The Industry Hot Lunch is a monthly series that brings together London’s top senior agency creatives and rising stars to highlight the next generation of creativity in the agency sector.
We sit down with Mr. President’s ECD, Jon Gledstone, and Creative, Florence Deary, at SE1 London gastropub, Great Guns Social. Over burgers served up by visiting chef, Grant Hawthorne, the two discuss ad-blocking parents, one thing they’d change about the industry, and who they’d invite to the table for an eccentric banquet of mangoes, Marmite, and Monster Munch.
Q> How did you get into advertising?
Jon Gledstone, ECD> I’ve always just wanted to do it. I remember seeing the Silk Cut adverts as a kid in the '80s. I loved the simplicity of purple silk being cut. I actually did my first advert at ten years old through the TV show, ‘Jim’ll Fix It’. My mum wrote to the show and they picked me, the little weirdo who wanted to be in advertising. The next thing I knew, I was at BBH getting briefed by John Hegarty for a NatWest advert. I did the advert, met Jimmy Savile, and survived to tell the tale. I went to Arsenal and we created a billboard of David Seaman (who was my hero at the time) diving for the goal while dressed as a panda. Probably still my best piece of work if I’m being brutally honest.
Florence Deary, Creative> My family’s very ‘at one with nature’, so they didn’t let us see or hear any adverts - my dad would just turn the radio off when they came on and we didn’t have a TV. I studied illustration at university and wanted to be an animator until my lecturer told me I was shit at it. But he said I’d essentially been making adverts for three years without realising, through creating insight-based videos and illustrations. That’s when it all clicked - and it meant I could rebel against my parents at the same time! I was working at a pub when my co-worker left a D&AD brief on the counter. I thought ‘I could do that’, entered it, and found an email in my junk mail saying I’d been nominated for a Yellow Pencil. I had no fucking idea what it was at the time.
Q> Why are you still in advertising? What motivates you?
Florence> Fame and fortune.
Jon> The ever-changing aspect of the industry. It’s a completely different beast compared to when I first started out about ten years ago. It’s so much broader. Our work can intersect with architecture, product design, experiential – it’s like the wild west. There are always different puzzles to be solved but it all comes from the same point: what is that brand defining idea. Once you take that simple thing, you can then tell its story in loads of different ways. I think that’s really exciting.
Florence was a Creative on the 'Patrons of Pride' project (above) by Mr. President
Q> Jon, compared to when you first started out, how different is it for young people entering the industry today?
Jon> It used to be a lot clearer, you had above-the-line agencies, below-the-line agencies, and digital agencies. That was it. You knew what to do and how to shape your work to fit the type of agency you were at. Now, it’s so different because every agency is asking much more of its junior creatives and every client is asking much more its agency. The shape of work that agencies are producing is so disparate. It’s much harder to work out where you want to go.
Florence> That’s what also makes it really exciting, though. Interns and junior creatives these days tend to have other creative outputs and advertising agencies need and want that.
Q> Florence, what were the main challenges when you were first getting into the industry?
Florence> If I’m being totally honest, money is the real issue. I’m very lucky that I come from a privileged background. I was able to live rent-free at home just outside of London until I saved up enough money to catapult myself to the city. Even then, I was down to my last £20 note when I got a contract. When you start earning a decent amount of money and can pay your rent, you forget how fucking terrifying that whole experience is. There are plenty of people who don’t have that type of support. There are people from up north who’d make amazing creatives in London but they don’t have the chance because of the expenses. I do think things are changing and there are a lot of agencies that are really trying open up our industry and make it more diverse.
Q> What qualities can’t you do without in advertising?
Florence> Being really resilient and constantly hyper-vigilant. And finding your niche; knowing how to implement something that others don’t really understand is so important.
Jon> You also need pragmatism and problem-solving skills. We have to understand that we’re not artists making things just because they’re beautiful. They need to answer commercial needs. Understanding feedback – even if you think it makes the work less pure - will make you a better creative. I used to think that a great idea will sell itself, but it never does. You often have to tell people why an idea is great.
Q> What can agencies be doing to retain talent?
Florence> I can’t speak for everyone but I think that young creatives want to be respected like the professionals they are and not be treated like kids.
Jon> Give more access, more experience and more trust
Florence was a Creative on the 'Look Good. Do Better' campaign for Method (above) by Mr. President
Q> If you had the power to change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Florence> I think we’re looking too inwardly at the moment. I love awards but I’d like to see an award show that was voted on solely by the public and no one in advertising. It would be interesting to see the results and how they would affect the industry.
Jon> The pitch process - it’s archaic. The winning pitch work is rarely the work that gets made. I think clients want great work and solid relationships with agencies. But the client isn’t going to get the best work by sending an agency off on a blind challenge for two weeks. It’s nuts.
Q> If you could give a piece of advice to someone starting in the industry, what would it be?
Florence> No one really knows what they’re doing, but if you keep working hard, you’ll be fine. It’s about having a really amazing work ethic. You can’t get caught up in blaming other people for things going wrong - just ignore it and keep moving forward. Now, when I get home from work, I’m still doing something creative but, looking back, I think how much more I could have done when I was at university. So, utilise your time wisely and push yourself as far as you can possibly go. That will get you noticed.
Jon> Follow the work that you love. Be constructive and try to work out why you think it’s brilliant, so you can create great work yourself. Listen to feedback but also learn that you’re not going to please everyone. Being self-motivated to learn new skills is so important. I taught myself Photoshop because I got so annoyed that I had to get someone else to do it. Even if you can’t do something, being able to understand it is just as important.
Q> Imagine you’re throwing a dinner for your creative heroes - who would they be and what food and drink would you serve?
Florence> Cyndi Lauper because she’s mental and I love her. Sara Pascoe because I read her book recently and I want us to be best friends. Oh, and David Shrigley. Jon, you can come too - you’d be hilarious sitting between Sara Pascoe and Cyndi Lauper. I’d love to see that. For food, I’d serve mangoes and Marmite with carrots. And lychees. I just think it’d be funny to serve really odd food that I want to eat.
Jon> I would have Stephen Fry. Also, Dennis Bergkamp, one of the most creative football players ever. He did ridiculous things on the pitch that you wouldn’t believe, and he’s meant to be very funny too. I’d also go for Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. I grew up watching them with my dad. A few years ago, I definitely would have said Ricky Gervais, but he’s lost me with his Twitter. We’d probably start with a cocktail, maybe a negroni to ease everyone in. Then I’d put out a big platter of crisps—Walkers, Quavers, Monster Munch, Frazzles, Hula Hoops, Chipsticks, Space Invaders. My guests would choose their crisps and I’d pair it with a nice beer or wine for them.
Florence ate the Vegan Passion Burger and Jon ate the Southern Fried Chicken Burger with Red Onion and Spiced Mayo from Chef Grant Hawthorne’s African Volcano menu at Great Guns Social.