Promising creatives at Ikon discuss their team dynamic, creative inspirations and a blind foray into the world of investing
Ikon creative team Craig Merrett and Zac Goldberg are in awe of Donald Glover’s polymath brilliance and, looking at their diverse creative escapades, they’ve taken that admiration to heart. The pair have been working on a range of great ad campaigns since they joined Ikon in 2015, often getting hands on editing and animating things themselves, but they get a lot done in their spare time too, from their satirical Instagram account Haikunt Even to their daring attempts to start their own hedge fund with absolutely no prior knowledge.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Craig and Zac to find out what makes them tick.
LBB> What were your upbringings like? Did you show any signs of what you'd end up doing back then?
CM> Both my parents are very smart, analytical, rational thinkers – one the head of mathematics at a secondary school and the other… well, I’m not really sure what he does, I only know he works in pharmaceuticals, deals with a lot of numbers and travels a lot, so he’s pretty much an international drug dealer. But seriously, maths and science were always present so naturally I didn’t follow either. From a young age, I always enjoyed writing. I’m glad, after 25 years of figuring out what to do with my sorry self, that I listened to my inner child.
ZG> I emigrated from South Africa to Sydney with my family when I was really young. And although I came from a family of doctors and engineers, they never tried to force me to follow in their footsteps. When I got my hands on the Adobe Suite in high school that’s probably when my life started steering towards becoming an art director. I just had a lot of fun putting together stupid images and videos, illustrating comics and not taking creativity too seriously. Who knew that I’d find that there was a whole industry dedicated to doing things just like that?
LBB> How did you first start working together?
CM> We both went through AWARD School together. Rob Martin Murphy, our ECD, tutored Zac and I was working at the agency where Rob was tutoring from. Zac got into the Top 10 of AWARD School and I didn’t. It’s no big thing. Whatever… I’m not bitter. I keep telling myself I was equal 11th. From there, Rob got Zac into the fold and I moved over from account service and haven’t looked back.
LBB> Why do you think you make such a good team? Do you finish each other’s sentences or does your creativity come from opposing views?
ZG> A good team simply operates with respect for the other person, and I think we have that. It’s not necessarily about finishing the other person’s sentences, rather it’s about seeing where the other person’s mind is going and not closing it down immediately. The worst thing you can do is say ‘no’ and we both understand that. What we find is that, even if the other person is just joking about an idea, if you follow it and respect what that person has to say you might find something that the both of us hadn’t thought of.
LBB> What's your day to day like at Ikon?
CM> We’re a small department so we pretty much touch every campaign that comes through. We love that aspect of it all. The two of us will come in everyday and start working individually on different briefs. We’ll catch up to compare notes and then start building on each other’s ideas.
Being a part of a full-service agency, we get involved in all of the other departments too. We play a role in working with the strategy, media and content teams to workshop ideas and add value.
Depending on the size of the projects we’ll either be liaising with production companies about shoots, or Zac will be pretty hands-on editing and animating things himself.
LBB> Your campaign for Barnardo's was really powerful. How did that piece of work come about and what was the process like?
C&Z> Barnardo's themselves are an incredible organisation, finding suitable foster homes for thousands of disadvantaged Australian kids each year. The competition is their flagship event where they crown one incredible Australian woman as the Mother of the Year.
The way we approached it most recently was to take it back a step and really tap into the geographical pride that we all have in our hometowns. In truth, every mum deserves to be the Mother of the Year. So, we challenged Australian towns, cities and suburbs to prove it.
LBB> Which other projects that you’ve worked on recently have proved particularly challenging and / or enjoyable?
C&Z> We actually took out a competition to win a client of our choosing $100,000 in radio time. From that we wrote some radio that we’re really happy with for NIB health insurance. It’s aimed at the older generation who could be looking to switch health provider. It was just fun to write and play around with, and when those briefs come along you have to grab them with both hands. NIB are a great client and were happy to take a bit of a chance.
Outside of work we’ve also been playing around a bit with a few other ideas. We have an Instagram, Haikunt Even, where we muse about the modern world in haiku form. It’d be cathartic if it weren’t so sad.
Also, we were recently finalists in an Australia-wide podcast competition called ‘Podquest’ with our podcast, The World’s Shittest Hedge Fund. It’s us two and another mate attempting to figure out the world of investing by simply starting. In other words, it’s a sure-fire way to lose all our money.
LBB> Who and what are your creative inspirations?
CM> Hmm… everything? Too broad? Okay… well, I reckon anything Donald Glover touches turns to gold. The man’s a chameleon. Stand-up comedian, musician, actor. Not that I’m jealous. Also, I get a bit of inspiration from my peers. When they’re doing well it really stokes the fire in the belly.
ZG> Inspiration doesn’t really come from one place for me, it’s more about binging TV and movies, spending time in galleries and going to a ton of gigs. I can just as easily be inspired by a sappy reality TV show I saw the other day or flicking through a book of David Shrigley’s art.
LBB> What do you get up to the outside of work to relax and unwind?
CM> Eat good food. Watch good films. Drink good booze. Spend time with good people. I wish I could say I support a good football team, but at this point in the season I would be lying. I also enjoy a good run with something blaring in my ears to block out the sound of my wheezing.
ZG> It’s all pretty much the same for me, but just making sure that when there is time away from work, it doesn’t involve Craig.
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into the creative advertising world?
CM> I’d say just don’t give up. Getting in (and staying in) to the advertising world takes some grit, so don’t be disheartened if things don’t happen immediately. Just stay the course. And also listen as much as you can. I find that people new to the industry like to talk and espouse their various versions of wisdom… kind of like how I’m doing right now. Just be quiet, absorb all you can from the people in the know.
ZG> When you're starting out, you're probably not going to like a lot of the stuff you make. Your taste and your capabilities are going to take time to catch up to one another. So just create more and put time into side projects that have nothing to do with work. It's pretty simple. The more you do, the better you'll get.