On 'making stuff happen' and proving yourself as a young creative
The path from creative director to director is well-worn, but these days the road between agency and production is seeing increasing volumes of two-way traffic. Before tearing it up as a creative at Wieden + Kennedy, Katie Harrison cut her teeth at Blink as an assistant to director Dougal Wilson. These days, the problem-solving mentality and hands-on approach is apparent in everything she does. Laura Swinton caught up with her to find out more.
LBB> How did you get into advertising?
KH> I’m Wieden’s born and bred and I’ve been here for nearly four years. I’m part of the new school of creativity. I didn’t go to ad school, I went to Central Saint Martins and studied Art. I have an animators background and I initially went into music videos. I got into Wieden + Kennedy when I applied to take part in their ‘Platform’ scheme. It had never been my plan to get into an agency, but I just thought I’d give it a go.
Before I got into the agency, I was at Blink - I was Dougal Wilson’s assistant there. My mum and I animated a music video for director David Wilson and a pair of creatives at Wieden’s – it was for We Have Band and it involves repainting face painting again and again. Mum’s brought me up to understand an animator’s brain.
There are more people moving from production to creative, rather than the traditional ‘Watford’ route, not that that’s a bad thing. What we champion is creativity. We’re makers. We make stuff happen.
LBB> How did you find the shift of gear moving from production to agency?
KH> It was pretty straightforward – I was still fresh out of uni, really. But the shift to ‘not making’ really freaked me out. I think I’d like to go back to it and become a director. For now it’s really nice because I’ve learned to work in a different role, collaborating with directors and producers.
My role is creative – it’s been a bit of a process to get to that. As soon as I put ‘non-traditional’ or ‘interactive’ on my job title I was pigeonholed, whereas as a ‘creative’ I can be everything. I don’t just sit in the interactive or creative department - I can be part of both.
LBB> Who’s your creative hero?
KH> For me, the person I go back to is my mum. I love her approach. She came up during the 70s, when it was more difficult for women. She worked on the Snowman and last year she worked on the Snowman and the Snowdog.
LBB> What projects have you been involved with that have particularly resonated with you?
KH> When I joined I was teamed up with a creative technologist, Will. We developed an app for Honda Jazz that used ‘screen-hopping’ when it was a really new technique.
I was teamed up with Darren Wright, a creative director here to work on Orange Romania, who was way beyond my level of experience. Wiedens gives you the opportunity to work with and learn from great people. We brought out a Christmas album at the end of last year and tried to reach number one in the charts.
I’m the only creative on it at the moment and a new ad has just come out with some beautiful animation from Nexus… I write the scripts, work on the print, Facebook and production and I feel really lucky.
My friend and I also have our own production company, SON. We’ve been working on it for six months and there are currently three videos waiting to be released. We filmed the last one on Vine [Rhosyn ‘Birds’]. We used a nine-camera rig and built up repetitions of the six second loop. I really got to understand the platform.
We’re two girls, and we called it ‘Son’ on purpose. Some of the work we do is quite sexually provocative and that’s not necessarily something I can do in the agency.
LBB> This week we’re putting together the first LBB ‘Women in Advertising’ newsletter. As a woman at the early stages of your career, what your thoughts were?
KH> It’s interesting… the boys club definitely exists in the industry, but I think I’ve been lucky as it’s not part of the culture here. I remember two female mid-weight creative who joined from another agency once said to me ‘don’t get stuck doing tampon ads!” But the thing is if you look at our client list, Nike, Honda, that’s not been a problem.
As a young creative I don’t see that it’s about trying to prove yourself as a woman. It’s more about trying to prove yourself as a young person.
SON's first video, 'Birds' for Rhosyn has just been released - you can watch it here.