.
Creativity is a pattern. The beginning of the pattern is given to you at birth, and it resides in your DNA. How the pattern unfolds depends on the people you surround yourself with, the personal experiences and the volume of knowledge you’re willing to acquire throughout your life journey.
I am an extrovert. I am Herzog in the 1964 novel by Saul Bellow. I wish I could write a letter to the world every day.
I crave routine. It helps me sew the fabric of my ideas. There are three things I need to do every day to maintain my creative state. The first is to read and write, the second one is to do callisthenics, and the third one is to ride my motorcycle. I can’t function creatively if any of these things are missing.
I am a movie monologue junkie, and a method actor fanatic. So, I dive deep into these two areas to excavate stories and find inspiration.
[To judge the creativity of a piece of work], I look for the door in the room that isn’t supposed to be opened. If people walk in from that door, holding an idea in their hands, I know they have something special.
Powerful ideas stem from human insights. The simpler and truer the insight, the more interesting the idea is. A human insight is like a pinch of salt. It makes ideas taste better.
My criteria have not shifted. My trust in human insights hasn’t changed one iota. I believe that constants and variables need to balance themselves in a creative mind. Human insights are one of the constants.
I recently created a program to onboard new hires in the metaverse. It’s called ‘My First Day in The Metaverse’. I approached our global chief people officer Maree Pendergast with the idea after I missed out on the connections from the first day of work (no lunch with the team, no greetings from my cube mates). Like everyone else who started a new job during the pandemic, I was stuck behind a screen at home, miles away from my office and new work friends. Given that Wunderman Thompson was one of the first ad agencies to create its own metaverse, my idea seemed like a natural solution for employees to make connections with other departments, offices and people in the 20,000 person network who may have never crossed paths even before the pandemic. The programme unrolled on May 17th and was a success. It will become part of Wunderman Thompson’s global onboarding process by the end of 2022.
We are emancipating from the words ‘It needs to be done this way’ at a higher speed than any other generation before. Everything is possible. There’s not just one answer for each question. Rebellion is encouraged. I am a punk at heart, so this is my time.
[To make creative work], I like to grill plantains and listen to Joy Division. I am also growing a garden of succulent plants in my backyard. I’ve never caught them growing, but they do grow every single day, relentlessly, despite the heat. I like to think of my creative work like a succulent plant. It keeps growing, no matter the heat.
I like to start with a single sentence. It usually sticks to my head and never leaves me alone. Then I like to go for a ride on my motorcycle and ruminate on it. By the time I am back, the mental canvas is clear and ready to be painted.
I go rogue, no digital tools. I take time to think and remember. I walk down memory lane, that’s what I do. I try to bring back movies I watched, books I read, and places I saw. To remember is an act that produces energy. The energy goes from inside out, so it pushes your brain muscle like a wave that it’s pushed towards the shore.
I found my own technique early in my career and I’ve never changed it. I only refined it, improved it and perfected it over the years.
I prefer to work alone at the very beginning of the process. I do believe that the act of creation requires a healthy dose of solitude. Then when I have something in my hands, I travel to the land of collaboration and find the right people.
Charles Bukowski once said, “Don’t try.” These words are on his tombstone, and they are tattooed on my forearm. It is a reminder that if something doesn’t come naturally, you shouldn’t force it. Take your time. You must let something go if you want to find it again.
I never know when a piece of work is done, but I feel it. At a certain point my mind comes into my train of thoughts, slows them down, and zeroes the momentum. It’s a weird sensation.
My poetry on the wall
Brief and timing are the two most important factors when it comes to the success or the failure of a creative project. The wrong brief can take you in deep water and watch you sink. The wrong timing, the everyday grind, the personal struggles and all that living stuff can squash your ability to come up with ideas.
I was born in a small town near Rome, Italy. I grew up in a household where chemical formulas were thrown in the air like glitters and poems were slipped under my pillow at night. My mom was a literature teacher and my dad was a pharmacist. I welded both worlds and developed an addiction to everything my mind could put its hands on. So I got anorexia at the age of 15 and that changed the landscape of my mental intestines forever.
[To hone my craft], I went through the list of the “100 books you need to read before you die” and read the hell out of everything.
I don’t thrive on stress, but I thrive on chaos. My office welcomes messy minds, messy thoughts, and messy humans (and pets). To un-chaos is what I do whenever I create something from nothing. Nothing is pure chaos.
Diversity is the single best invention of life. If you and I are the same, one of us wouldn’t be needed. Agencies should use diversity as creative lubricant, and make sure that their engines are well oiled. There’s nothing more exhilarating than an agency whose engine runs on diversity. Diversity is the new speed.