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My Creative Hero: Rooney Carruthers

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Five by Five’s Ravi Beeharry and Andy Mancuso reflect on the enduring influence of their creative mentor, the art of building a brand world and what it means to have a ‘restaurant presence’

My Creative Hero: Rooney Carruthers

Ravi Beeharry and Andy Mancuso are the creative directors at Five by Five, the global independent creative and production agency. Having met whilst kicking a football around at Birmingham City University, the duo have since embarked on a journey across creative cultures both brand and agency-side.

Underpinning their careers, however, has been the influence of an iconic creative. After taking up jobs with VCCP, the pair worked alongside Rooney Carruthers - a familiar name from their textbooks just a couple of short years earlier. 

Here, Ravi and Andy reflect on how Carruthers came to become such an important figure in their careers, and the legacy he created within the industry… 


LBB> First things first: Who is your creative hero, guys? 

Ravi> It’s got to be Rooney Carruthers. 

Andy> I’ve been mulling this question over for a little while, but there’s just nobody else it could be - it just has to be Rooney. 


LBB> And did you guys work with Rooney? What was that experience like? 

Andy> Yeah, we worked with him at VCCP for 10 years and then again later at George & Dragon. That in itself was a huge moment for us - we’d always been inspired by Rooney, and he could have called in so many different creative teams after setting up George & Dragon. But it was us who got a call. That was, and still is, an amazing feeling. 

Ravi> Of course, we’d known of Rooney for a long time before working with him at VCCP. I remember the moment we met him vividly. We had just started at VCCP and we were sitting in the kitchen. We were mid-conversation and suddenly Rooney Carruthers was walking down the stairs in front of us. I don’t want to say we were starstruck, but it was a little bit like that! He looked at us both and nodded at us, just sort of clocked us. That made a huge impression, you know - this was a guy whose work we were studying at University a couple of years earlier. 

Andy> He definitely had that presence every time he walked into a room. 


LBB> What kind of a presence was that? 

Andy> Haha, well he would be quite frank about it. Sometimes if we were talking about people who were looking to move up in the industry he would say to me and Ravi, “nope, that’s not gonna work for him - he hasn’t got the ‘restaurant presence’”. 


LBB> And what’s ‘restaurant presence’?

Ravi> It’s that feeling of someone walking into a crowded restaurant and everyone in the room just has to get a look at them. The example he always gave was one time he was having dinner at The Ivy in London. There was all this hubbub and suddenly, hushed silence. Bruce Forsyth had just walked through the door, and you couldn’t help but snatch a glance. And apparently, Brucey was everyone’s best friend there, saying ‘hi’ to everyone he walked past. That is a restaurant presence - and Rooney had it for sure. 

Ravi> And it was an immense help, professionally speaking. It meant that when he walked into a room, whoever was in there - whether it be us or a client - wanted to hear what he said. He oozes charisma and momentum, you’ve already bought into his ideas before he says them out loud. 


LBB> Does Rooney’s influence impact how you approach your leadership roles at Five by Five?

Ravi> Oh absolutely, or we’d certainly like it to! When it comes to that ‘restaurant presence’ that’s an extremely rare thing, only a handful of people I’ve ever met have had it and you can’t fake it.

But there are other things about Rooney’s leadership style that we’ve worked on emulating. For example, he was incredibly welcoming and inclusive, and he made sure he protected his creative teams. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a hard-arse! But that was to get the best out of you. At the end of the day, you knew you were on his team because he made you feel important. That’s a massive skill for a leader to have, and Rooney taught us that

Andy> Yeah it wasn’t all fluffy and rainbows, but he is a naturally nurturing leader in his own way. If you weren’t delivering, he’d let you know about it. There was a tempo you needed to be playing at in order to be part of the team, but that was a good thing. He both pushed you and made you want to push yourself. He’s the best teacher I ever had, really. 


Ravi> You’d walk through walls for Rooney. He was an Alex Ferguson-esque figure.

Andy> So when it comes to Five by Five and how he’s influenced our leadership style, I think we have picked up traits from both those sides to him. On the one hand you have to draw a line and be harsh where necessary. We set the highest creative standards because we want this to be the best creative agency there is. There’s just no other way to get there, and Rooney passed that attitude onto us.

But on the other hand you instinctively remember that your creative team is exactly that - a team. We’ll defend our creatives. Rooney would come to your rescue when you needed him to, and we try to do that here. 


LBB> You mentioned before about studying Rooney’s work while you were at Uni. What were the campaigns that really inspired you?

Ravi> Pff, I mean we’re spoilt for choice. I could talk endlessly about his Levi’s stuff, but perhaps the most influential one for me at that point was his work for Orange. ‘The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Orange’. That is an immortal ad. As a launch film, it’s a stunning work of art. It was creating its own visual world that totally encapsulated the optimism and hope for the future regarding technology at the time. 


- Above: Orange’s first-ever TV commercial established a visual world for the brand which was grounded in optimism and hope. 


Andy> Rooney has such a talent for making those brand worlds leave you feeling special and wanting to be a part of them. So years after his work with Orange, we were lucky enough to work with him on O2. Our work there did similar things - he created this iconic brand world that stays with you. It’s a bubble underwater with some simple typeface. Saying it like that makes it sound bland, but it’s anything but. It’s beautiful, simple brand storytelling at its best. Vintage Rooney, in other words.


LBB> Do you think he had a kind of secret recipe for doing that stuff? 

Ravi>  Good question - and I’d love to know the answer. From the outside looking in, he had a knack for stripping everything back and making it as simple as possible. That then made it easy to add these incredible little touches and details that made for an immersive brand. With O2, for example, his first work with them launched on the 2nd February 2002. So the date was the name of the brand three times over (o2 / o2 / o2). It was simple, but laced with Rooney genius. 

Andy> It was all genius in its simplicity. I think he got O2 into a similar place as Coca-Cola at the time, in that they were a brand who just needed to use their imagery and people would think of them. The ‘brand architecture’ as he called it. So in O2’s case, it was deep blue and a bubble underwater. You knew that was O2. It’s a powerful thing. 


LBB> Finally, just in case Rooney is reading this interview, is there anything you’d like to say to him? 

Ravi> Just that every creative who has worked with or under him will have been influenced by him in some way. He’s one of those characters who can’t help but influence the people around him. He’s got a legacy. Whenever we approach a brief, we’re asking ourselves “What would Rooney do?”. That’s special. 

Ravi> And that influence comes through even in the little moments. Working with him, one second you’d be in a boardroom with a massive brand, the next he’d be leaning over your desk asking you if you wanted to go for egg and chips at the cafe. I don’t think a lot of people at his level would have been like that, but it made for an amazing atmosphere.

Andy> Absolutely - you’d have just helped win millions of pounds worth of business with a client, and he’d take you out for lunch at the cafe across the road. He was completely down-to-earth. Never too big for his boots. 

Ravi> It’s quite cathartic speaking about it, honestly. The guy is a living legend, simple as that. I suppose that’s what I’d like him to take from reading this. And that I hope he appreciates just how much he’s done. 

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Five by Five, Mon, 01 Mar 2021 09:54:58 GMT